Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a treatment for many different mental health disorders that creates positive, controlled connections between thoughts and emotions.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

Our immediate, automatic thoughts control the way we feel about a situation or subject. CBT helps individuals control these automatic thoughts and the way they perceive these situations, and therefore the way they behave.

Re-training the process of how we react can help treat a number of different mental health issues, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • OCD
  • Sleep disorders
  • PTSD

CBT is one of the most well-researched, and most effective forms of psychotherapy. Even without a formal diagnosis of a mental health or behavioral disorder, it can help individuals create healthier behavioral patterns.

What Happens During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a goal-oriented therapy. Typically a therapist will help an individual focus on a specific behavior pattern they want to change, and then they will create the cognitive and emotional connections to achieve that goal. Things that may have once seemed out of your control become in your control. CBT teaches individuals to understand and adjust their reactions. Actively changing your thoughts to a more positive message to yourself will eventually lead to more positive automatic thoughts.

Understanding Thoughts

Identifying the automatic negative thoughts that lead to the unhealthy patterns is the first step to changing them. Verbalize what goes through your mind in these targeted situations.

Connecting Thoughts to Emotions

Negative thoughts and beliefs lead to negative emotions. Adjusting the way we perceive situations can have a major impact on the way we feel every day.

Connecting Emotions to Behavior

Identify what raw feelings dictate your behavior. Sometimes we can use logic to influence what we do, but we need to learn how cognition, emotion, and behavior flow into each other.

Adapting Healthy Behavior

Once you’ve set the goals and identified what is holding you back, you can work towards adapting healthy behaviors. CBT will help you achieve real, measurable progress through self-reflection

What We Treat

If you are struggling with your mental health, substance abuse, or both, we are here to help you regain control over your life. Our 30-day inpatient program is designed to treat a wide variety of mental, behavioral, and co-occurring disorders in a comfortable setting.

Mental Health Diagnoses

We diagnose and treat many mental health disorders, including trauma effects, dual diagnosis, depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and codependency.


Substance use disorders we treat include addiction to alcohol, opiates, fentanyl and prescription opioids, methamphetamine and other stimulants, benzodiazepines, cannabis, and other psychoactive substances.

Other Behavioral Health Concerns

A mental health crisis can be layered and confusing. If you don’t see your disorder listed—or don’t know exactly why you are struggling—reach out to us to see how we can help. We treat everyone at Sequoia on a personal level, and we’re ready to help you overcome whatever you may be facing.

Ready to Start Your Healing Journey?

Our experienced, compassionate team is here for you. Reach out to us today by calling us or scheduling a conversation at a time that works for you. All information will be kept private and confidential.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Our thoughts influence our emotions and our emotions influence our actions. Hearing a positive message and believing it will change your emotions about stressors, and your actions will reflect that.

What if our thoughts are distorted? What if we don’t have time to think about a situation, causing us to react impulsively, in a negative and harmful way? What if there are harmful beliefs deep within our subconscious that we aren’t aware of?

Many people with mental health disorders struggle to stay in control of their thoughts. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps to alleviate that struggle by giving us helpful tools that challenge our negative thoughts.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, usually referred to as “CBT,” is a form of talk therapy that aims to create a positive connection between thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

CBT helps patients find negative distortions they believe and restructure them. It’s a retraining of their thought patterns so they can react to stressful situations in a healthier way. 

It is an incredibly useful form of therapy that can help treat:

Even those without a formal diagnosis could build healthier behavioral habits using mindful CBT techniques.

Through CBT, individuals can learn to control the thoughts and emotions that dictate their behavior. Once you can grasp the “why” of your reactions, you can work towards changing them.

Goal-Oriented Therapy

CBT is highly goal-oriented. You and your therapist will work together to find real achievable goals to work towards. This could be to change a specific reaction, or to react differently to specific situations and triggers.

Building momentum as you work toward a goal is a motivating aspect of CBT.

With its goal oriented approach, CBT is a short-term method of therapy. CBT is not an evergreen treatment, and patients should expect to end CBT at some point. That doesn’t mean all the work is done, however. Patients use tools they’ve learned in CBT long after they’ve “graduated” from it.

The History of CBT

Most people attribute Dr. Aaron Beck as the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the 1960s. Although, the foundations of his theories may have begun as early as 1913. 

Due to its age, CBT is a well-researched form of psychotherapy. Over time It’s been proven to be an effective treatment for not only mental health issues, but also for some physical ailments such as chronic pain.

The CBT Triangle

The connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors makes up the cognitive triangle. This triangle is the essence of CBT. Connecting thoughts, emotions, and behaviors creates a healthy strategy of gaining control of reactions you may have once thought were uncontrollable.


The first point of the triangle is thoughts. To begin retraining, it’s important to understand your thoughts. This step involves verbalizing what goes through your mind in targeted situations. Usually these targeted situations are the anxiety-inducing scenarios that trigger symptoms of certain mental health disorders.


The second point is emotions. The connection between your thoughts and your emotions will become more apparent. Negative thoughts lend themselves to negative emotions. Likewise, positive or even neutral thoughts can lead to positive emotions.


The third point is behavior. After targeting what goes through your mind and what emotions you feel in these targeted situations, you can begin to identify exactly how they are influencing your negative behaviors. 

After these three points have been identified, you can begin to navigate their connections, and begin building new connections in order to adapt healthier behaviors.

Changing thoughts will lead to changing emotions, which will lead to a change in behavior.

Three Areas of Thinking

CBT approaches thoughts from three different areas. They are:

  • Automatic thoughts
  • CBT core beliefs
  • Cognitive distortions

These are considered areas of cognition, and they influence us in different ways.

Automatic Thoughts

This area of cognition includes unpremeditated thought. It’s what your brain tells you in the moment. 

Small moments can have big effects on our daily moods. 

How we perceive an event like getting ignored by a friend or getting cut off while driving is important. During each of those events, it’s easy to assume negativity. And those negative thoughts can bring down our moods and affect our behavior.

If we’re able to reprogram our negative automatic thoughts into positive thoughts, we’ll be able to process events more healthily. Even if we can acknowledge that some thoughts are automatic and intrusive, we can learn that they were momentary lapses that don't define us, and we can create new positive thoughts.

These automatic thoughts can be influenced by core beliefs and cognitive distortions.

CBT Core Beliefs

During CBT sessions, you and your therapist might also work on identifying any core beliefs that are self-sabotaging.

Where automatic thoughts influence us during certain events, core beliefs influence us in a host of ways. They affect how we view ourselves and our reality.

Similar to our automatic thoughts, negative core beliefs can be challenged and changed. 

Cognitive Distortions

Another area your therapist may want to work on is any cognitive distortions. These are fallacies that may have existed in your thinking long before any symptoms of a mental health disorder surfaced. 

They can be caused by mental health disorders, however. But they are also closely associated with all different types of trauma, as well as abuse and manipulation.

Cognitive distortions are areas of thinking that are harming a person’s ability to perceive events accurately. By correcting these distortions patients will be able to process their experiences more correctly.

Some of these distortions include:

  • Shoulds: developed when a person has a hard set of rules about how everyone should behave
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: sacrificing self will eventually pay off
  • Always Being Right: feeling a need to put others on trial to prove your opinions are absolutely right
  • Emotional Reasoning: believing that your emotions are considered fact 

These fallacies and distorted thoughts are at the root of our negative thoughts that lead to negative emotions. Incorrect perceptions of ourselves, others, and situations cause the emotions that lead to the behavior that a CBT patient wants to change.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Exercises

While participating in CBT, your therapist may give you some exercises to practice in between sessions as “homework.” 

These exercises will help you through your therapy sessions but are also helpful for daily life. These exercises can be used by anyone in a daily context to boost mindfulness and reduce anxiety.


Journaling is a helpful technique to gather thoughts and feelings. Keeping a ledger of general events and any thoughts connected to those events is a great way to find any distorted cognitions or negative thinking that can be challenged and adapted.

A CBT-specific journal may include particular information including:

  • Time
  • Mood 
  • Situation 
  • Intensity of emotion

It’s a bit more structured than freewriting, but that added structure can help identify areas of improvement.

Play the Script Until the End

Using CBT for anxiety is a helpful way to understand underlying fears. Playing the Script Until the End is a helpful exercise or people struggling with anxiety. 

This exercise involves thinking through a stressful scenario and thinking through the worst-case scenario. By doing this, you may find that the outcome is not as made as your anxiety is making it.

Breathing Techniques

Oxygen is an important ingredient our bodies need to function properly. Frequently taking deep breaths is a helpful way to dump more oxygen into our bloodstream. 


Practicing good breathing has many benefits, and can be practiced in a number of ways. The most common form of breathing exercise is box breathing.

Group CBT

CBT can be applied to a group setting as well as a 1-on-1 setting. 

Benefits of Group CBT

Group CBT (GCBT) can have many advantages. Group therapy is a helpful type of therapy for some as it lets people meet others who are struggling with the same issues as them.

Though It’s Not For Everyone

There are a few obvious negatives to GCBT. Due to the nature of the setting, patients will need to be comfortable with sharing personal information in a group setting. This is hard or even impossible for some people. 

Creating a good group setting isn’t the easiest task. Both therapists and patients need to work at creating a positive atmosphere that is helpful for everyone involved.


Dialectical behavior therapy, also called DBT, is a type of talk therapy that uses CBT to help people whose emotions are very intense. It combines mindfulness and coping strategies as well as CBT’s goal-oriented approach. 

DBT might be more helpful for some people because it promotes acceptance. It encourages patients to work with their negative emotions rather than fight them.

DBT is a very effective therapy for borderline personality disorder, those who struggle with self-harm, and people with chronic suicidal thoughts. 

Unlike DBT, CBT relies on a cognitive approach. Meaning patients are encouraged to apply logic and rationale to their situation. That could be difficult for individuals who are dealing with more extreme feelings. 

In short, DBT approaches treatment from emotions and CBT approaches it from thoughts.

Which One is Right for you?

To know which form of therapy is right for you, it’s important to talk with a trained therapist. Once they know your history, consider your symptoms and walk you through the recommended forms of treatment.

CBT at Sequoia

At Sequoia Behavioral Health we take a holistic approach to mental health treatment. Located in Mesa, Arizona, we offer inpatient treatment based on individualized needs. We aim to inspire healthy change by equipping people with the tools to enhance resilience and engage in a life of meaning.

Schedule a call to see if Sequoia Behavioral Health is right for you.