Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety can help you make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. By viewing complex situations more clearly you can respond to them more effectively.

Through the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy lens, problems are split into five main areas: actions, emotions, physical feelings, circumstances, and thoughts.

These areas will each form part of every problem that we encounter. And understanding how each of these areas is interconnected and affects one another is why this approach can be very effective.  As an example, your thoughts about a certain situation can often affect how you feel from a physical and emotional point of view and this influences your actions in response.

What is the nature of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy differs from many other therapies that also rely on helping people identify and change troubled emotions, thoughts, and behaviors for various reasons. Some differences are that it is:

  • Pragmatic, helping pin-point individual problems and attempts to solve them.
  • Joint approach, together with your therapist you will work towards finding solutions for existing problems, your therapist will at no point tell you what to do.
  • Existing problems, the method brings a focus on how you are thinking and acting now, instead of looking to address past issues.
  • Well structured, while some therapies encourage you to talk freely with no real direction, the CBT method enables you and your therapist to discuss particular problems and together set goals for you to work towards.

Resetting negative thought patterns.

Each of us knows when we have reacted in a way that has helped any given situation, and when our unhelpful reaction made things worse. Our reactions to situations are often determined by how we think about them and so it is important to learn how to stop and reprogram negative thought patterns.

Looking at an example, if you have been fired or laid off, and you are forced to take a career break, you may think you have failed and that you are not fit or able to begin another meaningful chapter in your professional life.

These thoughts may lead to you feeling tired, depressed, unproductive, and hopeless so you stop applying for new jobs. You look inward and become trapped in a negative, navel-gazing cycle of thoughts. You sit at home and your negative self-image mushrooms.

Instead of simply accepting that you are thinking and acting in a way that is damaging and discouraging, you can realize that every job ends. Learn from your mistakes and move on, knowing that as the sun will rise tomorrow, so will a new day with new opportunities for every living soul – you included.

CBT may be the channel that you use to introduce this sense of optimism into your life. This optimism will likely result in you becoming an active and confident job-seeker. Perhaps you take on some additional training to hone your skills and ask your friends to practice job interview questions with you.

This simplified example shows you how particular thoughts, feelings, actions, physical sensations, and situations can trap you in a negative cycle, and has the potential to bring about new situations that discourage you even further.

A method for making problems manageable.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety proactively works to stop a downward spiral of our emotional and physical lives by compartmentalizing things that make you feel anxious or fearful.

CBT aims to stop negative cycles such as these by breaking down things that make you feel awful, anxious, or scared. By getting your problems into bite-size chunks they are more manageable and by focusing on thoughts, feelings, actions, and more, you recognize unhelpful and destructive thinking patterns, learn how to change them, and improve the way you feel.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety equips you and teaches you how to tackle old and new problems that arise in your life without the help of a therapist.

If you have a phobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) discussing the situation may not be as effective as learning to confront the things that make you scared in a methodical and structured manner. This method is known as exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is part of CBT and was developed to help people face their fears.

People will avoid what they fear; this can extend to objects, activities, and situations. While not confronting these things may bring down the intensity of the fear in the short term it can make the problem worse by entrenching the pattern of not dealing with it.

Exposure therapy was created to use a controlled environment to expose individuals to the very things that they look to avoid. By being exposed to it safely individuals find that their fear and anxiety become less intense.

Through this controlled exposure you will find that the anxiety you feel is less severe and you will experience it for a shorter period. The therapist then slowly introduces more difficult situations as you acclimatize to them and works with you to progress through all the items and situations you felt you need assistance with.

The results of exposure therapy can be further helped if you regularly practice the exercises. Some find it useful to use self-help books or software designed for this purpose.

What to expect during Cognitive Behavior Therapy sessions.

Cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety can take place during a one-on-one meeting with your therapist or in a group made up of people in similar situations to you.

Should you meet with the therapist individually then it is likely that together you will work through your circumstances for between six and twenty sessions. These can happen on a weekly or biweekly basis, and each session can last 30-60 minutes.

Exposure therapy sessions may continue longer than CBT as it includes being exposed to the source of your anxiety, be it a particular item or situation.

CBT therapy usually takes place in counseling rooms but can be moved to where your fears are based, perhaps outside or in your own home. A CBT therapist may be a healthcare professional with a background as a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse, or medical doctor, however, each therapist will be trained in cognitive behavior therapy.

During the first sessions.

Initially, the sessions will establish both that CBT is the correct therapy for you to receive and that you are comfortable with the process. To establish this the therapist will question you about your life and your background.

Should you be battling anxiety or depression then it is likely your therapist will be interested to know if and how it interferes with the various roles you perform, as the partner of your spouse, the parent to your children, the child of your parents, your position at work and the like.

Particular events that are related to the problem you are facing, any other treatments you have experienced as well as your own goals for therapy will be discussed.

Your therapist will then decide whether or not CBT is the most appropriate treatment for you, and if so, will inform you on what you can expect from the treatment. If you feel uncomfortable then they will discuss other treatments.

During the subsequent sessions.

Your therapist may request that you keep a diary or write down your thoughts and behaviors so that the patterns of daily life become visible. This is especially useful when looking at each problem you face distinctly to better inform your therapist and further sessions

After the initial assessment period, you’ll start working with your therapist to break down problems into their separate parts. To help make these more obvious, your therapist may ask you to keep a diary or write down your thought and behavior patterns.

Once you both figure out together what you can change, your therapist will be in a better position to ask that you practice the changes in your daily thoughts, feelings, and actions and see how these change your physical sensations and circumstances.

A typical change your therapist may ask you to work on could be to practice being aware of your intentions and consider whether following through with them will make things worse or improve the situation.

During follow-up sessions, you will have the opportunity to chat about your progress in implementing the changes, and your therapist will make other helpful suggestions as you continue on this path.

Therapists know that facing your fears and getting to grips with anxiety is very difficult. As trained and experienced professionals, they will work with you to only implement the changes you are happy with and at a pace that suits you.

A significant benefit of having completed a series of CBT sessions is that you can then go on to apply the principles you have learned in everyday life. Aside from benefitting from being more aware of yourself and the world around you, it will also make you more robust and so less likely that your symptoms will return.

Christian counseling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety.

If you’re looking for additional help for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety beyond this article, please browse our online counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment. We would be honored to walk with you toward a place of healing and hope.

“Overwhelmed”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin,, CC0 License; “Watching the Fog”, Courtesy of Mitchell Hartley,, CC0 License; “Yoga”, Courtesy of Jared Rice,, CC0 License; “Take a Step Back and Breathe”, Courtesy of Max van den Oetelaar,, CC0 License


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