The MHS Journals

Our blog archive of insights and intel


What is CBT Role Play Therapy?

Mar 13, 2024

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT therapy, frequently uses role play as a strategy designed to help patients work through potential scenarios in a lower-stress environment. Through role-play, patients can explore thoughts and emotions with their therapists and work toward a more positive resolution. By engaging in role-play, many patients are able to see highly positive outcomes as they move through treatment. Mental Health Systems is here to help explain CBT role-play therapy and the positive impact it’s made on patients across Minnesota.

Role Play Therapy Explained

During role-play therapy, the patient and therapist will act out a specific scenario. The scenario may be related to something that the patient has already experienced in the past or a specific scenario the patient requests.

Through these scenarios, patients can challenge and work to change negative thoughts and behavior patterns, allowing them to see more effective resolutions to those scenarios when they encounter them in the real world. Role-play therapy can be used to help treat a variety of conditions and challenges, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Triggers
  • Depression
  • Negative thoughts
  • Communication skills

Through role-play therapy, many clients can successfully identify coping strategies and mechanisms that are more likely to fit their specific needs. Role-play therapy is often used with patients of all ages.

What to Expect from CBT Role Play Therapy

Before a role-play therapy session, the therapist will open with a discussion of goals for the session, including identifying what the patient hopes to accomplish through the session.

Often, identifying those goals can make it easier for both patients and therapists to guide the role-play session.

Next, the therapist will work with the client to choose a role-play scenario. Scenarios may be focused on things that have already been encountered, including situations in which the patient may have felt out of control or struggled with negative emotions or on things that cause anxiety or distress for the patient.

Then, the patient and therapist will assume their roles. Therapists will represent the difficult scenario.

For example, if a patient is anxious about an upcoming interaction with a family member, the therapist might role-play as the family member.

If a patient is nervous about an interview, the therapist might take on the role of the interviewer.

During the scenario, patients will be encouraged to use positive techniques for coping as they attempt to challenge the thought patterns that lead to negative behaviors.

For example, they might work to decrease their reaction to someone speaking negatively about them or to practice calming techniques when they feel anger or anxiety rising.

After the session, the therapist and the patient will review the scenario to determine how it worked and what techniques were effective for the patient. The therapist may also go over the things that did not work with the patient and give them more ideas for managing those interactions in the future, including strategies that may prove more helpful.

Sometimes, the therapist and patient may role-play the same scenario more than once, across multiple sessions, to gauge change over time or to allow the patient to utilize different techniques in dealing with the scenario.

See How Role Play Therapy Can Help

Role-play therapy can help with a variety of possible scenarios. By working closely with an experienced cognitive behavioral therapist, patients can learn how to cope with various challenging scenarios and change the negative thought patterns that may have led to behavioral challenges in the past.

This piece is purely informative, and at times, MHS may not offer this type of treatment scenario. CBT is a subset of DBT. MHS can help you understand the different facets of DBT and specific treatments for your situation. Contact us today to learn more.