Are you struggling with depression? Here’s how CBT can help

cbt and depression

Unlike traditional forms of talk therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT is a type of psychotherapy that is generally shorter in duration.

Traditional mental health therapy

Historically, traditional talk therapies involved long-term treatment, often lasting years or, in some cases, for a person’s entire lifetime.

Although traditional talk therapies like psychotherapy can be effective in the long – term, it may take longer for a person to experience its effects since such treatment gets based over an extensive period.

Evidence-based therapies

Fortunately, in recent years, those with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and eating disorders have access to faster treatment than in previous years.

Hence, cognitive behavioural therapy is the most widely used treatment for many mental health conditions.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy often referred to as CBT, is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying unhelpful thought patterns to help change moods and behaviours.

The CBT model is based on the concept that negative feelings or actions result from current distorted thoughts or beliefs and not unconscious forces from the past, as many Freudian theories convey.

Addressing negative thoughts and feelings

Suppose you struggle with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or another mental health condition. 

In that case, you may find cognitive behavioural therapy especially helpful as it focuses specifically on your moods and thoughts.

CBT blends cognitive therapy and behavioural therapy and specifically addresses actions and behaviours.

How a CBT therapist can help

behavorial health

A licensed CBT therapist will work with you at an agreed date, time and location, offering proper guidance and support for your specific mental health challenges.

You and your therapist will likely work on identifying specific behavioural responses and negative thought patterns to stressful or challenging situations.

What type of mental health conditions does CBT treat?

Cognitive behavioural therapy gets commonly used to treat a broad spectrum of mental health disorders, and diagnoses, including:

What does CBT involve?

If you have a history of depression, you’ll likely be familiar with how the condition can make you susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings about yourself and the world.

Negative self-talk

With depression, it is not uncommon for someone to believe that they are unlovable or somehow a terrible person.

People with depression may also believe that others are negatively judging them or have a skewed sense of self that may not be accurate.

Excessive guilt

Many of the symptoms of depression usually involve a pervasive sense of guilt and a general sense of unease and tension in the mind and body.

Depression has a way of fueling our thoughts with ideas and beliefs that are not always accurate.

A narrative such as this can erode our sense of self, our safety in the world, and how we view situations and other people.

Balanced and constructive ways of coping

cbt to fix depression

CBT typically involves learning more constructive and balanced ways of responding to stressors.

The ideal outcome for CBT is that any new responses learned in therapy will help you recover and cope with unwanted behaviours and challenging mental health symptoms.

The principles of CBT

The principles of cognitive behavioural therapy teach you to become more aware of negative thought patterns and how to adjust them.

Such an approach may help you reframe your beliefs or thinking during heightened anxiety, panic, or despair.

Coping skills

CBT can also provide you with the necessary coping skills to get you through challenging moments and is particularly effective for those suffering from depression or substance use disorder.

Some of these coping skills include journaling or meditation to help you relax and reframe any patterns of thinking that are not useful.

How CBT works

Typically, CBT treatment is shorter in duration compared to psychodynamic and psychoanalysis.

The above therapies may take longer than cognitive behavioural therapy, i.e. several years for treatment and discovery.


Psychoanalysis typically involves working backwards through your entire life, exploring unconscious memories, thoughts, ideas and urges that may influence your current moods and behaviours.

Long-term therapy

The psychoanalysis model has significant roots in traditional psychology and is based on the talk therapy paradigm.

Although there are some benefits to the psychodynamic approach, it may take years to uncover the roots of trauma, anxiety disorders and depression. 

Thus, it may take longer for a person to feel better.

Short-term therapy

On the other hand, CBT is a short-term therapy that produces quicker results and helps people learn practical strategies to cope with the present.

CBT often requires up to twenty sessions, but you can continue seeing your therapist for longer if needed.

Each process is unique.

Every individual and situation is unique; therefore, how long you continue with treatment is up to you and your therapist.

One of the main aspects of CBT is that you and your therapist can identify distorted perceptions or patterns of thinking that no longer serve you or have a useful purpose in your life.

CBT sessions provide an excellent platform for you to explore and identify current situations in your life that may be causing or worsening your mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety.


Your therapist may recommend you keep a journal to record your life events and reactions.

In sessions, you and your therapist may assess what you have recorded and break down any reactions and thought patterns into specific categories of self-defeating thoughts.

The above sometimes gets referred to as ‘’cognitive distortions’’.

Cognitive distortions

Cognitive distortions may include specific patterns of thinking and behaviour, such as:

  • Automatic adverse reactions: involve habitual or berating thoughts
  • Personalisation: consists of taking things too personally or believing that other peoples’ actions are directed explicitly at you
  • Overgeneralisation: includes coming to broad conclusions about a specific event or situation
  • Disqualifying the positive: involves dismissing or eliminating positive experiences by believing they don’t matter or count.
  • Mental filtering: selecting a specific memory or detail of an event and meditating on it so that the vision of reality becomes drab or gloomy
  • All – or – nothing – thinking: involves black and white thinking.

Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones

Using your journal, you and your therapist can explore any adverse responses to life events by replacing damaging thought patterns or perceptions with more helpful, constructive ones.

A series of evidence-based techniques can be employed throughout the therapy process and may include:

  • Practising self-talk that is helpful, balanced and accurate
  • Using self-evaluation techniques to reflect on a situation and respond appropriately
  • Learning to identify and manage any distorted thoughts and responses
  • Learning to evaluate and assess external situations accurately and comprehensively to regulate reactions or emotional behaviour

The above exercises can be practised at home or in therapy.

How effective is CBT in treating depression?

depression and cures

When treating mild to moderate cases of depression, CBT has proven to be effective.

In some cases, CBT gets used as a combination treatment alongside medications such as antidepressants or other prescribed medication to treat depression.

Other conditions

CBT is an effective therapy for a wide range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • General stress
  • Conduct disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social skill issues
  • Substance use disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders

Treatment risks

There are minimal risks involved in long-term CBT treatment.

However, like any form of therapy, exploring your difficult memories or challenging thoughts and behaviours can be a painful process but well worth it in the long – run.

CBT treatment can involve facing things you fear and would otherwise avoid.

For example, you may get asked to visit your childhood neighbourhood or spend time in crowded spaces.

Facing your fears

Confronting specific aspects of your trauma, such as past abuse or the death of a loved one, may also be a part of CBT therapy.

The aim of confronting scenarios, people, places or objects you would usually avoid is to allow you to practice modifying your responses to adverse situations.

The above strategies help you build resilience and, eventually, desensitise you to any feared situations that may be holding you back.

Repetition reduces anxiety

Many mental health professionals believe that repetition reduces anxiety, meaning the more you expose yourself to something, the less stress you feel over time.

Altering your responses to stressful events or situations may help you deal with stress and anxiety safely and constructively, which is the ultimate goal of CBT.

Will CBT help with my depression symptoms?

As mentioned, CBT is profoundly effective in treating mild to moderate depression.

When combined with other treatments, like medications used to treat depression, such as antidepressants, people often experience much better results.

However, change can be a gradual process and requires the willingness to be open to therapy and time commitment.

CBT aims to help empower you with the necessary tools to help you deal with difficulties that come up at the moment, giving you the type of skills that last for an entire lifespan.

Contact the Centres for Health and Healing team to find out more about our cognitive behavioural treatment program.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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