How Can I Benefit From Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT?

Finding a therapist in Chicago is not difficult. However, finding the right therapist in Chicago can sometimes be quite a taxing process. With so many therapists to choose from in the Chicago area, searching and sifting through the numerous available resources can be a daunting task without any sort of criteria with which to sort them. Often one of the most important factors people take into consideration is if they feel that their therapist is a “good fit” for what they need. But how do you know if a therapist is going to be a good match for what you seek from therapy? There are a number of factors that go into figuring that out, and the answer can be different for everybody.

One important factor for choosing a therapist is his or her theoretical orientation. A theoretical orientation refers to the theory or theories to which a psychotherapist ascribes in order to conceptualize, guide, and implement how they interact with clients in order to alleviate their presenting problems. While it is unusual these days for a clinician to stick to only a single theory to guide their practice, there are a few general categories that “lump together” based on their similarities. It is not uncommon for clinicians to base their orientation on one of these categories.

One such orientation is called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. CBT commonly refers to a clump of theories dating back to the 1920’s through the 1960’s that focus on how thoughts and behaviors influence emotions. The basic premises of CBT are as follows:

  • The way we think determines how we will emotionally react to the world around us
  • How we think and feel influences our behavior
  • Our behaviors influence the world around us, as well as how we will react in the future
  • If we change the way we think and act, then we can change how we feel about our circumstances.

Unlike other theories that seek to “weed out” the roots of problems by looking at unconscious phenomena and past experiences, CBT focuses all of its attention on the patterns of thoughts and behaviors that maintain problematic circumstances. By isolating and correcting problematic thought patterns and bad habits, CBT therapists hope to relieve symptoms and improve functioning. Therapy begins with learning a number of skills that help break maladaptive patterns, with the intention of gaining mastery over these skills to the point where the therapist is no longer needed. This often includes both in-session interventions, as well as weekly homework assignments. Basically, CBT aims at teaching clients to become their own therapists!

As with any theoretical intervention, CBT has both its benefits and limitations. Some benefits might include the following:

  • Since CBT is based on thoughts and actual behaviors, it is easy to set observable, measurable goals and keep track of therapeutic process
  • CBT is often designed to be “short term” therapy (12 weeks or less, usually), making it slightly more efficient and potentially cheaper
  • CBT has been documented for decades as being extremely useful in treating a wide variety of problems, including anxiety, phobias, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • CBT lends itself nicely to people who are already functioning quite well on a daily basis, but seek to improve their stress-management skills or other coping mechanisms.
  • As CBT is generally more “structured” than other therapies, it is quick to pick up, very predictable, and easy to maintain

Despite these numerous advantages to CBT, it may not be for everyone. Some people feel that they need less structure and prefer more open-ended therapy. This may especially be the case if you want to seek professional help and you don’t have a specific goal in mind. Similarly, some do not like the problem-focused approach to CBT. Therapy is not only for those who need to “fix” something, after all! In addition, some clients do not like the idea of having weekly homework for therapy. And, as the name suggests, most of the emphasis in CBT is on cognition and behavior. This is not to say that emotion is ignored or minimized, but for those who seek more emotional processing, CBT may be a bad choice.

It should be noted that this is but a brief, general overview of CBT. As with most helping professions, the relationship you form with a therapist will be as unique as your and their personalities, and the course of therapy can be just as varied. It is also important to know that, according to the most up-to-date empirical research, no one theoretical orientation has proven itself to be more or less effective than any other. However, studies have also shown that therapy is more effective if the client has a good relationship with his or her therapist, and agrees with the therapist’s interventions. This is precisely why finding a “good fit” is so important!

If you are interested in talking to a counselor and CBT sounds like it might work for you, or if you are curious about other theoretical orientations in psychotherapy, Urban Balance employs a variety of therapists with an equal number of therapeutic approaches. Feel free to contact us by phone at 888-726-7170 or via email at

We are now accepting new clients for telehealth or in-person therapy sessions! Please give us a call (888) 726-7170 or email to schedule an appointment today!