A cognitive behavioral therapist could be ideally situated to help you address current life issues. Get tips on how to find a CBT therapist and what to look for.
Most people I meet believe therapy is therapy. Any licensed counselor should be qualified to deal with any typical mental health struggle, right?
While that’s usually true, different therapists have different philosophies. Some therapies focus on processing childhood experiences, for example, while others recommend working on problem-solving in the present. And some encourage both or something else entirely.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of those perspectives that includes a set of focused techniques. And among all types of therapies, it’s often recommended as the best psychological treatment available. It’s used for depression, trauma, anxiety (particularly social anxiety), ADHD, sleep, addiction, stress, relationship problems, and more. Keep reading to learn more about CBT and how to find a CBT therapist.
Why is CBT So Popular?
CBT involves challenging patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors that reinforce problems in everyday life.
For example, if someone is afraid they will fail in their career, they might avoid applying for new jobs or seeking more training. They tell themselves that there’s no point, and that prevents them from taking any new risks.
A CBT therapist may help guide a person to look at their situation from a more positive, or at least neutral, perspective. Rather than assuming the worst about yourself, you can learn to step back and view yourself in a more realistic and encouraging light.
If you find that you have a habit of beating yourself up, and that contributes to ongoing problems in your life, you may find CBT very helpful.
How Do You Know a Therapist Offers CBT?
So how do you find a good CBT therapist? There are many levels of CBT training, so it may help to do a bit of research.
Some therapists have some basic education in CBT and use it as needed with particular clients. Others have had more extensive training that includes ongoing courses as well as supervision to make sure they learn to implement it as effectively as possible.
To make things even more complicated, some therapies aren’t actually labeled “CBT” but include the same strategies. And some offer CBT that’s modified for specific problems such as anxiety or trauma.
To make it simpler, look for the following in a therapist’s list of qualifications:
- CBT/Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Cognitive processing therapy
- Trauma-focused CBT
- Prolonged exposure (for PTSD)
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
- Any therapy with “CBT” in the name
- Any therapy with “cognitive” in the name
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) also has some overlapping elements with CBT. It focuses a bit less on processing and more on changing behaviors and building coping skills.
To ensure your therapist has the background you’re looking for, ask them about the modalities they use. You can also find out what they find CBT is most helpful for and see if that matches your needs.
How To Find a CBT Therapist: Where to Look?
Now that you know how to identify a CBT therapist, where do you look? There are many places to search for a CBT therapist. Here are some ideas.
- Search your local area. A simple internet search is likely to bring up many options. Try typing “CBT therapist near me,” or something similar. Then use the clues from above to find what you’re looking for.
- Check out therapy directories. There are a few popular therapy directories, including Psychology Today and Therapy Den. Most directories have profile sections that list therapy specialties and modalities.
- Look into online services. There are a few membership-based therapy programs you may be familiar with as well, such as BetterHelp and TalkSpace. I find these most appropriate if you need help with short-term processing or a situational issue. For more serious or ongoing problems, you may wish to find a local therapist, even if you meet with them online.
- Ask your doctor. General physicians and certainly psychiatric doctors likely refer many people to therapy. They may be able to recommend someone their other patients have found success with.
- Talk to friends. If you have friends open to discussing their therapy, why not ask them for recommendations? They may have already tried others in your area and can share experiences firsthand. You can also ask them what a typical session is like to see if it’s a match for you.
I may be biased because I’m a CBT therapist myself, but I highly recommend giving it a try! It may not work for everyone in every situation, but it is one of the most tried and true therapies, and it’s been around for decades for a reason.
David, D., Cristea, I., & Hofmann, S. G. (2018). Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 4.
InformedHealth.org (2016). Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care: Cognitive behavioral therapy.