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What is CBT?

Diagram of cognitive-behavioral therapy

At St. Louis DBT, we use CBT within the framework of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.   Like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, CBT is a  scientifically-tested, evidenced-based therapy. The premise of CBT is that how we think influences how we feel and behave, either in  the moment or habitually.

How We Think Affects Emotions and Behaviors 

Two people are diagnosed with diabetes.  Upon hearing the diagnosis, the first patient might think, “This is a sign that I need to get healthy – start eating right and exercising – to live longer and be a good example for my children.”  This leads to feeling empowered and determined. 

The other person may think “I can’t handle this.  I am going to die soon,”  He will feel desperate, overwhelmed and depressed.  He is more likely fail to engage in their diet or health plan. 

It is not the diagnosis that directly affects how people feel emotionally, but their thoughts about the diagnosis and their interpretations of what that diagnosis means about them. 

When people are in distress, their perspective is often distorted and their thoughts may be unrealistic or unhelpful. CBT helps people identify their distressing thoughts, evaluate and challenge the thoughts, discover missing information and create new, more effective interpretations and beliefs.  

When thoughts are more balanced and encompass more relevant information, we tend to feel a bit better and react in a way that solves the problem that started the feeling in the first place, rather than making the problem (or feelings) worse.

CBT Terms You Might Hear

Automatic thoughts (e.g., “I can’t do anything right”), Learn more.

Core beliefs (e.g., “I am worthless”;  “No one is trustworthy”), Learn more.

Distorted patterns of thinking (e.g., all or nothing, catastrophizing)  Learn more.

Schemas about how you fit into the world (e.g., belief that you should voluntarily give up of your own needs for the sake of others).  Learn more.

beck-bookOrigins of CBT

Dr. Aaron Beck developed CBT in the 1960s while he was a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania.  Today, The Beck Institute researches, develops new protocols and best practices and trains practitioners.  All of St. Louis DBT’ therapists have training in CBT,.  Casey Limmer, our founder and owner, was directly trained by the masters at The Beck Institute and teaches a course in the modality at The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. 

For an extensive description of CBT, go here


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