149: Is Cognitive Therapy a Cure-All for Everything?

I recently published the results of a survey of Feeling Good Podcast fans like yourself. The findings were overwhelmingly positive and illuminating. However, there were a few criticisms as well, like the excellent and thoughtful comments Rhonda and I will address in this podcast. I appreciate negative feedback, as this provides the greatest opportunities for growth and learning. 

However, like most people, I sometimes find criticisms emotionally challenging  and want to lash out, defending myself! Do you sometimes feel that way, too?

When I feel defensive, its because I think I have a “self” or some cherished “territory” that’s under attack. When I let go of this “self,” it can be incredibly liberating to find truth in a criticism and discover that the feedback is really coming from a trusted colleague or friend, rather than some enemy who is trying to destroy or defeat you! 

Here’s what s/he wrote:

Dr. Burns, you seem to disregard healing modalities outside of CBT. CBT is wonderful and nobody teachers it better than Dr Burns—I believe that it is a foundational practice to well-being. However, working with difficult emotions is very important and not always well addressed through CBT alone.

Thinking CBT is the answer for most issues is loaded with cognitive distortions. Example–Discounting the Positive in other practices, All or Nothing Thinking, Magical Thinking, and seeing CBT as a “cure all.” In my personal healing journey CBT has been absolutely essential–as has self compassion, learning to let things go, inner child work, mindfulness, somatic awareness and more. I have noticed there has repeatedly been a dismissive tone for other valuable practices.

Obviously. the Feeling Good Podcast is about CBT and sticking to your expertise is essential. However, I would be careful not to disregard other healing practices that could potentially help someone out.

I have such respect for Dr Burns and his team-but your words carry weight- please be thoughtful about discounting other methods that could be helping someone.

Thank you, whoever you are, for this thought-provoking feedback. And you are SO RIGHT. Cognitive Therapy has value for some problems, but it is definitely NOT a panacea. In fact, no treatment is! The belief that you have THE ANSWER for everything is incredibly misguided but unfortunately, way too common in our field. 

I have no doubt that many people have shared your concerns. Let us know what you think after you hear today’s podcast! 

David and Rhonda


You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com.

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5 thoughts on “149: Is Cognitive Therapy a Cure-All for Everything?

  1. In all fairness, I’ve seen criticism in all directions:

    1) The aforementioned Dr. Burns dismissals of ACT, Mindfulness and such, as well as antidepressants and benzos.


    2) I’ve read a bunch of ACT books. They all criticize CBT as completely wrong, making things worse.

    But I’ve also have read/been told that other approaches are THE ONLY cure for anxiety: prayer, spine health, better sleep, medication, yoga, exercise, etc.

    I agree that the self gets in the way of objectiveness.

    • Thanks, Eduardo, You are so right, there are criticisms–and often valid criticisms–in all directions. You are also right that the idea that we have a “self” that can be judged or rated is a cause of much mental distress! But many people, perhaps nearly all, are afraid of the “great death” of the “self,” or ego. All the best, david

      • Quick question, Dr. Burns: Have you experienced the death of a self? Which one? How?

      • Thanks, Kuashio! I have experienced this many times. As the Buddha said, we are always drifting in and out of “enlightenment.” The “great death” of the “self” leads to joy and greater connection with others. But you can’t stay “enlightened” for more than a few days at a time in my experience. david

      • The full answer would take time, have you read any of my books or podcasts? A lot of the information is in there. There are actually four “great deaths” for the patient, and four for the TEAM therapist as well. If you read about Obie on the tab on my website, you will see how my best teacher taught me about how to “die,” so I would no longer need to be “special.” david

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