CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT)

This is a mixture of cognitive and behavioural therapies. They are often combined because how we behave often reflects how we think about certain things or situations. The emphasis on cognitive or behavioural aspects of therapy can vary, depending on the condition being treated. For example, there is often more emphasis on behavioural therapy when treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – where repetitive compulsive actions are a main problem. In contrast, the emphasis may be on cognitive therapy when treating depression.

What conditions can be helped by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

CBT has been shown to help people with various conditions – both mental health conditions and physical conditions.

For example:

  • Certain anxiety disorders, including phobias and panic attacks.

  • Depression

  • Eating disorders.

  • OCD.

  • Anger

  • Drug or alcohol abuse.

  • Insomnia

As a rule, the more specific the problem, the more likely CBT may help. This is because it is a practical therapy which focuses on particular problems and aims to overcome them.

What is likely to happen during a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

The first session of therapy will include time for the therapist and you to develop a shared understanding of the problem. This is to identify how your thoughts, ideas, feelings, attitudes, and behaviours affect your day-to-day life.

A treatment plan is agreed with specific goals to achieve, and the number of sessions likely to be needed. Each session lasts about 50-60 minutes. Typically, a session of therapy is done once a week. Most courses of CBT last for several weeks.

You have to take an active part, and are given homework between sessions. For example, if you have social phobia, early in the course of therapy you may be asked to keep a diary of your thoughts which occur when you become anxious before a social event. Later on you may be given homework of trying out ways of coping which you have learned during therapy.

How well does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy work?

CBT has been shown in clinical trials to help ease symptoms of various health problems. For example, research studies have shown that a course of CBT is just as likely to be effective as medication in treating depression and certain anxiety disorders. There may be long-term benefits of CBT, as the techniques to combat these problems can be used for the rest of your life to help to keep symptoms away. So, for example, depression or anxiety are less likely to recur in the future.

What is the difference between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other talking treatments?

CBT is one type of psychotherapy (talking treatment). Unlike other types of psychotherapy it does not involve talking freely, or dwell on events in your past to gain insight into your emotional state of mind. It is not a “lie on the couch and tell all” type of therapy.

CBT tends to deal with the here and now – how your current thoughts and behaviours are affecting you now. It recognises that events in your past have shaped the way that you currently think and behave. In particular, thought patterns and behaviours learned in childhood, However, CBT does not dwell on the past, but aims to find solutions to how to change your current thoughts and behaviours so that you can function better now and in the future.