This article is sponsored by BetterHelp, the world’s largest professional therapy platform, done online. 

Like many people, I was nervous to start therapy for the first time. When I started getting panic attacks in my early 20s, I finally signed up for therapy and realized that everything I knew about it was wrong. Instead of analyzing ink blots and the unconscious meaning behind my dreams, my therapist and I worked on developing coping mechanisms and stress management skills, so I could eventually manage my anxiety on my own. 

I started feeling better within weeks, which I credit entirely to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a common and highly effective form of talk therapy. If you are currently in therapy — or considering it — your therapist likely uses a similar approach. In partnership with BetterHelp, we are exploring the benefits of CBT and why virtual therapy might be the right fit for you. 

woman doing online cognitive behavioral therapy in her home

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Developed in the 1960s, cognitive behavioral therapy has become one of the most widely used forms of talk therapy. It is highly effective as a treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, and personality disorders. It is even used as part of a treatment plan for people with chronic pain and conditions like IBS!

CBT focuses on patterns of thinking — the underlying beliefs about oneself that influence your thoughts, patterns, and behaviors. CBT helps people identify negative and unhelpful thoughts that influence their behavior (called thought distortions) and replace them with more positive and useful ones. Instead of thinking or saying something negative about yourself, like “What if I’m not good enough?” CBT helps you understand why you are thinking this thought so you can replace it with a more useful or helpful thought, like “I am good enough. I can do anything life throws at me.” 

The emphasis on skill-building pays off in the long term. For people with mood disorders like bipolar disorder and depression, CBT offers long-term benefits that protect patients from relapses long after they have finished treatment.

woman doing online cognitive behavioral therapy on her lunch break

How effective is CBT? Does it need to be in person to be effective?

CBT is considered the gold standard of therapy for its widely proven effectiveness in treating many conditions. It is the most researched form of therapy, with hundreds of peer-reviewed studies proving its ability to boost quality of life and improve day-to-day functioning in weeks. 

The good news is that CBT doesn’t need to be done in person to be effective. “Like many other kinds of therapy,” says Kassandra Kite, MS, a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Operations Manager for BetterHelp, “the outcome of virtual CBT depends on the individual, their preferences, the nature of their concerns, and the relationship between the therapist and the client. However, research indicates that virtual CBT can be equally effective as in-person CBT.” 

A meta-analysis of 17 studies comparing telehealth to in-person CBT found that CBT performed via telehealth was more effective in reducing the severity of depression symptoms than CBT performed in-person. This is likely because virtual therapy offers access to a wider range of therapists that you could click with, and many find it easier to open up to a therapist from the comfort of their home or other private setting. 

woman signing up for betterhelp

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How is BetterHelp different?

Everyone deserves access to mental health treatment, but many find that the cost, lack of available therapists, and burden of traveling to in-person therapy make it difficult to get started. Providers like BetterHelp are making therapy more accessible by offering CBT online, with the ability to call, text, and video chat with therapists. 

As the largest virtual therapy network platform in the world, BetterHelp can connect patients with a therapist that best matches their needs. “Given that the strength of the therapeutic relationship is a critical factor in the efficacy of therapy, having a platform that sets itself apart in its matching capabilities is a tremendous benefit for clients and therapists,” says Kite. If you don’t click with your therapist, BetterHelp also makes it easy to re-match, so you have a better chance of success with a therapist that works for you.

Ultimately, the decision to start therapy is personal, and there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. If you are looking for a new therapist or are starting therapy for the very first time, virtual CBT from BetterHelp could be a great way to find a therapist who fits into your life and schedule. Get started today, and use code RESCRIPTED for 20% off your first month!  

Erin Pettis is a content strategist, freelance writer, and women’s health advocate. She lives in New York City and holds an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business.