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Guest blogger: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 101

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 101
By Jonathan Goldberg, Ph.D.
, licensed psychologist, clinical instructor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School


Guest blogger, Dr. Jonathan Goldberg, answers the most common questions from young adults about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of therapy that research shows is effective in treating a number of mental health conditions in young adults. Dr. Goldberg is a trained cognitive behavioral therapist who works with young adults.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the interaction of thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how these different interactions affect various mental health conditions.

What mental health conditions does CBT treat?
CBT can help with lots of different mental health conditions including: mood disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, substance use disorders and personality disorders.

What happens in a CBT therapy session?
With CBT, a clinician works with you to understand how automatic, negative thoughts can contribute to emotional feelings as well as physical feelings and how you can engage in positive behaviors that help manage these feelings. The therapist working with you is more like a coach who helps you practice to think rationally, manage emotions effectively and develop healthy ways to cope with challenging symptoms.

What strategies from CBT can I use to address negative thoughts now?

  • Keep a thought notebook. It is always helpful to log thought processes throughout the day and week. It helps to make your thoughts more concrete. It is also helpful to use a friend or family member to provide reality testing for the thoughts. They can ask you questions about negative thoughts, look for evidence to support the negative thoughts and challenge your negative thoughts.
  • Thought-stopping techniques. A lot of people do not realize that they can control their thoughts. There are techniques that can be used to do this. When negative thoughts occur, try saying “stop” out loud or internally or picture a stop sign or a police officer holding up his or her hand. Sometimes people wear a rubber band around their wrists and snap it when they have a negative thought. This helps to bring more awareness to these thoughts, which then allows you to challenge these thoughts. These techniques help reign in negative thoughts. CBT is designed to help you develop these techniques.
  • Relaxation techniques. These techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imaging and meditation. These approaches can help you deal with emotions that can come from negative thoughts.

How can I find a CBT-trained clinician?
You can just Google CBT and the state you live in to bring up clinicians. Or, Psychology Today (, provides a tool that lets you type in a zip code and a list of clinicians and their specialties pop up. You may also want to contact your insurance company to ask for a list of CBT-trained clinicians that work within your insurance network.

Now that you know more about CBT you are also in a better position to ask questions of therapists about whether the therapy they are providing has been shown through research to be effective and to see if they are using CBT.

This blog is adapted from an article that appeared in Beginnings by Jonathan E. Goldberg, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, clinical instructor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. View the full article.

What has been your experience with CBT? Share your comments below.


  • emy May 10th

    My name is emy..I am a non bpd supporter, advocate. .my ex wife was diagnosed w bpd, ptsd and bipolar..we resided in the bronx..what I ddont understand is how can doctors diagnose her w bpd and yet the bronx area offers no dbt treatment. .they expect her to travel on 1hour train all day, return on a train, as if the panic n anxieties prevents her to travel on trains..she is in a outpatient program and she feels three years has learned nothing but on going in and out inpatient. .I dont understand how they wont offer her help w her daughrer w family therapy n assistant w child care..when her daughter is the strength she has..I simply feel the system is to set up for failure