Defining cognitive-behavioral therapy and its growing role in virtual reality

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach used in clinical practice. Its framework has allowed patients with different mental conditions, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, to report improvements in quality of life and functioning. However, what is cognitive-behavioral therapy at its core? In today’s post, we delve into CBT therapy from various angles, focusing on its guiding principles, techniques, and general applications in mental health settings. We also show how virtual reality—the groundbreaking technology of the 21st century—integrates cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to enhance and scale care for all.

What is cognitive-behavioral therapy?

A type of psychological treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective for multiple mental health and relationship issues, including:

  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety disorders (e.g., phobias or generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Substance abuse (e.g., alcohol use disorder)
  • Marital troubles
  • Eating disorders

Many research studies have suggested that CBT results in a higher quality of life when patients undergo this therapeutic approach. Similarly, when compared to other types of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications, CBT has been proven to be as effective, if not more effective especially with anxiety disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy comprises various tenets; however, three leading aspects that give basis to this clinical approach are:

  • Maladaptive beliefs (false and rationally unsupported) and unhelpful ways of thinking  contribute partly to psychological issues
  • Learned patterns of unhelpful behavior partly contribute to psychological issues
  • Via learning better and healthier coping techniques, individuals with psychological issues can begin to experience symptom relief and become more effective in their lives.

What are popular CBT techniques?

CBT techniques used in clinical practice will vary from one therapist to the next. However, here is a list of more common approaches in cognitive-behavioral therapy, including:

  • SMART goals. Therapists could work alongside patients to develop action-oriented goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. By defining these objectives, patients can work towards completing such aims while minimizing the likelihood of failure and, thereby, aggravated anxiety and further disheartenment.
  • Journaling. Writing down negative beliefs that appear during the week and replacing such thoughts with those more positive could balance specific thinking modes. A review of such notes could help identify and unravel any cognitive distortions, e.g., black-and-white thinking or catastrophizing, affecting thought processes.
  • Positive activities.  At some point during the day, a rewarding activity could contribute to overall positivity and enhance a patient’s mood. Examples could include watching a favorite movie or buying fresh flowers.
  • Situation exposure. In such cases, patients gradually undergo exposure to situations or items that elicit distress. Such an approach aims to minimize the impact caused by this exposure and result in fewer negative feelings. It is similar to systematic desensitization, which includes relaxation/coping techniques as well.


In a paper entitled “cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials,” researchers found that CBT was a moderately efficacious treatment for anxiety disorders versus placebo.


How much does CBT cost?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy costs will vary depending on the clinical practice and location. For example, while a CBT session could cost 70-80 euros in Spain, a CBT session in the United States could reach 100-120 US dollars. Another factor that influences the price of therapy is insurance. Some insurance companies may offer mental care support coverage and, thereby, lower out-of-pocket expenses for patients. Finally, cognitive-behavioral therapy has begun to take on new forms that make such a clinical approach reachable for many yet, at the same time, scalable.  

CBT and virtual reality: making care possible for all

If anything has been learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is not a problem that afflicts the few. Mental health is a matter that concerns all people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, educations, and cultures. However, treatment costs can dissuade those who most need help from seeking care. For this reason, virtual reality technology (or VR technology) has proven more appealing and relevant.VR technology incorporates CBT techniques and offers different virtual environments for clinical practice or even at home. Also, as VR technology has multiple controls, therapists can leverage the supportive tool to create complex or delicate scenarios. For individuals looking for trauma-based CBT yet dread the possibility of in vivo exposure, this core feature of the technology could be exciting. Lastly, because VR-based CBT has boomed in popularity, advancements, and research—demonstrating feasibility and efficacy in multiple studies to support its integration in clinical contexts—it has become a scalable model that lowers costs without compromising care and reaches a broader audience. Does including Amelia Virtual Care virtual reality technology in your clinical practice sound interesting to you? We’d be glad to set up a demo session with you that explains all of its features and benefits. Feel free to contact us!

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