Cognitive Behavioral Education & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral education (CBE) should not be mistaken for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or vice versa. Their names are similar. And their acronyms, CBE and CBT, sound almost identical. This may confuse people.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly evidence-based therapeutic approach widely used for alcoholism and drug addiction. This technique has also long been used for other problems such as depression, and psychotic disorders. Also anxiety, criminal behaviors, bulimia, bipolar disorder, and many others.

cognitive behavioral educationCBT is based on the fact that maladapted cognitions (beliefs and ideas) are very important. They may creating emotional distress and problem behaviors. Changing these cognitions leads to better emotions and behaviors.

CBT clients are active with their therapist in a problem-solving process. They work to change problem-creating cognitions and to change problem behaviors. Clients are taught the knowledge, skills, and techniques to help them achieve the objectives they set for themselves.

The time frame is generally short term. It typically lasts four to six week. and is offered on an out-client basis. Because of its effectiveness, it is also typically offered as part of residential rehabs.

Extensive research has shown the effectiveness of CBT and it is well-known. Many clients will only attend a rehab that offers it.

Cognitive Behavioral Education

Cognitive behavioral education shares some features with cognitive behavioral therapy. Both recognize that alcohol and drug problems result from personal decisions. Both recognize that individuals can change their cognitions and behaviors. And both treat clients with dignity. Yet they are different in many very important ways.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Education

Developed by renowned psychologists.Developed by laypersons without psychological training.
Based on established psychological principles.Based on philosophy.
Hundreds of published research reports.No published research report to date.
Scientifically proven effective.Not scientifically proven effective.
Widely recognized by psychological and other professional associations.Not recognized by any psychological or other professional association.
Collaborative.Not collaborative.
Described in psychology dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks,and other reference works.Not described in any psychology dictionary, encyclopedia, handbook, or other reference work.
Owned by no one. Freely shared with other professionals for good of clients and society.Owned by one corporation, Baldwin Research Institute. Not shared with professionals.
Claims of effectiveness made by qualified researchers without any conflicts of interest.Claims of effectiveness made by corporation offering the program for money.

Current State of Cognitive Behavioral Education

After many years, no scientific, professional, or governmental body recognizes cognitive behavioral education. Nor is there scientific evidence that it is effective in helping those with alcohol or drug problems. This does not mean that CBE is not effective. It means that after over a quarter century there is no scientific evidence that it is.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that any other educational approach is effective. A landmark study by Dr. William R. Miller and colleagues discovered this. They examined the effectiveness of 48 different treatments for alcoholism. To do so, they combined the results of 381 controlled trials. Those trials compared the effectiveness of a treatment method with either no treatment or with other alcoholism treatments.

Based on the evidence, the treatments were ranked from #1 (the most effective) to #48 (the least effective). The researchers found that the very poorest approach, ranked at the bottom at #48, consisted of educational techniques.1

There is no scientific evidence that cognitive behavioral education is effective. Even worse, there is no reason to believe that it might be effective.

It is important not to confuse cognitive behavioral education and cognitive therapy. They are different in almost every important way. Whichever you choose, make sure that it is the one you receive.

Further Information on Cognitive Behavioral Education

Cognitive Behavioral Education (CBE). Web page of the corporation, Baldwin Research, that owns the St. Jude Retreats.

Cognitive Behavioral Learning. Description of Cognitive Behavioral Education. It’s by the director of the St. Jude Retreats, Mr. Mark Scheeren.


1. Miller, W., et al. What works? A summary of alcohol treatment outcome research. In: Hester, R. and Miller, W. (Eds.), Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches. Effective Alternatives. Pp. 13-63.