What's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the "gold standard" of psychotherapy and is widely considered to be one of the most effective, evidence backed treatments for depression, anxiety, and panic. If you go into just about any therapist or psychiatrist, CBT will likely be one of the first treatments they try.

FreeCBT is a companion app for one of the most common exercises in CBT. You may have heard it called "the three column technique" or "catch it, check it, change it."

You don't need to be diagnosed with anything to try CBT. It can still help you overcome any stress, fear, and sadness you encounter in life.

Your thoughts cause your moods

Your brain is really good at making you feel exactly what you're thinking. We'll have "automatic negative thoughts" that lead us to fume on something that may not be "true".

Often the more our thoughts cause us distress, the more likely they are to be distorted.

For example, let's say we just got out of a job interview and thought this:

I took too long to answer that question

The thought is pretty harmless, but it could lead to a series of more upsetting and distorted thoughts:

Because I took too long, I'll bet I failed the interview.
Because I failed this one, I'll probably fail all interviews I get.
Because I'll fail all my interviews, I'm probably just bad at this career and I should give up.

Is this "true"?

The thought process here is a type of Cognitive Distortion that mental health professionals call Catastrophizing.

A Cognitive Distortion is like a logical fallacy that's often at the root of your automatic negative thoughts.

Over the years, mental health professionals have classified a whole list of them:

Challenge the Thought

Distortions give us a framework to challenge the negative thoughts.

Is it true that taking too long to answer an interview question will lead to failing the interview? Or are we Fortune Telling?

Is it true that failing one interview will cause us to fail other interviews? Or are we Catastrophizing?

Even if we were "bad" at this career ( Labeling), would it be so bad? Many people are terrible at a whole number of careers. An astrophysicist isn't remotely good at surgery. A teacher might be an awful lawyer. A banker may not be the best firefighter.

Digging deeper into our thoughts can often help us find core beliefs that are fueling the thoughts. In this case, we likely believe that we should be great at our job ( Should Statements). But no one is guaranteed to be the best at everything and it's fine to just be average. By definition, most people are.

Change the Thought

Finally, we get to the point of this exercise: changing your thoughts. If we let ourselves sit and cycle through this type of thought, we'll just make ourselves miserable.

So instead, we'll incorporate our challenges and write down what a logical automatic thought might be:

I may not have done as well as I would have liked in that interview, but it's good practice.

Try it yourself

If you want, you can do it with a piece of paper. Print a few of these out and carry them with you. When you have a thought that's causing you distress, take a step back and record it.

Or, just try the open-source FreeCBT app, free and ad-free. Download below!

FreeCBT screenshot


You really can feel better.