What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

Find out what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is and why people recieve it.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a psychological treatment that aims to help people understand why the problems they are experiencing began, and why they continue. 

It's a type of talking therapy which focuses on how thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect feelings and behaviour. 

It teaches coping skills for dealing with different problems. 

What difficulties might CBT help with?

CBT has been found to be effective when treating a range of mental health and wellbeing difficulties. It can be useful to people who experience difficulties with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Phobias, such as heights
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder

What's the theory behind CBT?

CBT is based on the idea that the way we think about situations can affect the way we feel and behave. 

For example, if you interpret a situation negatively then you might experience negative emotions as a result, and those bad feelings might then lead you to behave in a certain way. 

How does CBT work?

CBT works by helping the individual understand how their thoughts influence their emotions and behaviour. 

CBT aims to help people understand that their thoughts are not always accurate. Thoughts can sometimes be unhelpful and it is this pattern of thinking that can lead to difficulties with what we do (behaviour) and our emotions (how we feel). 

CBT can help a person build skills such as:

  • Helping them to understand how thoughts, emotions and behaviours work together
  • Helping them to understand what is keeping their problem going
  • Helping them to develop and try out potential ways of solving their problem
  • Helping them to become an expert in their own problem

A common misconception is that CBT is just about learning to think more positively - this is not true.

The main goal of CBT is to help a person develop a more balanced approach to thinking and change any unhelpful patterns and behaviours. 

What's it like to receive CBT?

  1. You will firstly meet with a therapist who will determine if CBT is right for you. This is done by asking you some questions about your circumstances, the things you struggle with and by completing some questionnaires. 
  2. If CBT is right for you, you will be given a CBT therapist to work with who will be trained to deliver this type of intervention. You will meet with them regularly - this can vary from person to person but is usually around every two weeks. 
  3. The CBT Therapist will help you to understand your problems in more detail, and will work with you to discover new ways of dealing with them. You’ll be asked to try out new approaches and skills at home, and to feedback in the sessions as to how this has worked out. 
  4. The therapist will also regularly discuss with you how you are finding the sessions, so that your therapist can adapt the sessions so that you get the most from your treatment.

Watch this video, CBT explained: