According to this article appearing on PsychCentral.com, CBT is a therapy program aimed at changing patterns of thinking or behaviors that are behind difficulties ranging from depression to sleeping problems, drug abuse, anxiety and even relationship problems.
CBT was developed by a psychiatrist from the University of Pennsylvania named Aaron Beck who noticed during psychoanalysis that his patients tended to have an internal dialogue going on in their minds that was similar to talking to themselves.
For example, in a therapy session a client might be thinking, “why isn’t the therapist talking as much today? Is he annoyed with me?” which would make the client feel anxious.
“Beck realized that the link between thoughts and feelings was very important. He invented the term automatic thoughts to describe emotion-filled thoughts that might pop up in the mind. Beck found that people weren’t always fully aware of such thoughts, but could learn to identify and report them. If a person was feeling upset in some way, the thoughts were usually negative and neither realistic nor helpful. Beck found that identifying these thoughts was the key to the client understanding and overcoming his or her difficulties.”
This is now known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) because it also employs behavioral techniques. As PsychCentral reports, the balance between the cognitive and the behavioral elements varies among the different therapies of this type, but all come under the umbrella term cognitive behavior therapy.
CBT has undergone successful scientific trials in many places by different teams, and has been applied to a wide variety of problems. It has become one of the most widely used evidence-based practices for treating less severe forms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), tics, eating disorders and borderline personality disorders. It is often recommended in combination with medication for treating other conditions such as severe obsessive compulsive disorder, major depressive disorders, opioid addiction, bipolar and psychotic disorders.
For those interested in learning more about CBT, the PsychCentral article is very informative.