Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy to treat headaches includes relaxation training, identifying and managing headache triggers, stress management, improving daily function, and treating related conditions like depression, anxiety, obesity, and sleep disturbance.

What is Cognitive behavioral therapy for headaches?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, also referred to as CBT, is a non-medication therapy used to treat medical and psychological disorders. It is extremely effective in managing headaches, especially when combined with medication.

A behavioral health provider on our team will show you how to monitor and analyze factors or “triggers” that might cause, maintain or worsen your headaches. We ask patients to track triggers, headache intensity, and duration in a headache diary. This information helps your headache specialist judge progress during treatment.

In addition to biofeedback, the following CBT techniques have shown to be effective in headache patients:

  • Relaxation
    One of the most well researched methods is Progressive Muscle Relaxation in which you will learn to slow your breathing, then tense and relax your muscles. The goal is to better recognize and control muscle tension as it relates to headache. While biofeedback targets specific areas of the body, relaxation works on the entire body.
  • Stress Management Training
    You will gain problem-solving and coping skills that are essential to managing headache. Stress management training for headache includes monitoring stressful situations and how they relate to headache frequency and severity. You will also learn effective problem solving and cognitive restructuring techniques to help you interpret pain and upsetting situations objectively in order to react more effectively in the presence of pain and stress.

The main goal of CBT is to help you become pain-free. But, for some, successful treatment includes learning to perform daily activities in spite of headache.


These audio clips can help you with your relaxation exercises:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation 
(with background music, 14:00)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation 
(voice only, 13:44)
Targeted PMR 
(with background music, 08:37)
Targeted PMR 
(voice only, 08:26)

Headache Treatments

Headache Center