Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a well-researched and evidence-based approach to dealing with various psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. CBT also offers clients strategies and tools that they can implement outside of therapy to make changes. All these advantages make CBT a popularly used approach among therapists as well. However, for any therapy approach to be effective, clients need to understand and comprehend it well. If a client does not understand or believe in the approach, they might not be fully invested in it. Thus, explaining CBT to clients is important for the overall effectiveness of therapy. Here are some steps to simplify CBT for clients.

  • Start with the basics

Begin by providing clients with a simple definition of CBT. Explain that CBT is a goal-oriented and collaborative approach that focuses on the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and that it also offers tools to manage their thoughts and emotions effectively.

  • Explain the ABC Model

The ABC model lies at the core of CBT. Introduce the ABC model to clients with the help of a worksheet. Explain that A represents the activating event, B stands for the beliefs or thoughts about the event, and C stands for the consequences- the behavioural reactions and feelings after the event. Use daily life examples to illustrate how thoughts are connected with feelings. Also,  explain how changing one’s thoughts can lead to changed emotions or behaviours.

  • Introduce core beliefs and automatic thoughts

Once clients have fully understood the ABC model, educate them about core beliefs and automatic thoughts. Explain that core beliefs are long-term ideas that help us draw conclusions about ourselves, others, and the world in general. Then discuss how core beliefs are formed as a result of childhood or previous experiences and how they lead to the formation of automatic thoughts. Discuss examples of a few automatic thoughts and core beliefs that you might have identified in the session. Encourage them to identify their negative automatic thoughts as homework.

  • Educate them about cognitive distortions 

Cognitive distortions are another key concept in CBT. Explain to clients how these biased patterns of thinking can lead to a variety of difficult emotions like anger, sadness, etc. Also, explain how cognitive distortions can impact their view of themselves. Give them a worksheet describing the various cognitive distortions to increase their awareness. Encourage them to identify cognitive distortions they might be facing in their everyday lives.

  • Explain the change process

Explain how changing unhelpful negative thoughts can help them change their feelings and behaviours, then introduce them to the process of cognitive restructuring, where you can give them a few examples of how to reframe negative thoughts into more rational ones. Encourage them to reframe their own negative thoughts in the session so that you are sure about their understanding of the restructuring process

  • Emphasize the importance of collaboration

Highlight the collaborative nature of CBT. Emphasize that the therapist and client work together as a team. It’s not about the therapist providing all the answers but rather guiding and supporting the client in developing their own strategies for overcoming challenges.

  • Explain Homework

Discuss how homework is an integral part of the therapy process and how being regular with it can help the client feel empowered. 


Explaining CBT to clients might be helpful for therapists in multiple ways. First, it demystifies the therapy process for clients. It also gives them the assurance that the therapist is trained and qualified to practice the therapy approach. Lastly, when you tell them the goal of CBT is to empower them, it also helps build trust and may also give them confidence to move towards recovery.


  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Explained | Thriveworks. (2020, October 29). Https://Thriveworks.Com/.
  2. Core Beliefs Info Sheet | Worksheet. (n.d.). Therapist Aid. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from
  3. The CBT Model of Emotions. (n.d.). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from
  4. The CBT Model: Psychoeducation | Worksheet. (n.d.). Therapist Aid. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin