Rutgers GSAPP


Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program for Anxiety and Depression


    Cognitive therapy is a structured, problem-focused psychological treatment approach in which the therapist works with the client and uses specific techniques to improve the client's emotional well-being and overall functioning. The focus of cognitive therapy is on the client's cognitions (thoughts).

    Cognitive therapy was originally developed by Dr. Aaron Beck at the University of Pennsylvania as a treatment for depression. Since then the research has shown that cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for a wide range of problems, including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, relationship and marital problems, and other stress-related disorders.

    The way you feel is related to the way you think.

    The basic premise of cognitive therapy is that your thoughts and beliefs have the greatest impact on your emotions and behavior. Emotional disturbance (e.g., anxiety or depression) is seen as a result of distorted thought patterns that determine the way that a person interprets the events in his or her life.

    These negative thought processes are usually "learned" during childhood. Since thought patterns become habitual and ingrained early in life, they are experienced as "automatic" later in life, and therefore go unnoticed. Nevertheless, they have a profound effect on the way one feels and behaves.

    You can feel better by changing the way you think.

    The overall aim of cognitive therapy is to help clients restructure their thinking. It is important to realize that cognitive therapy does not simply teach "positive thinking." Instead, the point of cognitive therapy is to help you view your life and your problems from a realistic perspective. That is, the point of cognitive therapy is to encourage accurate and logical thinking.


    There are three broad phases of cognitive therapy.

    1) Gaining awareness of your thoughts. You must become aware of exactly what you are "telling yourself" before you can change it.

    2) Once you have identified a thought pattern that is making you feel bad, you must examine the validity of the pattern (that is, analyze the accuracy of the thoughts). Typically, negative thoughts are either incorrect or an exaggeration of the truth.

    3) The final phase involves "challenging" your negative thoughts by answering them back with a more accurate way of thinking that fits reality. Clients are taught to utilize this process outside of therapy sessions.


    Proven effective. There are hundreds of research studies demonstrating that cognitive therapy is an effective treatment. For many disorders, cognitive therapy is a more effective treatment than other forms of psychotherapy and is equivalent to medication.

    Short-term. Cognitive therapy achieves results quickly. Most clients experience positive changes in about 12-15 sessions. The course of treatment tends to be considerably shorter than for traditional approaches to psychotherapy.

    Cost-effective. The active and focused psychotherapeutic approach makes the cost of treatment less expensive than other forms of therapy. The focus on skill building and client independence minimizes the length of treatment and reduces the risk of relapse.

    Lasting results. Cognitive therapy provides many practical strategies that can be used even when therapy is over to cope with life more effectively.


    Depression: The most common sign of depression is a sad mood. Other common symptoms include feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, hopelessness about the future, suicidal thoughts, fatigue, loss of energy, sleep difficulties, and weight changes.

    Anxiety Disorders: The characteristic features of anxiety disorders are feelings of fearfulness, apprehension, and nervousness in anticipation that something bad or dangerous is going to happen. Very often individuals avoid situations that provoke the fear (phobic situations). There are several different anxiety disorders, including:

    Panic Disorder (with or without Agoraphobia): Individuals with this disorder often experience panic attacks. Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, faintness, and/or shortness of breath. Individuals often believe they are dying, going crazy, or will lose control during the attack. Individuals with panic disorder typically develop agoraphobia, which is fear and/or avoidance of certain situations (e.g., elevators, trains, stores) because they bring on panic attacks and anxiety.

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Individuals with this disorder experience persistent worry. Other common symptoms include muscle aches, restlessness, fatigue, insomnia, abdominal upset, concentration problems, edginess, and irritability.

    Simple Phobia: Individuals with this disorder experience irrational fear of a particular object or situation and avoid it. The most common phobias are of animals, flying, heights, and closed places.

    Social Phobia: Individuals with this disorder experience an excessive, unreasonable fear in social situations that he or she may act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing. The individual tries to avoid such situations whenever possible.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Individuals with this disorder experience intense anxiety and emotional distress following a traumatic event, such as rape, assault, or wartime combat duty. Physical symptoms such as restlessness, jumpiness, and insomnia are common.

    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Individuals with this disorder experience recurrent obsessions (thoughts, ideas, images that are intrusive and senseless) and/or compulsions (repetitive behaviors performed in response to an obsession).

    Longer-Term Problems: These problems include chronic low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, dependence on others, mistrust, an undeveloped sense of self, constricted emotions, problems choosing appropriate partners, and failure to fulfill one's potential in school or career. Schema Focused Therapy, a form of cognitive therapy, was developed by Dr. Jeffrey Young to deal more effectively with these types of longer-term problems. Compared to standard cognitive therapy, Schema Focused Therapy looks more deeply into childhood origins of problems, uses more imagery and emotive techniques, and is longer-term. However, Schema Focused Therapy uses all of the techniques of standard cognitive therapy, and keeps the practical, focused, problem-solving approach.


    The CBT Program is staffed by a select group of advanced Clinical Psychology Doctoral Students at Rutgers University, many of whom have Master Degrees. All staff members are supervised closely by our faculty experts for each client they are treating, to ensure clients are receiving the highest level of care.


    We do not participate in any insurance plans, and so insurance will probably not cover the services offered by The CBT Program.  Please note that we do offer sliding scale fees and are committed to providing the community with high quality psychological services at rates that are affordable to all.


    To make a referral or schedule an evaluation:

    Online: Click here to use our Online Contact Form

    Phone: (732) 732-445-6111 - press option 4

    Write: The CBT Program for Anxiety and Depression
    c/o The Psychological Clinic, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    152 Frelinghuysen Road Piscataway, New Jersey 08854

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Copyright 2005 - Psychological Clinic, Center for Applied Psychology, Rutgers University

Last Updated: May 16, 2016
The Psychological Clinic is a division of the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology