Question: What is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and how is it used for the treatment of anxiety disorders?
Answer: So cognitive behavior therapy or CBT is actually a collection of a bunch of different strategies. These might be emphasized differently based on your anxiety disorder.
So one component of CBT or cognitive behavior therapy is cognitive therapy. This is an emphasis at looking at thought processes, habits of mind, the way that you think that might be exacerbating your anxiety. For example, if you think the worse possible outcome is always the most likely possible outcome, that could make you more anxious.
Skills training is a second kind of or component of cognitive behavior therapy. This could be if you're socially anxious, learning better social skills; if you're testing, just learning different kinds of test-taking strategies could be helpful in reducing your anxiety.
A third component of CBT or cognitive behavior therapy is exposure therapy -- this is a facing-your-fears therapy. So the idea is that you go into situations that cause a lot of anxiety, you stay in that situation -- you don't avoid it or try to protect yourself -- and the feared consequences actually don't happen. So then your brain gives you signal -- "Oh, this isn't going to happen" -- and your anxiety naturally starts to go down on its own -- we call this habituation. And in future similar situations you experience less anxiety.
Acceptance and commitment therapy is a more recent version of cognitive behavior therapy and it introduces some new concepts to cognitive behavior therapy including acceptance strategies and mindfulness training.