Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the Mayo Clinic


What does the esteemed Mayo Clinic say about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), especially as it is applicable in the areas of obesity, addiction, eating disorders, and long-term sustainability?

CBT is a sub-specialty within psychotherapy or talk therapy. It is facilitated by a psychotherapist or other type of therapist, and supported by a structure that includes a predetermined number of sessions. One of the skills it teaches is how to identify a specific challenge and cope with it, in real time.

The basic propositions of CBT appear very straightforward at first glance, to the point where a skeptical phrase like “deceptively simple” might occur to the reader. This is where the concept itself becomes challenging. According to the description, the process “helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking.” The first, irreverent thought that springs to mind might be, “If it’s so easy, why isn’t everybody doing it, and why have we not attained Utopia?”

Inaccurate thinking is a mighty big territory to police. For example, people afflicted by what Alfred Adler termed an “inferiority complex” are often mistaken, because they are not actually inferior. But it took years of toxic programming to make them that way. Is the result really so easy to counteract? Can the cumulative damage be so easy to reverse, in the course of a limited number of sessions?

Then again, complete repair is not the aim or the claim. Maybe the deep wounds will never be healed. Meanwhile, behavior can be initiated or changed. It may not be easy, but it is, in many cases, doable. Often to a person’s great surprise, even small behavioral tweaks can exert powerful influence on the world.

And another thing

Also, a larger philosophical question looms. Some bristle at the very notion that anyone would dare to define accurate or inaccurate thinking. How much subjectivity or objectivity belongs in the mix? What happens when the denotation of accurate thinking infringes on religious beliefs? Definitions of accurate versus inaccurate thinking have started wars and led to many other undesirable situations.

And what about negative thinking? Can someone who returns from three tours of duty in combat zones be easily trained to renounce paranoia? Can she or he really stop assessing every room for the most direct escape route? It sounds too good to be true, yet a multitude of very experienced professionals say that cognitive behavioral therapy works. The CBT page from theMayo Clinic states:

CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.

The page also lists 10 specific ways in which CBT can help:

  1. Manage symptoms of mental illness
  2. Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms
  3. Treat a mental illness when medications aren’t a good option
  4. Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations
  5. Identify ways to manage emotions
  6. Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate
  7. Cope with grief or loss
  8. Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
  9. Cope with a medical illness
  10. Manage chronic physical symptoms

Returning to the original question: Yes, as it turns out, every one of those points does connect either directly or tangentially to obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,”, undated
Photo credit: Tripp on Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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