Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Explained

Updated on March 5, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

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


Goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is actually 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 to 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 includes 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.


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 improving a variety of cognitive abilities including:

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

This group of abilities are 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 an 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

Purpose of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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

  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, to 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 senior’s 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

In Conclusion

As a senior it is good to do all the things that make the body healthy, such as eating a good diet, exercising, stop smoking and reduce 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 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


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    4 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

    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.



  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa,

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

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image


    4 months ago from Ohio

    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. :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • fpherj48 profile image


    4 months ago from Carson City

    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

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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 profile image

    Lora Hollings 

    4 months ago

    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!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda,

    I appreciate you reading the article and commenting.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 months ago from The Caribbean

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

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika,

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

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • raymondphilippe profile image

    Raymond Philippe 

    5 months ago from The Netherlands

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

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eiddwen,

    Thank you so much for your very nice comments.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    5 months ago from Wales

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

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi John,

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

    Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Floourish,

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

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 months ago from USA

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

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    5 months ago from Queensland Australia

    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.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

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

  • OGUNDARE OLUSEGUN profile image


    5 months ago from NIGERIA

    I enjoyed the article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Mike,

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

  • Readmikenow profile image


    5 months ago

    Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    5 months ago from Pacific Northwest

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 months ago from Olympia, WA

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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 profile image


    5 months ago from london

    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!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy,

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

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    5 months ago

    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 W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    5 months ago from Houston, Texas

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

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

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    5 months ago from Southern Illinois

    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.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    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 profile image

    Kyler J Falk 

    5 months ago from Corona, CA

    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.


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