What is CBT and can it help?

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and why is it so popular?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a practical talking therapy that helps people with problems and issues by addressing and changing how they think and behave. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on the present problems that are happening now and the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards those problems or situations.

CBT is based on the theory that negative feelings and thoughts are not simply because of issues, difficulties and events that we have experienced, but rather because of the interpretation, meanings and beliefs that we attach to these experiences.  So it is really about how we think about and interpret what has happened to us rather than what has actually happened to us in our life.

CBT can be used as treatment for a number of issues

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is usually recommended as a short-term therapy treatment or it may be used as a tool alongside other types of talking therapies. CBT is an effective way of treating a range of mental health conditions including:

  • Anxiety and social anxiety
  • Obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD)
  • Phobias and fear
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger and stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Negative, destructive thinking
  • Self-confidence issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep problems

The theory behind CBT is pretty straight-forward and makes sense to a lot of people

The theory behind CBT is that the way we think about situations can affect the way we feel and behave, as well as affecting how we think about ourselves, our core beliefs and ideas.

If you interpret a situation negatively, you may experience negative emotions as a result and those bad feelings can lead you to behave and act in a certain way.

Very often our thoughts are influenced by our past experiences and continuous negative thinking patterns. Our thoughts may be a result of cognitive distortion in that it is a belief or thought that does not match reality. These patterns of negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours can become part of a detrimental cycle that is difficult to find a way out of and change.

Over time, this cycle happens so many times it becomes a habit, and negative thinking, low self- esteem and self-blame can reinforce the situation to make it worse.

It all makes sense, but how would a CBT therapist be able to help me?

CBT is a collaborative therapy approach where a CBT therapist will work with you to help break negative thought and behaviour cycles that are impacting your life and holding you back.

You will be able talk to your therapist about how you are feeling and what is on your mind. The therapist will help you to identify and recognise any habitual and debilitating thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are interconnected and may be contributing to your difficulties and levels of functioning.  Unnoticed, catastrophic and automatic thoughts as well as underlying assumptions that are feeding issues can be tracked, recognised, questioned and evaluated.  The therapist discusses and practically explores with you alternative and healthier thoughts and beliefs using a range of appropriate techniques and skills. This will give you an opportunity to start making changes to negative thought and belief patterns in order to feel better and behave differently.

The therapist will equip you with skills and techniques that can proactively help you. These skills are life-long skills that can be used whenever you feel that you need help to deal with difficult and challenging times and events.

During the CBT process there will be the scope to challenge and reframe negative thought patterns and behaviours and look at past experiences with your therapist to consider if and how the past has influenced your perceptions and views of the world.

CBT is also goal-orientated so you can continue to change negative cycles, thus empowering you to achieve goals and results during the course of the therapy.

A CBT relationship between therapists and clients is equal and non-judgemental.  A client is able to discuss their views and reactions with their therapist who encourages open and honest discussion in a safe and protective environment. This collaborative approach enables the client to be actively involved with their therapy and to practise the skills and techniques recommended by the therapist.  This inevitably means that CBT requires commitment and work on the client’s part in order to make a valid difference and improvement.  However, because CBT is short-term the commitment and required input is manageable and achievable.

Some of our therapists use CBT in their work with our clients

Due to the close and productive collaboration during therapy, CBT is much more effective when working with the support of a therapist rather than taking the CBT self-help route.

CBT is a popular and powerful therapy for people as it is an ideal short-term therapy that does not delve too much into the past, instead focussing on yourself and present events. It is practical and helps to address damaging core beliefs and thought patterns that negatively impact emotions and actions. By bringing thoughts to the forefront, recognising what they are and challenging or reframing them, there will be positive and lasting improvements.

Clients are equipped with practical and useful tools, coping skills and techniques that can be used as and when needed, so there is longevity to the therapy beyond therapeutic sessions with a psychotherapist.

Find  out more about our short term counselling services as well as our longer-term counselling and psychotherapy services for individuals.

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