One of the highlights of CBT is that it is focused on eliminating symptoms as quickly as possible, typically in a few weeks to a few months. Of course, people rarely have only a single issue to work on in therapy, so this length depends on the number and severity of the issues, but brevity is key to this approach.
This brings up one of the major differences between CBT and many other forms of therapy. According to Donald Meichenbaum, one of the founders of CBT, “[We ask] what and how questions. Why questions are not very productive.” While other treatment approaches spend a great deal of time digging deep and asking why you feel depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem, CBT sticks to the current thoughts and behaviors. Rather than examining why you are afraid of snakes, CBT focuses on helping you reduce your fear. While some people are content with reducing their symptoms, others want to know why they exist in the first place. For them, deeper approaches like psychodynamic therapy may be more satisfying.
After working out what you can change, your therapist will ask you to practise these changes in your daily life. This may involve:
Questioning upsetting thoughts and replacing them with more helpful ones and recognising when you're going to do something that will make you feel worse and instead doing something more helpful.
You may be asked to do some "homework" between sessions to help with this process.
At each session, you'll discuss with your therapist how you've got on with putting the changes into practice and what it felt like. Your therapist will be able to make other suggestions to help you.
Confronting fears and anxieties can be very difficult. Your therapist won't ask you to do things you don't want to do and will only work at a pace you're comfortable with. During your sessions, your therapist will check you're comfortable with the progress you're making.
One of the biggest benefits of CBT is that after your course has finished, you can continue to apply the principles learned to your daily life. This should make it less likely that your symptoms will return.