What are the Cognitive-behavioral Therapy techniques?

In this article, we will list techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy utilized to treat mental health issues and learn in-depth about CBT.

What are the Cognitive-behavioral Therapy techniques?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy employs various techniques to bring about change in the client’s behavior. Following is the list of some of the techniques that have been proven effective in CBT.

  • Cognitive restructuring or reframing  (Reconstruction of Cognitive process)
  • Guided discovery (Visualization technique)
  • Exposure therapy (Systematic and controlled exposure to fears)
  • Journaling/thought recording and monitoring (Evaluating and analyzing thoughts through self records)
  • Behavior activation And Activity scheduling (Active Participation and engagement of clients)
  • Behavioral experiments (Activities intended to promote change in a controlled manner and setting)
  • Relaxation Exercises ( Calming Techniques to alleviate unpleasant physical symptoms)
  • Role-playing (Enactment of scenarios, particularly those which trigger a reaction in client) 

Cognitive Behavioral therapy 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is a type of psychotherapy.  Throughout the past few decades, it has emerged as one of the most effective and sought-after psychotherapies. Contrary to the other therapies CBT has a shorter duration of treatment which can last anywhere between a few weeks to months for the outcome to appear. 

Though some theories predominantly focus on the past, which is indeed important, CBT chooses to focus on making the person capable of solving problems that they are facing at present. 

Approaches Of CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is classified into different therapeutical approaches. They are as follows

Cognitive therapy: 

Cognitive therapy focuses on relieving psychological distress by identifying and challenging maladaptive and negative thinking and replacing it with positive and productive thoughts, to bring about desirable change in a person’s behavior and attitude. It is also often referred to as cognitive restructuring. 

Behavior therapy: 

It consists of various effective techniques, skills, and methods to modify undesirable or negative behavior with positive and adaptive behavior.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): 

It utilizes techniques and interventions such as emotion regulation and mindfulness to modify and replace negative thoughts and attitudes with positive thoughts. 

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT): 

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is one of the earlier forms of CBT and is still very relevant and useful. It focuses on identifying irrational beliefs and challenging them to replace them with rational beliefs.

Multimodal therapy: 

It is a very unique and intriguing approach that deals with seven different modalities such as behavior, imagination, biological considerations, cognition, interpersonal factors, emotions, and feeling. These modalities are interconnected and since this approach handles these multiple modalities it is called multimodal therapy.

What techniques are used with CBT? 

The therapist may approach treatment while considering the severity of the issue and the goals of the client. Following is a basic structure and guidelines generally followed by the therapists in CBT.

Identification of problems or issues in the client’s life

Making the client understand the impact of negative and distorted cognitive thought processes on their life. 

Identification of problematic thoughts and their modification in healthy and productive thoughts. 

Helping the client learn new behaviors and encouraging them to practice them. 

Techniques of CBT

Cognitive restructuring or reframing

Cognitive restructuring can be considered as an overhaul of all the unproductive, hindering, and maladaptive thought processes to make way for productive, reinforcing, and positive thinking

People tend to overthink and overgeneralize things and end up making things complicated for themselves. By always the worst in every situation can be stressful and draining. 

To bring about change it is necessary to first identify the problematic thought patterns to replace them with positive thinking and attitude. 

This process has been explained with the following example

Distorted Thought: “I can never succeed as I am not capable” 

Positive thought: “I may not be successful now and lack a few skills but I can always work hard to improve them to succeed” 

Guided discovery

In this CBT technique, the therapist attempts to familiarize and understand your perspective in order to help you change unhelpful thoughts. The therapist would do this by asking specific questions, directed at changing your unhelpful viewpoint. 

The therapist might also employ evidence testing to help you understand the fallacy of your beliefs and thoughts 

This method helps us to change our perspective or to look at things from different points of view, making us realize that there are various ways to look at things and situations. Thus, guided discovery helps you in making informed decisions 

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is utilized to confront fears and overcome them. This technique might be difficult at the beginning as the client is slowly exposed to the things or events and elicit fear and anxiety within them but it is done in a safe setting and the client’s well-being is ensured at all times. 

Through this technique, the client learns ways to cope with their situation and also helps them lead a life without anxiety.

The client is exposed to their fears slowly and the exposure is increased in small increments to ensure that the client does not suffer from any excessive distress. Over time due to continued and systematic exposure the client overcomes their fear.  

Journaling and thought records

Journaling is a great method of getting acquainted with one’s thoughts and ideas.

Writing is a time-honored way of getting in touch with your thoughts.

It also helps us keep track of our emotions to triggering events and analyze them unbiased at a later time when we aren’t heavily influenced by our feelings or emotions. Journaling is an exercise that needs to be maintained regularly for it to be effective 

 Activity scheduling and behavior activation

Often people loathe engaging in activities or are fearful of certain events due to their mental health issues. This behavior affects their social engagement and interpersonal relationships as well as mental health, In such scenarios, these techniques help the people deal with their lack of participation. It has been observed that by putting activities or event you were anxious about or inclined to avoid in your calendar, you are more likely to follow through. It is proposed that once the burden of decision is gone people are more willing to engage.  This technique helps in developing good habits and building and learning new skills. 

Behavioral experiments

The behavioral experiment is generally utilized for the treatment of anxiety disorders or catastrophic thinking. The goal of this technique is to help the client realize that their assumptions or predictions are subjective and not accurate. Things can happen differently than we imagined or predicted but we might never discover because we avoid that situation out of fear. 

So before attempting a task or participating in an activity that generates fear the therapist might ask you to predict the outcome. After the event has passed the therapist might ask to reveal whether your assumptions or predictions came true. 

While some things might happen the way you predicted with due time you will realize that a lot of factors influence our environment and events happening in our lives. Due to this, it is very hard to predict the outcomes and thus we are always surprised by the nature of the events. 

 Relaxation and stress reduction techniques

These techniques are really helpful in reducing tension, stress, and anger as well as inducing calm and peace in people. 

There are various relaxation techniques such as,

Deep breathing exercises

Muscle relaxation


Progressive muscle relaxation techniques etc. 

Role playing

Role-playing helps you deal with different types of situations by enacting them in a safe setting. Sometimes it is traumatic to be exposed to our fears in real life. Therefore in such cases, we can utilize role-play techniques to help the client get used to their fears and develop skills to overcome them. 

The role-playing can help with:

Developing and improving problem-solving skills

Gaining confidence to deal with situations and familiarity with the fearful events. 

Improving Social skills

Assertiveness training

Improving Communication skills

Successive approximation

The successful approximation is a process wherein bigger tasks or goals are broken into smaller and achievable goals. 


The therapist will always assign homework to the client and it is one of the most important aspects of CBT. It is necessary to practice and test the skills learned and developed during the therapy in the real world outside. Because the end goal of CBT is to ensure that the client is capable of handling their problems on their own in the learned future it is important to diligently practice homework and assignments. 

Applications of CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to deal with a variety of daily encountered problems, such as learning to handle stressful events and situations or coping with anxiety over a certain issue and learning effective methods to tackle it. It is used to treat an extensive range of mental health problems. Because of its varied benefits and effectiveness, it is the most used and preferred therapy in counseling. Also as it is structured and systematic therapy  It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way.

Some of the issues helped by CBT


Eating disorders, such as binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Anxiety disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Body dysmorphic disorder



Bipolar disorder

Addiction and substance abuse disorders

Antisocial behaviors (lying, stealing, hurting animals, or other people)

Gambling problems

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Conduct disorder


Mood swings

Borderline personality disorders

Panic disorder



Through this article we learnt and understood the various techniques utilized in CBT and also examined them in detail as well as learned about the uses of CBT. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 types of cognitive therapies?

Cognitive Therapies can be categorized into three types. They are:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) 
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

How can I do CBT on myself?

CBT can be conducted upon self requires extreme patience and time to master. A person can try a few of the techniques in CBT such as confronting negative thoughts with evidence, relaxation techniques, and various other types of activities to ground themselves in the present and reconfigure their thought process. 

What are some behavioral techniques?

Behavioral interventions are intended to bring about behavior change.learned future Therefore behavioral techniques use strategies such as 



Shaping and Modeling etc, to modify behavior. The advantage of these methods is that they are very focused and have been proven to provide quick results. 

What does CBT focus on?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on modifying and replacing negative automatic thoughts (NAT) with positive thoughts to prevent them from negatively influencing the client’s behavior. These NATs can cause a lot of emotional distress and lead to the development of various mental health disorders. 

What is the difference between cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy?

The most vital difference between cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy is that cognitive-behavioral works only towards getting rid of any psychological issues and mental distress but cognitive-behavioral therapy helps in tackling maladaptive behavior as well


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Pietrangelo, A. (2019, December 12). CBT techniques: Tools for Cognitive Behavioral therapy. Healthline. Retrieved December 27, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/cbt-techniques