What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? Written by Brett Wallace, UNF Psychology Student and Future Clinical Psychologist, for D’Arienzo Psychological Group in Jacksonville, Florida

Many therapists list cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as their treatment of choice. This has led researchers to perform multiple meta-analyses to test the effectiveness of CBT on a variety of problems. A meta-analysis involves comparing the results of multiple studies to see the overall effectiveness of a particular treatment method. Since therapists frequently use CBT to treat anxiety, researchers have conducted meta-analyses targeting its effectiveness. Overall most studies showed that CBT reduces anxiety symptoms just as or more effectively than other treatment methods (Mitte, 2005; Stewart & Chambless, 2009). Norton and Price (2007) found results suggesting equal effects between CBT and relaxation-only treatments. Due to these many meta-analyses grouping studies that used different types of comparisons, Hoffman and Smits (2008) conducted a more stringent meta-analysis on the effects CBT has on anxiety. In their study they included only studies that compared CBT to a specific control, in this case placebo groups. They found that CBT still significantly reduces symptoms of anxiety, but they note that improvements may increase its effectiveness.

Therapists also frequently use CBT to treat depression, and it seems to be effective. Beltman, Voshaar, and Speckens (2010) and Cuijpers, Van Straten, Andersson, and Van Oppen (2008) performed meta-analyses that showed that CBT is just as or more effective than other treatments for treating depression.  Though, these two studies had samples with mixed or exclusively adult age groups. CBT’s effectiveness on treating depression for children has mixed results.  Chu and Harrison (2007) performed a meta-analysis to see the effect CBT had on anxiety and Depression. They found that CBT did not significantly reduce depressive symptoms, but did significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. Weisz, McCarty, and Valeri (2007) found similar results for depression. While CBT produced mixed results for depression, it has produced promising results for chronic pain (Morley, Eccleston, & Williams, 1999), substance abuse (Magill & Ray, 2009), and anger (Beck & Fernandez, 1998). Overall, CBT has the ability to treat both multiple and varied mental health problems and conditions in a patient’s life.


Beck, R. & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of anger: A                     meta-analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22(1), 63-74

Beltman, M. W., Voshaar, R. C. O., & Speckens, A. E. (2010). Cognitive–behavioural therapy                 for depression in people with a somatic disease: meta-analysis of randomized controlled                      trials. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 197, 11-19

Chu, B. C. & Harrison, T. L. (2007). Disorder-specific effects of CBT for anxious and depressed             youth: A meta-analysis of candidate mediators of change. Clinical Child and Family                        Psychology Review, 10, 352-372

Cuijpers, P., van Straten, A., Andersson, G., & van Oppen, P. (2008). Psychotherapy for                           depression in adults: A meta-analysis of comparative outcome studies. Journal of                                 Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(6), 909-922.

Hoffman, S. G., & Smits, J. A. (2008). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult anxiety disorders:              A meta-analysis of randomized trials. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(4), 621-632.

Magil, M., & Ray, L. A. (2009). Cognitive-behavioral treatment with adult alcohol and illicit                    drug users: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Center for Alcohol and                  Addiction Studies, 70 (4), 516-517.

Mitte, K. (2005). Meta-analysis of cognitive–behavioral treatments for generalized anxiety                        disorder: A comparison with pharmacotherapy. Psychological Bulletin, 131 (5), 785-795.

Stewart, R. E. & Chambless, D. L. (2009). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for adult anxiety                        disorders in clinical practice: A meta-analysis of effectiveness studies. Journal of                               Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(4), 595-606.

Weisz, J. R., McCarty, C. A., & Valeri, S. M. (2007). Effects of psychotherapy for depression in              children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(1), 132-149.


Dr. D’Arienzo and his psychotherapists utilize cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance abuse, adjustment problems, anger management, and life coaching. Consulting and counseling services are offered in our Jacksonville, Florida office, by telephone, and by Skype. Contact us today for help at 904-379-8094.