A Short Guide to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence based type of therapy that can treat a wide variety of mental disorders. It is a common treatment for anxiety and depression, with evidence showing it to be equally as helpful as medications, even when delivered online.

What is it?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the present. It teaches techniques that identify and challenge thoughts and emotional responses that cause distress. It makes us reconsider situations from different angles, as our ways of thought can be negative and sometimes distorted. CBT helps prevent negative thought cycles and makes us see problems in a more realistic way. It is one of the fastest forms of psychotherapy, where the average number of sessions needed is 16. This type of therapy is also adaptable to children, adolescents, and couples.

What happens during therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) relies on a partnership between client and therapist, in which the therapist's aim is to help clients achieve their goals. During the first session clients share their background and experiences, and therapists express what to expect during treatment.

Problems recognized during therapy are categorized into situation, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions. Together, clients and therapists analyze behaviours and thoughts and work to change negative thoughts. Clients are often given "homework" between sessions that encourages applying learned techniques outside therapy. That said, therapists do not push anything their clients would feel uncomfortable with.

Why does CBT work?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is instructive and has cycles. Each therapy session has a specific goal to achieve, that works on how to achieve it, not what to achieve.  The techniques learned during therapy are applicable to many daily life situations. At the culmination of therapy, individuals are able to analyze unhelpful thoughts and challenge them. This technique decreases the likelihood of unhelpful thoughts becoming a barrier again. Negative thoughts can make a situation seem worse than it is. Learning these thought-challenging techniques help clients feel more positive and make situations seem manageable.


Researchers at Linköping University, among other Swedish universities, found that online CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder resulted in structural changes in the brain. The structural changes made the brain resemble a healthy brain. The amygdala showed less activity after CBT, alongside a decrease in brain volume in areas that usually increase due to Social Anxiety. Researchers at Boston University tested CBT against a placebo for anxiety and found that symptoms were greatly reduced when CBT was used compared to the placebo. CBT also had more effective results than the placebo, especially for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder. These are a few of the many studies that show evidence supporting CBT as effective treatment for certain mental disorders.

Where do I get help?

Many experienced therapists in Ontario trained in CBT offer appointments during business hours. Organizations like CAMH or hospitals also provide access to CBT therapists. However, they only intervene in cases that reach a certain level of severity with a referral from family physicians. Universities are also places that have good access to CBT therapists.

TranQool offers you the the ability to do CBT from the comfort of your own home. The service is more affordable than traditional in-person therapy, and reimbursable by your insurance. TranQool therapists are available in the evenings and weekends, to avoid conflicts with work.