Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

In the 1960s, Dr. Aaron Beck, known as the father of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), developed this life-changing therapy. Since then, it’s become one of the most common evidence-based treatments for mental health conditions and eating disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors relate to each other and how changing the way someone evaluates a situation can change their reactions. It’s an evidence-based treatment for mental health conditions designed to change the damaging thought patterns and negative emotions that some people develop about themselves. These destructive belief systems can lead to unhealthy coping strategies like substance abuse, self-harm, and eating disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial either by itself or in combination with other types of therapy in treating eating disorders and other mental health conditions. However, not all individuals who benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy have mental health conditions or eating disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful situations, deal with emotional challenges, and improve their mental health and well-being. CBT can be utilized by mental health professionals in either individual therapy sessions or group therapy sessions.

Overview of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare’s AVP of Clinical Services, Kate Fisch, LCSW, discusses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective?

Several studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular talk therapy alternative to medication when it comes to treating eating disorders and other mental health disorders like anxiety disorders. Studies have also found that cognitive behavioral therapy can be as effective in treating depression as prescription antidepressants. Unlike medication, which simply aims to eliminate the symptoms of the mental health conditions, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the whole person by addressing the individual’s underlying core beliefs, dysfunctional assumptions, and negative automatic thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Negative Thoughts

The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy is that situations themselves don’t upset people, but rather the meaning that people give those situations. If an individual has negative thoughts, they can’t see that their perception doesn’t fit. They continue to have the same thoughts and fail to learn new things. A depressed person, for instance, might think when they wake up that they can’t face going to work. They might believe that they feel awful and that nothing will go right. If they stay home from work because of these thoughts, they won’t find out if their beliefs are wrong. Their thoughts may develop further and lead them to believe that they’re useless, weak, and a failure.


These negative thoughts can even trigger negative emotions and behaviors, making individuals feel bad about themselves. In this case, these negative emotions may also make them more likely to avoid going to work. This vicious cycle can occur with other mental health conditions, including eating disorders.


Cognitive behavioral therapy helps clients recognize these patterns and teaches them to step away from their automatic negative thoughts and test them first. With the depressed individual, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy would encourage them to examine real-life situations to see what happens. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to correct these distorted beliefs.

The Three Basic Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

According to Dr. Aaron Beck, there are three basic principles of this talk therapy, including:
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Therapies That Utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There are various types of therapies for eating disorders and mental health conditions that incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy. Some of these therapies include:

CBT Techniques for Eating Disorders

At Magnolia Creek, we use many specific approaches that fall under the category of cognitive behavioral therapy, depending on each client’s needs. In every case, CBT focuses on helping clients deal with their underlying thoughts that cause mental distress and contribute to their eating disorders and their mental health conditions, if applicable. The CBT techniques we utilize focus on identifying and modifying distorted thinking, behaviors, and emotional responses. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, addresses how individuals think and behave. The CBT techniques utilized in dialectical behavior therapy include mindfulness, emotion regulation, and other techniques.

Cognitive Therapy Programs at Magnolia Creek

At Magnolia Creek, cognitive therapy is structured and doesn’t consist of clients freely discussing whatever they’re thinking in the moment. The first therapy sessions involve the therapist and client getting to know each other. The client describes their problems, and they work together to set treatment goals. The remaining therapy sessions follow a general structure that uses the time as efficiently as possible. This structure ensures that our mental health professionals don’t miss any important details. While the therapist controls the topics and discussions in the beginning, the client gains more control as they progress. By the end, this structure makes clients feel empowered to continue to work on self-improvement.
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Homework is another key element and an essential part of cognitive behavioral therapy. At the end of each session, our mental health professionals assign activities to complete before the next session, which can include keeping a diary of situations that cause anxiety or depression. During the next few sessions, they review the events together and the therapist teaches the client how to cope with similar situations in the future.
Additionally, we utilize cognitive behavioral therapy in both levels of treatment for eating disorders at Magnolia Creek including in our residential treatment programs and our partial hospitalization program (PHP).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Benefits

Some of the benefits of this solution-focused therapy include the following:
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Kate Fisch, LCSW

Kate Fisch is the AVP of Clinical Operations for Odyssey’s Eating Disorder Network. With 17 years of clinical leadership and direct client care experience in the eating disorders field, she has a history of innovation, clinical training, and resource development in a variety of eating disorder treatment settings supporting families, clients, and clinicians.

If you’d like to learn more about how cognitive behavioral therapy can help you, call us or fill out our contact form today.

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