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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? How Does CBT Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In our last several blogs we’ve discussed a number of conditions, from Low-Grade Depression (Persistent Depressive Disorder) to Covert Narcissism, to low self-esteem. And in each blog we’ve mentioned Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and how it can help overcome the spirals of negative thinking that can be associated with struggling mental health. So today we’re going to take a closer look and explore: what is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? How does CBT work? And how can CBT help you? 

Before we continue on, if you’re looking for CBT in Michigan, you’ve come to the right place. Click here to see our list of therapists practicing cognitive behavioral therapy in West Michigan. Now let’s dive in!


What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that addresses the interconnectivity of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It operates on the premise that our thoughts and perceptions significantly influence our emotional and behavioral responses to various situations. In other words, how we think about the world influences how we experience life. And with practice, we can change the way we think about ourselves and the world, improving our experience of both. 

To put it simply, imagine that somewhere along the line you mixed up bears and butterflies. You experienced a strong negative emotional reaction every time you saw a butterfly. Conversely, you felt no fear of bears. You can see where both sides of this mix up may lead to negative outcomes.

CBT is designed to identify and modify harmful perceptions of the world, thereby improving emotional regulation and leading to healthier behaviors (like avoiding bears).


The Mechanism of CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) distinguishes itself from many traditional psychotherapy approaches by focusing intently on the present moment. Rather than unpacking a person’s past experiences to understand current distress, CBT zeroes in on how current thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions directly influence emotions and behaviors. This emphasis on the present is particularly empowering for individuals. We can’t change the past, but we do have the power to change our perceptions in the present moment.

The therapeutic journey of CBT is marked by a dynamic partnership between the counselor and the client. This relationship is the bedrock upon which the therapy builds, characterized by mutual respect, collaboration, and a shared commitment to achieving the client’s goals. Therapy sessions are meticulously structured, creating a framework within which individuals can safely explore their thought patterns. Together, counselor and client work to define these patterns, especially those that are unhelpful or detrimental.

As the therapy progresses, a blend of cognitive and behavioral techniques comes into play. These techniques allow the client to challenge and modify beliefs that have been deemed unhelpful. The counselor guides the client in examining the evidence for and against their beliefs, encouraging a shift towards more constructive and realistic thinking. Behavioral experiments might be introduced, allowing individuals to test out new ways of thinking and acting in real-world scenarios. Gradually, old beliefs and patterns are dismantled and replaced with more positive and realistic beliefs.

As clients learn to apply these cognitive and behavioral strategies, they equip themselves with valuable tools for managing their thoughts and emotions, leading to tangible improvements in their daily lives. This present-focused, active approach to therapy embodies the essence of CBT, offering a clear, structured path to emotional well-being and personal growth.

what is cbt?


CBT Techniques

  • Identification of Negative Thoughts: Clients are encouraged to explore and recognize their patterns of negative thinking. This awareness is the first step toward change.
  • Challenging Beliefs: CBT involves questioning and challenging these unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, testing them against reality.
  • Behavioral Experiments: These are designed to test the validity of unhelpful beliefs and introduce new ways of thinking and behaving.
  • Skill Development: Clients learn coping and problem-solving skills to manage their responses to challenging situations.
  • Homework Assignments: Tasks and exercises are often given to reinforce what is learned during sessions and encourage real-life application.


CBT in West Michigan

There are a number of therapists that practice CBT in West Michigan. The Truism Center is a great place to find your right match, with over 30 counselors and at least 10 counselors that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

CBT has been effectively used to treat a variety of mental health conditions. This includes anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and more. It’s also beneficial for those dealing with chronic stress or looking to improve overall emotional well-being. Click here to view therapists that specialize in CBT at the Truism Center.


The Transformative Power Of CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a transformative approach that empowers individuals to alter their thought processes, influencing their emotions and behaviors in a positive way. Its ability to treat a range of conditions and its practical, structured approach make it a popular choice for those seeking mental health support in West Michigan and beyond.

For anyone considering CBT, it’s essential to find a qualified professional who can tailor the therapy to your specific needs and goals. Remember, embarking on a journey with CBT is a step towards not just overcoming challenges but also towards cultivating a more fulfilling, balanced life.



Robb Kornoelje is a practicing CBT Counselor, Relationship Counselor, owner of the Truism Center, and creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day email course offers guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.