Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works to change negative patterns of thinking and beliefs and replace them with more positive ones. Examples of negative patterns of thinking include minimizing positives, magnifying negatives and catastrophizing. These negative thought patterns are called “cognitive distortions” in CBT.

Through the diverse but related techniques of CBT, such as relaxation exercises and exposure therapy, a person learns to intervene in the cycle of negative thinking and replace negative thoughts with more realistic, positive ones. This intervention decreases their stress and self-defeating behaviours.

Many CBT programs place an emphasis on mindfulness practices, so that individuals acquire a more open, self-aware relationship with their patterns of negative thought.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is offered in groups and one-on-one sessions with a cognitive behavioural therapist. Branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) often run CBT programs. Check out your local branch of the CMHA at In some cases this therapy may be covered by a provincial or territorial health plan. CBT has also been adapted to computer-based programs and self-help exercises. Many of these are available online.