Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Thoughts

some personal and professional riffs on CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Thoughts

I’m a beneficiary of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It works. And by works, I mean it can help, BUT - it’s only going to work if you do it.

That “you have to do it” part can be hard.

Really hard.

Because you really do have to do the work for it to work and the work often sucks.

CBT came up in an interview/conversation with my friend Bogumil Baranowski the other day (he interviewed me, keep an eye on Talking Billions for when it comes out).

I decided I should probably write this down. Here are some thoughts on what CBT is, why it matters, and why you might be interested in learning more for yourself (or others).

The name Cognitive Behavioral Therapy kind of says it all. 

Cognitive, in that it’s thinking and feeling based on what we perceive. 

Behavioral, in that it’s focused on how we respond. 

Therapy, in that we’re addressing the cognitions and the behaviors together. 

Dr. Aaron T. Beck came up with this triangle of thoughts, feelings, and emotions more or less as a counter to psychoanalysis in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a burgeoning response to the role of the analyst. It was bigger than Beck, but Beck was the guy compiling the ideas. 

In Beck’s own work with depressed patients, he realized people wanted to get better. 

They weren’t just depressed and that was that. They didn’t need their dreams or urges psycho-analyzed in the (then) traditional ways. Beck found people wanted, craved, and were even searching for ways to undistort the distortions in their perspectives. 

Personally - I’ve had my share of distorted views. I’ve thought things were normal that were not. I’ve lived the reality of my own reality-distortion field keeping good things out and bad things close. 

I didn’t want it either. I also didn’t need psychoanalysis, and may have even fallen victim to some amateur analysis by legitimate psychos. Until,

A CBT-trained therapist helped me understand my patterns. 

See the aforementioned parts about doing the work and how much it sucks. Put it in bold. Take a highlighter to it.

Beyond my personal experience, learning about CBT, its history, and especially about the theories and practices that have come before and after it, has helped me in my personal and professional life too. 

There’s no conversation with a person where they don’t reveal aspects of what Beck called their Core Beliefs. 

You don’t have to put labels on everything. 

But knowing that the way people talk about themselves, about others, and the future is central to how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors will respond and react in the rest of life. 

As a finance professional, the work of Kahneman and Tversky has been massively influential on me. 

Still, all their work around labeling biases and heuristics, and explaining why we’re predictably not as smart as we think we are, it always felt like it was missing just a little something. Not because they were leaving anything out - it’s just without Beck, we’re missing some of the other key contemporary contributions they didn’t need to put in their papers. 

Beck, Kahneman, and Tversky belong side by side. 

We’re still not as smart as we think we are. AND, we’re flawed, quirky, and fun social creatures. With plenty of good, bad, and weird habits and patterns.  

Our system 1s and 2s run on core believes and then thinking, feeling, and behavioral loops. 

This is the big insight. We do the work to figure out how we work. To gain insight.


We don’t get fixed. 


We do get a better grasp on our perspectives. 

Not to remove the biases, but to know how to put frames about them. 

Beck, Kahneman, and Tversky all work together. 

It’s the evolution of the studies.

Thinking and feeling + how we behave + what we can do it about it.  

Saved my life and made my career.

That’s not an exaggeration.

I’m glad Bogumil got me talking about it in this way.

If you deal with people, you want to learn about this stuff. It can make you better at your job. And more importantly, it can make you a better human (to yourself, and maybe others too).