Dispelling 4 Common Myths about CBT

Dispelling 4 Common Myths about CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that suffers some misconceptions. However, once you gain a basic understanding of the idea behind the therapy, one can sort the facts from the myths.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

According to the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events.  The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel / act better even if the situation does not change.”

CBT has proven to be an effective treatment, and because many mental health care professionals use CBT, it is also accessible. During CBT, the patient becomes aware of how their thinking affects their feelings and behavior. It explores the connection between a person’s thoughts and feelings, as well as the actions that result from them.

CBT is different than traditional psychoanalysis. While Freudian-based psychotherapy focuses on the patient’s history to determine his or her present psychological state, CBT instead explores the patient’s current thinking. Perhaps because of this difference (and relative novelty when compared to Freudian-based psychoanalysis) it is not as well understood and suffers some myths associated with its effectiveness.

Four Common Myths about CBT:

  1.     CBT only treats symptoms, not people.
  2.     CBT neglects to address past behavior.
  3.     CBT is too scientific and rigid in its practice.
  4.     CBT disregards the patient and therapist relationship.

Let’s address each of these myths in more detail.

Myth #1: CBT only treats symptoms, not people.

Fact: CBT Treats both symptoms and people.

While tackling the symptoms of the patient’s present behavior is critical to the success of CBT, treating the patient is the best way to accomplish that. CBT seeks to improve patients’ happiness and decrease problems by focusing on dysfunctional behavior and the emotions that drive it. It traces those emotions back to thinking patterns and encourages patients to question some of their regular models of cognition to change destructive emotions and behaviors. Some patients experience positive changes in their brain activity, suggesting that CBT can also improve brain function. The treatment has been effective in treating an array of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and eating disorders.

Myth #2: CBT neglects to address past behavior.

Fact: CBT addresses the past and present behavior.

CBT is most effective when the therapist knows the patient’s history as it influences the patient’s world perception and current psychological state. However, this misconception about CBT could result from the fact that the past is not the focus of the treatment. The core principle of CBT is that the patient’s false beliefs (instead of external stimulus) created unwanted behaviors in the past and present. By identifying these negative thought patterns and changing them when they occur, therapist and patient work together to facilitate healthier thinking that produces improved behavior moving forward.

Myth #3: CBT is too scientific and rigid in its practice.

Fact: CBT allows patient and therapist to find a system that works for them.

While it’s true that CBT has extensive scientific support behind it, the treatment is not rigid in practice. In fact, CBT requires creativity to deliver. For example, a therapist will work on understanding the motivations behind the undesirable behavior, but will combine that with analysis of data to measure progress (which could take the form of an assessment or questionnaire, a “mood record” or journal, or monitoring of specific behavior). It is not uncommon for the patient to have homework where they replace their negative thinking with more positive or realistic thoughts. Sometimes therapists will request a journal about their experiences outside of the sessions. What occurs in CBT treatment is up to therapist and patient to work out in a way that addresses the behavior they want to change. Furthermore, the therapist must judge when to push harder on an aspect of treatment and when to back away to facilitate the best possible outcome.


Myth #4: CBT neglects the patient and therapist relationship.

Fact: All CBT therapy relationships are built on a strong foundation of trust and collaboration.

Without trust, any patient and therapist relationship cannot work.  Not only that, CBT takes the patient and therapist relationship further.  CBT is based on the therapist and patient collaboration in guided discovery.  Both work together to determine goals, homework assignments, terms for success and means for the maintenance of success. The therapist is open and honest with the client, sends clear and explicit messages to the client, and gives honest feedback. Therefore, it is because of the relationship between the patient and therapist that the techniques of CBT are effective.


To learn more about how Achieve Wellness Group can help you or someone you love with CBT, please contact us.


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“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Overview.” www.mayoclinic.org. Web. 14 June 2016. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/home/ovc-20186868.

“What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?” www.nabct.org. Web. 15 June 2016. https://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt-htm/.

“What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” www.psychologytoday.com. Web. 15 June 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognitive-behavioral-therapy.

Lazarus, Ph. D., Clifford. “Four Common Myths and Misconceptions about CBT.” 13 April 2013. Web. 15 June 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-well/201304/four-common-myths-and-misconceptions-about-cbt.