What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sees problems as coming from beliefs and behavioural patterns which a person has learnt during their life.
The basic idea in cognitive therapy is that our emotional reactions and behaviours are strongly influenced by cognitions (thoughts, beliefs and interpretations) about ourselves, events that happen or situations in which we find ourselves. So our feelings are affected by our interpretation of events rather than events themselves.
How does it work?
Whilst it can be important to understand how problems have come about, CBT tends to focus on the here-and-now and practical ways of changing a person’s state of mind now. For example, initial sessions may focus on changing negative circles of thoughts and behaviours that have been keeping a problem going. Later we may also look at underlying beliefs that may have made the person vulnerable to particular problems. Altering these beliefs can help to reduce the risk of having similar problems in the future.
What does it help with?
CBT has been well researched and is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the treatment of choice for a wide range of difficulties including depression, anxiety, panic, obsessions and compulsions, trauma and many others. It has been found to be highly effective for a large number of people.
What to expect in therapy
CBT is collaborative in that you and your therapist work together on whatever is troubling you. It is not a treatment that can be done to you, rather something you do, with the help of your therapist. It involves working between sessions on tasks like keeping notes of what happens, practising particular skills or trying out new ways of tackling problems. During sessions you and your therapist look at issues in detail, for example, exploring negative thoughts or working out possible new skills.
I usually suggest six to eight sessions to allow time to see how this approach is working for you, but you are free to stop therapy at any point. Depending on your needs and goals, you may have more sessions.