Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that targets the “cognitive” (thinking-related) and “behavioral” (action-related) aspects of a psychological condition. The goal of CBT is to help you to reduce your symptoms by changing the way you think about or interpret situations, as well as the actions that you take in your daily life.
What to Expect in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is very focused on the present, meaning that you do very little talking about your past. While you may talk to your therapist about how you came to think or behave the way you do, most of the therapy is focused on how your current ways of thinking/acting are related to your symptoms, and how to change these patterns.
CBT is also fairly directive, meaning that your therapist will often be active in the session. In some types of therapies the therapist may be more inclined to listen and allow you to direct the session. But a CBT therapist tends to take a more active role, giving you direct advice.
Because cognitive behavioral therapists operate under the assumption that your symptoms are in part related to patterns of thinking and behaving that you have learned over the course of many years, they believe that one or two hours of therapy each week will not produce major change.
For this reason, most CBT therapists assign homework -- they want you to work to change the patterns outside of the therapy session. Don’t be surprised if you leave your CBT therapy session with handouts to read and homework sheets to complete.
Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder
While the basic principles of CBT can be helpful for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), some experts have noted that the disorder requires some specialized CBT techniques. Thus far, two cognitive behavioral therapies have been designed specifically for BPD:
Both Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Schema-Focused Therapy have been shown to be effective in reducing BPD symptoms.
Finding a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
While CBT has been around for decades, it can be difficult to find a therapist who has been trained in this approach. If you are interested in finding a CBT therapist in your area, try the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy’s Find-A-Therapist Directory.
If you are interested specifically in finding a Dialectical Behavior therapist, try the Behavioral Tech Clinical Resources Directory.
Linehan, MM. "Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder." New York: Guilford Press, 1993.
Young JE. Cognitive Therapy for Personality Disorders: A Schema-Focused Approach, Sarasota, FL, US: Professional Resource Press/Professional Resource Exchange; 1999.