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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Explained

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Do you see a therapist?

Do you see a therapist?

What Are the Goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is actually a form of exercise for the brain, and it has been studied by scientists for over a hundred years. The goal of CBT is to think faster and learn new information a bit more easily. Core cognitive skills are the ones utilized by the brain to learn, think, read, reason, remember, and pay attention. As information comes into our brains the core skills work together to take in new information and move it into your brain to an area you will access while at work, school, or basically anywhere you might need the information.

Cognitive skills play an important role in our ability to process new information. If even one of these skills is weakened or if you are not retaining new information the brain is not being utilized properly. Most learning problems are due to one or more weakened cognitive skills.

Brain training became a $1.3 billion industry in 2013, and approximately 55% of that was software products. Not all software and computer games will help with cognitive deficits despite what may be advertised.

Who Needs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Other aspects of our brain health that need evaluation include:

  1. Motor functioning: How well do you control your movements?
  2. Emotional functioning: How well do you respond and interpret emotions?
  3. Sensory function - How well do you feel and respond to the sensations of touch, which include pain, pressure, and temperature?

Children may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy when they have the following problems:

  1. Dyslexia
  2. Sensory processing disorders
  3. Math and/or reading issues
  4. Auditory processing delays
  6. Learning and attention challenges

Adults with the following disorders may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy

  1. Anxiety disorders
  2. Depression
  3. Sleeping disorders
  4. PTSD
  5. Phobias
  6. Eating disorders
  7. Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  8. Schizophrenia
  9. Sexual disorders
  10. Bipolar disorder
  11. Substance abuse disorders

Traumatic brain injuries will also cause cognitive issues. Sometimes medication in addition to cognitive behavioral training is required to achieve the best results.

Could you benefit from CBT?

Could you benefit from CBT?

Cognitive Training Goals

As with any health problem eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, getting adequate sleep, and limiting the use of alcohol will result in a healthier person.

The Journal of Educational Psychology was the first to report on a recorded cognitive training study. CBT sessions typically last between five to twenty sessions.

Cognitive training focuses on improving a variety of cognitive abilities including:

  1. Problem-solving
  2. Reasoning
  3. Attention
  4. Executive functions
  5. Working memory

This group of abilities is thought to correlate with individual differences that take a person’s education and life outcomes into account when assessing brain function. An individual's cognitive reserve is the capacity of that person to meet the demands in their life. Cognitive training may be used with some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and it is very useful for people with a decline in fluid intelligence occurring with advanced age. Therefore, if a person has long-term memory problems, working memory problems, or reasoning skill problems then cognitive training would be helpful.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Explained

Purposes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy is a method of addressing emotional challenges. The following are some of the conditions that are treatable:

  1. Managing symptoms of a mental illness
  2. Preventing relapses of mental illness symptoms
  3. Treating a mental illness when medicine is not an option
  4. Coping with loss or grief
  5. Learning techniques for coping with stressful life situations
  6. Learning to manage emotions
  7. Learning to resolve conflicts in relationships and better ways to communicate
  8. Managing chronic physical symptoms
  9. Coping with a medical illness
  10. Overcoming an emotional trauma related to some abuse or violence

How the Therapy Works

CBT usually focuses on specific problems. It tends to use goal-oriented methods and you may be asked to do specific activities, do homework, or reading. You will be urged to apply what you have learned in your session to your daily life. Your therapist will use an approach that depends on your particular problems and preferences. CBT may be combined with other therapeutic approaches, such as interpersonal therapy that focuses on relationships with other people.

CBT identifies the specific problems in your life, such as a medical condition, an impending divorce, or a mental health disorder.

Cognitive decline is considered an unavoidable happening for senior citizens. However, the University of Texas in Dallas completed research showing that seniors’ brains were more energy efficient and seniors did not have to work as hard to complete many tasks.

CBT teaches seniors to focus on the more relevant information and filter out the less relevant. CBT teaches that deeper thinking teaches seniors to not focus on the less relevant events. One recent study found that seniors who completed brain exercises for five or six weeks experienced improvements in their mental lasting for five years.

Some Brain-Boosting Exercises

There are some activities you can do at home that may help your mental acuity, so below is a list of possible activities.

  1. Logic puzzles
  2. Card games
  3. Arts and crafts
  4. Go dancing
  5. Sudoku games
  6. Build your vocabulary
  7. Word puzzles
  8. Trivia games
  9. Teach a new skill to someone else
  10. Learn a new language
  11. Use all your senses
  12. Listen or play music
  13. Fun and interactive games online
  14. Read fiction books and retell the tale

ABC Model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

As a senior, it is good to do all the things that make the body healthy, such as eating a good diet, exercising, stopping smoking, and reducing stress. Mind exercises improve an individual’s mental faculties over time. Memory and completing daily tasks can improve with the right mental exercises. It is also important to have a support group, which is ideally your family, but also may include close friends.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 01, 2020:

Hi Maria,

I appreciate your praise for this article. I thought this was a very interesting topic.

We are keeping a low profile and trying to stay healthy. I hope your family are all healthy as well and not having too many problems with the distancing.

Love and Hugs Maria

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 31, 2020:

Dear Pamela,

I thoroughly appreciate the value of CBT. You have done such a comprehensive job explaining the many purposes and benefits.

Hoping that you and your family are doing OK during these stressful days.



Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 20, 2020:

Hi Alyssa,

I do think this is an important therapy that treats a multitude of problems. Thank you for your comments.

Alyssa from Ohio on March 19, 2020:

This is such an interesting article, Pamela! In college, my major was psychology and I have one professor in particular who touted the importance of Cognitive psychology and treatments. The brain has always fascinated me and I think so many could benefit from reading this. :)

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 12, 2020:

Hi Paula,

I am for preserving my brain as much as possible too. I work crosswords frequently and I have a variety of games on my tablet also.

Thanks for reading and commenting today.

Suzie from Carson City on March 12, 2020:

Wonderful & very important information here, Pam. I am all for anything & everything that keeps our brain, healthy, strong and up -to-par! My personal favorites are crosswords, cryptograms and logic games! My own form of lone entertainment too! Peace, Paula

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 12, 2020:

Hi Lora,

Maintaining your independence is one of the best reasons to use CBT. It sounds like you already knew a bit about this type of therapy and it does help for many different types of problems. Thank you so much for your generous comments.

Lora Hollings on March 12, 2020:

CBT is a very effective therapy that can help many areas of our brain as you point out in your very detailed and comprehensive article, Pamela. It can help sharpen our cognitive abilities as we age and help us to maintain our independence and skills that we need to function well and improve our emotional well being too. Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders have greatly improved their coping skills through this type of therapy. I learned a lot from reading your wonderful article and from watching the educational video on how this therapy works. Thanks for sharing!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 10, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I appreciate you reading the article and commenting.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 09, 2020:

This sounds like an interesting and useful form of therapy. I'm glad I've learned about it. Thanks for sharing the information, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 09, 2020:

Hi Ms Dora,

Sudoku is one of my favorites as well. Thank you for your very nice comments. I hope you have a good week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 09, 2020:

Sudoku is one of my favorite past time activity. Thanks for this very helpful article. Very clearly presented. Good lesson.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 09, 2020:

Hi Devika,

CBT does meet the needs for a variety of health problems. I am glad you found the article informative.

Thank you for your comments. Hawve a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 08, 2020:

Hi Devika,

Yes, CBT can be taught to individual with all kinds of problems and it is effective. I appreciate your comments.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 08, 2020:

Hi Pamela these are important points made here and you covered this topic in advance you explained in detail and is worth a read. CBT sounds a challenge.with this information lots can be taught to individuals.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 08, 2020:

Hi Raymond,

I think CBT is probably used in many countries, especially in Europe and in Australia as well. I think anything a senior citizen can do to retain their mental capacity is a plus.

Thank you for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 08, 2020:

Hi Eric,

Somehow I missed your comements for w while. You make a good points with your comments and I appreciate them. I think you are right about an athelete versus someone that is intelligent and has attended college or trainied even in another way. I appreciate your comments about the Bi-polar or early dementia people. You make a valid point for sure. Thank you, Eric.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on March 08, 2020:

CBT is often used in the Netherlands too. I like your take on cbt for senior citizens.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 07, 2020:

Hi Eiddwen,

Thank you so much for your very nice comments.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 07, 2020:

Thank you so much for sharing this. Your obvious hard work and research has certainly paid off here Pamela. Great work.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 07, 2020:

Hi John,

I don't think there is anythiing wrong with reading the poems. They are so good.

Thank you for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 07, 2020:

Hi Floourish,

CBT is helpful for so many life challenges. I appreciat your comments.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 07, 2020:

CBT is a helpful approach for people who are encountering a variety of life challenges. Thanks for reviewing it.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 06, 2020:

This is a wonderful article, Pamela. I am sure writing regularly must be a form of cognitive therapy. Like manatita I find it too difficult to memorise my poems though, so if I ever recite them I have to read them. I guess I write too many to memorise them. Maybe I should choose a couple and try. Thanks for sharing.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 06, 2020:

I was reading up on this once. And it hit me that it is just a no brainer. Everyone should avail themselves of this concept. It is not a pill, it is a perspective.

For some reason folks see an athlete and admire all the work that it takes, plus the raw skill.

They see a very smart person and it becomes an offense. So the idea that hard work can improve the skills of the brain suggests that the brainiac earned it. Not popular. "I am equal to you even though I am a mental couch potato".

In Mensa you will see some braggadocio and competition - some. But you will always see a drive to gain cognitive skills. It is second nature to strive to improve the thought patterns and the "edge" over complexities.

Good on anyone who can get a Bi-polar or early dementia person to actually get the challenge and rise up.

Ooops. I went on. No offense at deleting. And just so you know, I love your brain.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Olusegun, I am glad you enjoyed the article and I appreciate your comment.

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on March 06, 2020:

I enjoyed the article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Mike,

I am glad you enjoyed the article and I appreciate your comments.

Readmikenow on March 06, 2020:

Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Lori,

I think CBT is a good thing no matter how long it takes. I think the time limit is irrelavent.I appreciate your praise and for sharing your experience.I am glad you are doing well.

Lori Colbo from United States on March 06, 2020:

Well done and very thorough. I've been through CBT a lot over the last 20 years. I guess I'm a slow learner, lol. It's been very helpful to my mental health and I am no longer in need of any therapy. Thanks.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Bill,

I think it is great that Bev has concern about keeping your and her brain sharp. Maybe it doesn't help too much but it is fun and maybe it will help. All any of us can do is try. I appreciate your comments, Bill.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 06, 2020:

Great information! Bev had me start playing those types of games online for brain exercises. I don't know if they help me at all, but I enjoy exercising my brain now that I don't teach.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

It is great that you have opportunities to read your poems to people. Memorializing them would take some work I think. I wish you the best of luck on that and I would suggest practice to memorize your favorite poems. I appreciate your very nice comments. Blessings, Manatita.

manatita44 from london on March 06, 2020:

Well-written and very informative piece, Pamela. I'm impressed!

My problem is retention of memory, particularly my poems. I read them in public now, as they are not so easy to learn by heart. Great Hub!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Lorna,

I am glad you use this therapy. Since people are living longer I think therapies for seniors is so important. Thank you for your very nice comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I did reasearch so I hope you are right about brain-boosting exercise. I appreciate your comments.

Lorna Lamon on March 06, 2020:

I use CBT for a variety of mental conditions and have found it to be extremely effective. I am glad you mentioned its use with senior's Pamela as I use brain training exercises for my older clients. For the more severe mental conditions I tend to use it in conjunction with other therapies. An excellent article - very relevant.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2020:

It is interesting to read that CBT therapy has long-lasting results for seniors. That is good news. I would think that writing posts such as this one would also count as a brain-boosting exercise.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2020:

HI Ruby, We do the same things as you and hope for the est. I appreciate your commrnts.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 05, 2020:

Your article is very important. Many seniors lose the ability to stay in their home. I'm sure CBT will help. Keeping busy, doing activities which stimulate the brain is good. We play cards, bingo, church activities, plus avid Cardinal fans keeps us pretty busy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2020:

Hi Kyler, I think CBT depends very much on the qualifications and skills of the therapist. I am sorry it did not help you.

I don't think I have written any articles on DBT or boderline personality, but I will check. I have deleted numerous articles and still have over 400. I appreciate your cvomments Kyler.

Kyler J Falk from California on March 05, 2020:

I lovely little article here with a good overview of CBT.

I once underwent CBT for over three years, with little to no results, but I observed others that it worked for splendidly. DBT was actually more up my alley, due to borderline personality disorder.

I would love to see you write an article on DBT, and on borderline personality disorder in this same vein.