Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Cognitve Therapy in Theory and Practice

cbtCcognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or cognitive therapy, focuses on the relationships and connections between our thoughts, feelings, actions, and our body. This sounds simple, but what does it mean?

In the CBT/cognitive therapy model, we recognize that we are each affected by the environment in which we live. This environment involves both our current situations (family, friends, job, culture, various stressor and supports, etc.), as well as our past (our family history, past relationships, previous successes and failures, etc.).

Within our environment, there are four elements of ourselves that interact with each other:

  • Cognitive: thoughts, cognitions, beliefs, self-talk
  • Behavioural: actions, behaviours
  • Emotional: feelings, moods, emotions
  • Physiological: biology, genetics, physical, physiology

These relationships are depicted below:

cbt model

Notice from the arrows in the above diagram that:

  • Our thoughts affect our behaviour, our emotions and our physiological state
  • Our behaviours affect our thoughts, our emotions and our physiological state
  • Our emotions affect our thoughts, our behaviours and our physiological state
  • Our physiological state affects our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviours
The interaction between these elements is explained in more detail in the video below:

In cognitive behavioural therapy, we recognize that various factors from the past may contribute to the development of the issues you’re dealing with, but the emphasis is on the present. Rather than focusing on your past, in CBT/cognitive therapy, we’re primarily concerned with determining what is maintaining any distress or symptoms you’re currently experiencing, and what changes you can make to start feeling better.

Because our thoughts, our feelings, our actions and our physiological responses are so closely linked, making changes in any one of these areas tends to bring about changes in the others. There are some examples of how these elements interact with each other in my posts on The Vicious Cycle of Depression and The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety.

Some of the ways we make changes involving these four areas in cognitive behavioural therapy are:


  • Identifying and re-evaluating negative thoughts, beliefs and patterns of thinking
  • Learning more effective problem-solving and decision-making strategies
  • Using mindfulness to deal with “uncontrollable” and racing thoughts, allowing you to let go of unnecessary thoughts without getting caught up in them


  • Changing unhelpful behaviours such as social isolation, avoiding situations, procrastination and inactivity
  • Learning to be more assertive and communicate more effectively
  • Pursuing pleasurable activities and interests that promote happiness and make life more meaningful and fulfilling


  • Learning how to experience and accept negative emotions without becoming overwhelmed
  • Techniques to transform painful emotions into more manageable feelings
  • Strategies to help tolerate emotional distress and manage extreme emotional reactions such as intense anger, anxiety or sadness


  • Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to calm physiological responses and reduce stress levels
  • Mindfulness practices to cope with stress and physical discomfort or pain
  • Improving sleep, diet and exercise habits to improve physical well-being
  • Sometimes CBT is done in conjunction with anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications prescribed by a physician

For some specific examples of how cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy work in practice, please see my posts on CBT for Depression and CBT for Anxiety.

 Therapist Greg Dorter

I’m a Guelph cognitive behavioural therapist who uses CBT and cognitive therapy to help people overcome depression, anxiety, stress, anger, trauma/PTSD and low self-esteem.

For more information about how you could benefit from CBT/cognitive therapy, or to make an appointment for cognitive behavioural therapy in Guelph, please call me at 226-500-4086 or email


3 thoughts on “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Cognitve Therapy in Theory and Practice

  1. Frank Lamberg Nielsen says

    Dear Greg Dorter

    I am currently in the process of writing my bachelor in psychology looking into the problems of internet game addiction in adolescents – more specifically the cognitive and social consequenses of playing MMORPG.

    I would like to use the CBT model(the diamond) which you are posting on your very interesting webside, but so far I have not been able to find the original reference. I have no experience with CBT, but assumed I would find a reference to the model in some of the litterature by Aaron or Judith Beck. Would you be so kind to revert if you have the original reference to this model ?

    Kind regards
    Frank Lamberg Nielsen

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