Enhanced Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT-E)

You may have heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a therapy modality commonly used to redirect thought patterns, unhealthy behaviors, and distressing emotions. Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) is a version of CBT that is specifically tailored for clients who suffer from eating disorders.

What is Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E)?

Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) is a therapy modality that research shows helps decrease the symptoms of eating disorders. There are three parts of CBT-E:

  • Thoughts
  • Behaviors
  • Feelings

CBT-E posits that these three parts are interconnected and by changing one of these parts, the others will also benefit. The goal is to decrease the occurrence of negative or harmful thought patterns, unhealthy eating behaviors like restricting or purging, and the emotional impact of the eating disorder.

Eating disorders can severely impact clients’ overall health, not just their mental health. Because of this, it’s especially important to engage in CBT-E only with a therapist who is trained and experienced in this type of therapy.

What happens in an Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) session?

CBT-E sessions can look many different ways, depending on the client’s needs, personality, preferences, and the course of their eating disorder. However, most sessions will involve the CBT-E therapist asking clients about the past week’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. CBT-E is a skills-based, goal-oriented therapy modality. When the therapist recognizes an area that may be unhealthy for the client, the session will focus on this area and the therapist will provide clients with tools to help.

It’s common for CBT-E sessions to include the deconstruction of cognitive distortions or false thought patterns. The CBT-E therapist may contradict or challenge the client’s assumptions or judgements, encouraging them to look at their thoughts objectively and with evidence. Other sessions may include the exploration of a habit, such as determining how often a harmful behavior occurs, if it has identifiable triggers, what generally helps the client avoid those triggers, and more. All CBT-E sessions are a space for clients to talk about their feelings and emotions, especially those that relate to their eating disorder.

The goal of CBT-E is to draw a connection between thoughts, feelings, and actions. This connection is useful for clients to understand when it’s time to start working towards moving past their eating disorder.

What can Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) help with?

Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) was designed to help clients who suffer from eating disorders. This includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and other patterns of disordered eating.

Because therapists who apply cognitive behavioral theories in their sessions teach clients effective coping skills, cognitive behavioral modalities are helpful for all clients who experience mood disorders. The additional elements of CBT-E make it specifically effective for clients who have eating disorders.