Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves recognizing unhelpful patterns of thinking and reacting, then modifying or replacing these with more realistic or helpful ones.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion), and how we act (behaviour) all interact together. Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behaviour. Therefore negative thoughts can cause us distress and result in problems.
One example could be someone who, after making a mistake, thinks "I'm useless and can't do anything right." This impacts negatively on their mood and makes them feel depressed; then they worsen the problem by reacting to avoid activities. As a result they reduce their chance of successful experience. This in turn can reinforce their original thought of being "useless". Negative thinking can be categorized into a number of common patterns called "cognitive distortions".
The therapist and client would work together to change this. This is done by addressing the way the client thinks (distortions) in response to similar situations and by helping them think more flexibly. Therefore the therapy is to identify those irrational or maladaptive thoughts that lead to negative emotion and identify what it is about them that is irrational or just not helpful.
CBT is a problem-solving approach. Goals are set in behavioural terms and potential solutions are tested out in practice. Clients are encouraged to explore options for change and evaluate outcomes by comparing progress with previous experience. In this way, clients are taught to deal with problems if and when they arise in the future.
Cognitive behavioural therapy was developed in its present form by Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck in the 1950s and 1960s. CBT has a good evidence base in terms of its effectiveness in reducing symptoms and preventing relapse.