The Mayo Clinic and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


We left off with the Mayo Clinic’s list of 10 ways in which cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful, and mental health applications are prominent. The Mayo Clinic’s source page lists several mental health problems that might be improved, including eating disorders and substance abuse disorders.

This is handy, because it avoids the finer points of the arguments over exactly how to classify the obesity caused by too much food. Whether compulsive overeating is defined as a substance addiction or a behavioral addiction, CBT can handle it, although “in some cases, CBT is most effective when it’s combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.”

As for the other items on the list, depression and anxiety are often closely allied with or causative of obesity, and so are sleep disorders, sexual disorders, and PTSD. The patient learns about her or his mental health condition, and learns and practices the techniques that can make a positive difference.

They include “relaxation, coping, resilience, stress management, and assertiveness.” This can occur in a one-on-one setting, a family group, or an affinity group with people who must deal with similar issues.

What goes on during treatment?

Yes, there is talk about feelings, and in fact at the therapist’s discretion, CBT might be paired with another therapeutic modality, “for example, interpersonal therapy, which focuses on your relationships with other people.” The main gist is a goal-oriented approach focused on a specific problem. The troubling situation or condition is identified, and discrete goals are defined.

Once engaged with cognitive behavioral therapy, a person takes certain steps which the Mayo Clinic page describes. Say the problem is fear of flying, and unfortunately, to make a career out of standup comedy, a person has to fly.

The patient is asked to become aware of her or his thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Great, but how?

Share your thoughts about them. This may include observing what you tell yourself about an experience (self-talk), your interpretation of the meaning of a situation, and your beliefs about yourself, other people and events. Your therapist may suggest that you keep a journal of your thoughts.

The self-talk thing is brilliant. When a person has the expectation of being compelled to give up secrets dredged from the depths of the soul, that feels intimidating. But what if someone asks, “As the cab turns into the airport, what are you saying to yourself?” The person might draw a blank, and the therapist might say, “Next time, take notes.”

How does one identify negative or inaccurate thinking? Isn’t that like asking fish to identify water? It’s something they’ve existed with always — what is there to say about it?

To people who grow up under a regime of negative and inaccurate thinking, they both look just like regular thinking. The Clinic’s page says:

To help you recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that may be contributing to your problem, your therapist may ask you to pay attention to your physical, emotional and behavioral responses in different situations.

Back in 2014 we said:

In both Britain and the U.S., there are not enough practitioners to go around, so entrepreneurial professionals are busy modifying CBT into a self-help modality available via electronic devices.

Wearable devices can collect and transmit information about a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose level, the quality of the ambient air, and many other variables. In other words, while the patient is asked to pay attention to physical, emotional, and behavioral responses, the mind alone may not be involved in this observation. Increasingly, electronic devices can take over those tasks.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,”, undated
Photo credit: Tony Webster on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

One Response

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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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