Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is now thought the gold standard in treatment approaches for many different types of mental illnesses. It has the advantage of being time-limited, usually requiring no more than 20 sessions to complete, and it a very active form of therapy, where the client will need to do homework and fully participate in order to derive maximum benefit. Not everyone is best suited to this form of therapy, and some may prefer a more tradition “talk therapy” modality, and not every therapist is a cognitive behavioral therapist, though many have some training in this method and some may have specific credentials as cognitive behavioral therapists.
There are a number of different organizations that grant special licensing to those people who have trained in CBT. Usually any type of licensed therapist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, MFT or LCSW, is open to pursuing either additional training to get extra certification, or some people may train for additional certification while still in school. It is possible to search for people through these organizations to find those that have demonstrated thorough training in this subject. Organizations that allow people to find a cognitive behavioral therapist by this method include the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists (which actually operates in several countries), the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the Beck Institute.
Though these organizations tend to assert that having a fully trained or certified cognitive behavioral therapist is the best way to receive this treatment, it isn’t always necessary. Some therapists may not have certification but still have wide experience in this subject and may have taken courses or completed some extra training without getting one of these organizations to certify them. Any therapist may practice CBT without an extra license to do so, and the advantage of this form of therapy is that it is fairly simple to learn and practice, which contributes to its effectiveness.
For the person searching for the best cognitive behavioral therapist then, the main issue is finding someone experienced in practicing this therapy method. This may mean looking up a therapist with one of these or other certifying sites, or it might simply mean making a few phone calls to determine which local therapists have extensive experience. Some people feel nervous about questioning the credentials of health providers, but they definitely should if they seek a specific form of therapy like CBT. Good questions to ask include how long a therapist has practiced CBT, how effective they have been at this, and in general their level of experience with CBT. If a therapist leans towards other methods of therapy, she may not be the best therapist to choose.
While finding a therapist who makes a person comfortable is important, it’s also valuable to bear in mind that people don’t need to adore their cognitive behavioral therapist. They do need to feel comfortable enough to talk about difficult things in their presence, but there’s a certain level of detachment when therapists practice this type of therapy. It is very goal oriented, and emphasis is not primarily on developing the patient-therapist relationship. Instead, it’s on looking at, thinking about and finding ways to change behavior and thinking patterns through cognitive analysis. Therefore, level of comfort is important, but less important than it might be in other types of therapy.