Clinical psychologists can use cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients overcome a number of mental health problems.

A psychologist observes a young girl drawing.For many, the idea of psychotherapy conjures up images of someone reclined on a couch, offering winding answers to a clinical psychologist’s penetrating questions. While that image may capture how psychotherapy looks from the outside, it does nothing to capture what’s really going on, or why so many people seek out therapy.

To understand the point of psychotherapy, you need to understand how it’s designed to work and how it helps patients. There are a number of techniques and schools of psychotherapy, but one of the most popular—and most evidenced-based—is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).*

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How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

CBT is a solution-based approach to psychotherapy that helps patients modify dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. It encourages patients to identify and ultimately change distorted cognitions, which are inaccurate perceptions that reinforce negative thinking and emotions. Common distorted cognitions include the tendency to view even minor mistakes as catastrophic and the tendency to filter out positives in life, focusing only on the negatives. To help patients overcome their distorted cognitions, cognitive behavioral therapists provide guidance on how patients can make behavioral changes that challenge negative emotions and thoughts rather than reinforce them. Over time, the therapy can help patients learn how to avoid distorted cognitions and thus improve their mental health.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Benefit Patients

Clinical psychologists utilize CBT to treat a wide number of mental health conditions. The most common ways CBT can help patients include:*

Lessening Depression
Depression comes in a variety of forms and intensities. While many people respond well to antidepressant medications, CBT can also help patients cope with depression. In particular, CBT can help patients learn to identify the ways their depression creates distorted cognitions, and then adjust behaviors in ways that push against rather than intensify depressed feelings.

Lowering Anxiety
Like depression, anxiety can present in a variety of ways. Some people live in a more-or-less constant state of apprehension, always worried something is about to go wrong. Others fixate so intensely on a single problem or mistake they have difficulty functioning. But no matter the specificities of a patient’s anxieties, CBT can help them lower their anxiety by challenging anxiety-provoking distorted cognitions.

Combatting Bulimia and Anorexia
Bulimia and anorexia typically involve body dysmorphic disorder, a condition that makes it difficult for people to objectively view the size and shape of their body. CBT can help bulimic and anorexic patients combat the distorted cognitions leading to their inaccurate perceptions of themselves. CBT can also help these patients focus on and embrace healthier behaviors.

Limiting Anger Issues
People with anger issues tend to have a heightened need for control, or a heightened belief that anything that goes wrong is due to them failing to take control. An inability to properly perceive what can and can’t be controlled is a common distorted cognition. As such, CBT can help patients better identify what can truly be controlled and react more appropriately to difficult situations.

Decreasing Somatic Symptoms
Somatic symptoms are physical symptoms with a psychological rather than physiological cause. Common somatic symptoms include headaches, fatigue, digestive ailments, and certain kinds of pain. CBT has proven effective in treating the underlying mental health issues that can cause somatic symptoms.

How to Become a Psychologist Focused on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you want to become a clinical psychologist who practices CBT or conducts psychology studies of CBT, you’ll want to earn a PhD in Clinical Psychology. This advanced psychologist degree can help you gain the knowledge and skills you need for the best CBT-focused psychology careers. But can you balance your other responsibilities with a clinical psychology program? Thanks to online education, it’s likely you can.

The clinical psychology programs at most campus-based universities require you to live close to campus and arrange your other responsibilities around your PhD responsibilities. But an online doctoral program gives you a lot more flexibility. In an online psychology degree program, you can complete a majority of your psych degree from home and on a flexible platform designed for those who want to attend class at whatever time of day works best for them.

Online learning can be just what you need to earn your PhD degree. It’s a great choice for anyone who wants to go into cognitive behavioral therapy.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a PhD in Clinical Psychology degree online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*S. Hoffman, et. al., The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses, Cognitive Therapy and Research, on the Internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,

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