Types of Questions to Ask During CBT

Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, is a group of therapeutic approaches that many mental health practitioners use. It is based on the theory that our behaviors result from thought processes, and to change our feelings and behavior, we must first change our thinking patterns. According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, CBT therapists use strategies and questions to help clients recognize irrational thinking to improve mood and change problem behavior 1.

Thought Questions

CBT is based on thoughts and thought processes and how they influence behavior. CBT therapists often ask clients, "What do you think?" or "What were you thinking when this happened?" While clients sometimes find these questions frustrating, this line of questioning helps discover irrational thinking patterns. Once irrational thinking is identified, the client and therapist can find ways to make thinking more rational.

Feelings Questions

CBT therapists are also concerned with feelings. "How did that make you feel?" is a common question. When thoughts are difficult to define or describe, therapists often ask how clients felt during a certain situation or time. Clients often discover feelings they did not initially recognize or express conflicting emotions that are confusing to them.

Scale or Degree Questions

One way to monitor progress is for the therapist to ask the client to rate his symptoms. This might be done at the beginning of each session. The therapist might ask the client, "How is you depression today, on a scale of 1 to 10?" Some might ask, "How was your anxiety on the way here this morning: mild, moderate or severe?" Rating symptoms helps clients and therapists determine if treatment is effective and if certain situations or events cause symptoms to increase or decrease.

Changing Questions

The reason most individuals begin therapy is to change something. Most often they want to feel better. They may be experiencing a stressful situation. A CBT therapist might ask, "What can you do to change the situation?" Often clients discover something that can be changed to make the situation better. If nothing can be changed, the therapist may ask, "How can you change what you think about the situation that will help you feel better?" This enables the client to change perspectives and often improves his mood.