How To Get Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy—Plus 3 CBT Principles You Can Use Now

Updated January 13, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular types of therapy practiced today. It can be used to treat a variety of mental health concerns and conditions, and it can be effective even when done virtually or over the phone. If you’re interested in CBT, read on to learn more about its potential benefits and how to find a virtual provider. We’ll also cover a few CBT strategies you can start employing in your life today to improve your mental health.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is considered to be “the gold standard of psychotherapy”. It’s a form of talk therapy, which is a practice that involves speaking with a mental health professional to work through mental or emotional challenges you may be facing. CBT has been widely studied and found to be an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance use problems, and more. In fact, it can help virtually anyone cultivate a healthier emotional life and learn to more effectively handle difficult situations—not just those with clinical mental health disorders.

The foundational idea behind CBT is that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. So by learning to notice and correct common flaws in your typical patterns of thinking, you may be able to better control or cope with difficult feelings and make more positive choices. Since these patterns are often formed early in life and/or reinforced by repetition over the years, it can take time to even learn to notice them—but doing so can have positive effects on one’s life.

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How To Find A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist Online

Gone are the days when visiting a therapist in their brick-and-mortar office was the only way to get mental health treatment. Thanks to the internet, more accessible options are now also available. Online therapy has become increasingly common in the last few years, especially as more research has emerged suggesting that it offers similar benefits to traditional, in-person formats. 

It’s also typically more cost-effective than in-office visits, and the virtual format means that even those who don’t have providers nearby or can’t travel can still receive treatment. Connecting with a cognitive behavioral therapist online is now easier than ever. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can fill out a questionnaire about your needs, preferences, and the concerns or challenges you’re facing, and you’ll be matched with a licensed therapist accordingly. You can speak with them via phone call, video call, and/or online chat for help with whatever you may be going through or working on. The best part is that they are not limited to CBT, you can also seek help with reality therapy, person-centered therapy, behavioral therapy, and so much more.

3 CBT Principles You Can Try Out

Self-directed CBT has actually been shown to have the potential to produce moderately positive effects on mental health. If you’re experiencing mild or moderate symptoms and are still generally able to function well day-to-day, this may be a helpful first step on your mental health journey. If you’re looking for maximum effectiveness and/or have more severe symptoms, it’s wise to seek out the help of a mental health professional first. Read on for some basic concepts of CBT to consider how you might be able to apply them to your life in a positive way.

1. Develop An Awareness Of Your Thoughts

Again, cognitive behavioral therapy is all about the relationship between thoughts and feelings. Shifting your thought patterns can help you feel better—but you have to become aware of your thoughts in order to be able to change them. Cultivating a meditation practice is one way to start developing this awareness. Mindfulness meditation in particular is based on the principle of becoming aware of your thoughts, body, and surroundings in the present moment. With regular practice, you can teach yourself to start noticing your thoughts as they arrive instead of letting them happen automatically and controlling your feelings and behaviors.

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2. Get Familiar With Common Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are assumptions or other patterns of thinking that are warped, unrealistic, or otherwise flawed. While they’re quite common and can occur in anyone, they’re also highly associated with depression. They’re typically negative and automatic, which can be a challenging combination to combat. Once you learn to notice and identify these thoughts, however, you can practice shifting them to be more logical, realistic, and positive so your feelings and behaviors can follow suit. There are over a dozen common cognitive distortions. A few examples include:

  • Personalization, which involves taking things personally even when they don’t actually involve or relate to you. For example, you could interpret your partner talking to someone else at a party as them not wanting to spend time with you, when they actually just got absorbed in conversation with an old friend.
  • Polarized thinking, which involves looking at situations through a lens of extremes. It’s associated with perfectionism. For example, a student who gets a few questions wrong on a test might think they’re a failure, instead of recognizing the ones they got right and the fact that this one test isn’t indicative of their entire academic future. This is also known as black and white thinking. 
  • Overgeneralization, which involves making predictions for how all future situations will go based on the outcome of one. For example, someone whose first dating experience didn’t end well might think they’re doomed to be alone forever.

As you can see from these examples, cognitive distortions may be convincing, but they’re generally not based in fact. Becoming aware of different distortions can be a great first step in your therapeutic journey as you search for a CBT provider who can help you work through them in a professional setting.

3.   Focus On Your Strengths

Having confidence in your abilities can help you in the process of applying cognitive behavioral therapy principles to your life. The more you believe in your own power to learn new things and change your life over time with patience and effort, the more likely you are to succeed. Practicing positive self-talk and being intentional about noticing your strengths and good qualities can help you along the way.

Takeaway

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven time and time again to be an effective method for improving mental health for people in many different situations. You can get started by practicing the three principles on this list, and seeking the guidance of a trained therapist with experience in CBT can be a helpful next step.

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