Thoughts and emotions have a strong influence on one’s own behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to show that although not everything can be controlled, interpretations and reactions can be managed. Participants thus learn to recognize their thought patterns and re-evaluate them.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy emerged in the 1960s and originated in the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck. He noticed that certain thought patterns trigger emotional problems. Beck referred to this as the “negative thought spiral” and developed the process of cognitive therapy. The cognitive approach looks at how thoughts and feelings affect behavior. Since then, the form of therapy has become an effective first-line treatment for a variety of disorders and diseases. “Cognitive” is derived from the Latin term “cognoscere,” meaning “to recognize.” The therapy helps identify and discard negative patterns and form new positive thought patterns. It is one of the most researched forms of therapy and is used for a variety of conditions including anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders and phobias. 

Negative thinking patterns in professional life and inner resignations

Within psychotherapy treatment, participants learn to identify destructive thought patterns that have a negative impact on behavior and emotions. It focuses on changing the negative thoughts that contribute to and exacerbate emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. Through CT, these are identified, challenged, and replaced with objective thought patterns. It is primarily concerned with recognizing recurring patterns. It focuses on using a wide range of strategies to help sufferers overcome these thoughts. Such strategies include writing a diary, role-playing, relaxation techniques, and mental distractions. The goal of this type of therapeutic treatment is to change the automatic negative thought response that contributes to psychological distress. 

Employees who are caught in a constant vicious circle of bad thoughts and doubts in particular benefit from CBT. The consequence of the persistent negative thought spiral is often termination, but with the help of cognitive therapy, managers can free employees from harmful thought patterns. Often, these employees have already resigned internally. Difficulties concentrating at work or the inability to complete tasks on time are also focal points of CBT.

Release negative thought patterns and free employees

A study examined the impact of cognitive therapy on the job success of people struggling with depression. Results showed that CBT helped participants find a job and improve their job performance. Depression can affect all aspects of life and severely impact job performance or the ability to find employment in the first place. It’s not for nothing that depression is one of the leading causes of work disability around the world. KVT increases concentration and efficiency in the workplace by helping to break away from a negative mindset. Results suggest that patients can improve their job performance with the help of therapy, in part due to changing negative thought patterns. However, for people who suffer from depression and have difficulty finding a job, the solution is not to alleviate symptoms but to build a strong mental foundation. The therapy points to negative self-images as a key feature of depression, which can also exacerbate stress ratings in the workplace.

In the ordinary course of a job, employees often face rejection and must persevere in the face of it. When employees see each of these rejections as an indication of their potential as an employee or their value to society, it makes it harder to persevere. In the same way, releasing negative thought patterns can address the root cause of poor work performance. CT increases focus and efficiency in the workplace by helping to disengage from the negative mindset. Another example is employees who want to please their peers at all costs and have difficulty turning down tasks. These behaviors can lead to long-term burnout and subsequently poor performance at work. Once thought patterns are identified, participants can work to address fear of failure, perfectionism, and other unhelpful behaviors.

New stress factors in working life

Millions of jobs have been lost due to the pandemic, and countless others have had to either weather this period as essential workers or work from home. For many people, this immense stress has made their job situation worse. The more employees face this uncontrollable stressor and uncertainty, the more they are drawn into overly negative views. For this reason, it is essential for companies to find healthy ways of coping. Cognitive restructuring is a focus in CT, but there are other coping strategies that can have just as much impact. Mindfulness and self-care practices, developing time management skills, and exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing can reduce anxiety and help people better protect themselves against external stressors. CT and related strategies have been shown to be effective in managing stress and depression. Cognitive therapy can be used effectively as a short-term treatment to help employees with a very specific problem and teach them to focus on current thoughts and beliefs. 

This is why cognitive behavioral therapies also work in everyday work life

Therapy includes a range of techniques and approaches that address thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. These can range from structured psychotherapies to self-help materials. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and changing inaccurate or distorted thought patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors. Behavioral therapy addresses thoughts and behaviors, incorporating strategies such as emotion regulation and mindfulness. Rational-emotive behavior therapy involves identifying irrational beliefs, actively challenging them, and ultimately learning to recognize and change these thought patterns. Although each type of cognitive therapy takes a different approach, all work to address the underlying thought patterns that contribute to psychological distress.

Cognitive therapy is goal-oriented and focused, with the therapist taking a very active role. Participants work together with their therapist toward mutually agreed-upon goals. The process is explained in detail and participants are given tasks to complete between sessions. The underlying concept of CBT is that thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in behavior. For example, an employee who spends a lot of time thinking about his or her own failures and unhappiness will feel that way as a result. The goal of cognitive therapy is to teach participants that while they can’t control every aspect around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment. There is a reason why this form of behavioral therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years. Other benefits include:

  • By becoming aware of the negative and often unrealistic thoughts that dampen their feelings and moods, participants can begin to adopt healthier thought patterns.
  • CT can be an effective short-term treatment.
  • It can help people with certain types of emotional problems that do not require medication.
  • It is empirically supported and has been shown to help patients overcome a variety of maladaptive behaviors.
  • It is more affordable than other forms of therapy.

However, one of the greatest benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it helps patients develop long-term coping strategies.

Recognize and resolve negative thoughts at work

Employees often experience thoughts and feelings that exacerbate faulty beliefs. Such beliefs can lead to problematic behaviors that spread to numerous areas of life. It is important to learn how thoughts, feelings, and situations contribute to maladaptive behaviors. This process can be difficult, but it can lead to self-knowledge and insight, which are an essential part of the treatment process.

It is important to start practicing new skills that will then be used in real-life situations. Goal setting is an important step in this process. Learning problem-solving skills helps identify and solve problems caused by stressors large and small, and reduce the negative effects of mental and physical illness. Problem solving in CT often involves five steps: Identifying a problem, creating a list of possible solutions, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each possible problem solution, and selecting an approach to implement and accomplish.

Self-observation is an important part of CT in which behaviors, symptoms, and experiences are tracked over time and shared with the therapist. Self-observation can help provide the therapist with the information to provide the best treatment. In most cases, CT is a step-by-step process that helps a person make behavior change in small increments. By having participants work incrementally toward a larger goal, the process seems less scary and the goals are easier to achieve. There are some challenges participants may encounter during the course of cognitive behavioral therapy. Initially, they may recognize that certain thoughts are not rational or healthy, but simply becoming aware of them does not change them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy does not focus as much on underlying unconscious resistance to change as other psychoanalytic approaches. It is best suited for participants who are more comfortable with a structured and focused approach in which the therapist takes a guiding role.


Cognitive therapy can be an effective treatment option for a range of psychological problems. It is one of the most researched forms of therapy, in part because the treatment focuses on very specific goals and the results can be measured relatively easily. For therapy to be effective in the job setting, the person must be ready and willing to invest time and effort in analyzing his or her thoughts and feelings. Such self-analysis can be difficult. Nevertheless, CT is a popular way to learn more about how internal states influence external behavior.

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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