CBT has been shown to be effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, and possibly more effective than pharmacological treatments in the long term. In fact, one study of patients undergoing benzodiazepine withdrawal who had a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder showed that those who received CBT had a very high success rate of discontinuing benzodiazepines compared to those who did not receive CBT. This success rate was maintained at 12 month follow up. Furthermore in patients who had discontinued benzodiazepines it was found that they no longer met the diagnosis of general anxiety disorder and that patients no longer meeting the diagnosis of general anxiety disorder was higher in the group who received CBT. Thus CBT can be an effective tool to add to a gradual benzodiazepine dosage reduction program leading to improved and sustained mental health benefits.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown as an effective treatment for clinical depression. A large-scale study in 2000 showed substantially higher results of response and remission (73% for combined therapy vs. 48% for either CBT or the antidepressant Nefazodone alone) when a form of cognitive behavior therapy and that particular discontinued anti-depressant drug were combined than when either modality was used alone. The American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines (April 2000) indicated that among psychotherapeutic approaches, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy had the best-documented efficacy for treatment of major depressive disorder.
Several meta-analysis have shown CBT effective in schizophrenia and the American Psychiatric Association includes CBT in its schizophrenia guideline as an evidence-based treatment. There is also some limited evidence of effectiveness for CBT in bipolar disorder and severe depression.
CBT can help patients with severe mental disorders to make sense of experiences that lead to symptoms, and to associate key thoughts and feelings with factors that predispose to or precipitate them. For instance, it can help to make rational connections between precipitating causes such as stimulants or hallucinogenic drugs and symptoms such as psychotic episodes. With the help of a therapist, patients may even devise and carry out behavioral experiments that can help them to learn how to improve their quality of life.
The use of CBT has been extended to children and adolescents with positive results. It is often used to treat major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and symptoms related to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Significant work has been done in this area by Mark Reinecke and his colleagues at Northwestern University in the Clinical Psychology program in Chicago. Paula Barrett and her colleagues have also validated CBT as effective in a group setting for the treatment of youth and child anxiety using the Friends Program she authored. This CBT program has been recognized as best practice for the treatment of anxiety in children by the World Health Organization. CBT has been used with children and adolescents to treat a variety of conditions with good success. CBT is also used as a treatment modality for children who have experienced complex post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic maltreatment.