Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) examines the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It helps you explore how thoughts may be unhelpful or inaccurate and experiment with new strategies so you can change your habits.
For example, if you suffer from work stress, you may be worried, “What if people think I am no good at my job?” To minimise the risk, you work long hours, but instead of helping you feel more confident, you end up feeling more stressed.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy teaches you to rethink your thinking and test predictions through specific homework tasks. You’ll learn strategies for spotting unhelpful bias in your thoughts, such as all-or-nothing or catastrophic thinking.
Why negative thoughts are unhelpful
Negative thoughts don’t just make you feel worse; they also impact your habits. Depending on your life experiences, you develop specific negative automatic thoughts or NATs, assumptions, rules and core beliefs. These thinking patterns influence your feelings and how you respond.
For example, if you grew up feeling lonely, you may suffer from Depression. Your mind may tell you, “it’s pointless doing anything because nothing makes me feel better.” Naturally, you isolate yourself and engage in little activity. The cycle keeps you stuck and sends you on a downward spiral of feeling low in mood.
By underestimating your ability to cope, your anxiety usually gets worse. The more you avoid, the worse you feel, and the more your mind can give you a hard time. Sometimes, loved ones don’t understand or feel frustrated. Their annoyance can make you feel worse, and you find yourself in a downward spiral of self-criticism and shame.
It’s not easy being human. We are capable of so much love and beauty. And, yet, we are far from perfect. We are flawed beings, and learning to handle negative thoughts can reset your life path towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.
What problems does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy treat?
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT, is widely recognised as one of the most effective psychotherapies, and it can help you with many different problems.
CBT is not a cure for all forms of pain and suffering. Therapy can help you significantly, especially if you suffer from chronic anxiety, Depression and low self-esteem.
However, some psychological problems require a different solution. If you are being bullied, abused or neglected, you will benefit from a change in your environment. No amount of therapy will change other people’s behaviour. However, if you want support problem-solving how to keep yourself safe, then a therapist can help you guide you.
What does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy do?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches you many different techniques, including:
- Ways to rethink or challenge your thinking
- Designing life experiments to help you get outside your comfort zone
- Engaging in activities that tackle your fears
- Building routines that give your life more meaning and fulfilment
Your therapist teaches you how to build better habits, think in new, more balanced ways and learn from setbacks.
How does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy work?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works by directly targeting problems with the way you think and the way you act. While negative thinking and behaviour patterns are understandable, especially when you link them to your earlier experiences, they may not help you to feel better.
CBT teaches you to worry less, be more accepting and less judgemental, and let go of self-limiting beliefs. When you modify your thinking, it can make it easier to change your habits.
However, you don’t have to change how you think to act differently. Often our minds convince us that we lack the confidence to do things, so we avoid them. The trouble is that you don’t get more confident by waiting or simply thinking positively. You gain confidence by experimenting with different activities and ways of interacting.
When you act differently, it can change the way you think. Many people, and early-career therapists, make this mistake. They put all their energy into changing thinking first and waiting to feel more relaxed, confident or motivated.
In many ways, when you focus solely on changing thinking, you put the cart before the horse. Life expands and improves when you move your feet, and a skilled CBT therapist will support you in making some small and significant behavioural changes from the beginning.
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy most commonly used for?
CBT is most commonly used for mental health problems, including anxiety, OCD, panic, trauma, Depression, low self-esteem and work-related stress.
How effective is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for anxiety?
CBT is an effective therapy for the treatment of anxiety problems. It has a vast evidence base and is widely regarded as the most effective treatment in the world. The NHS NICE Guidelines recommend Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for many anxiety problems.
It is roughly equally effective as EMDR, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). While they are not identical, these approaches use many similar techniques.
Our therapists often use a combination of therapeutic approaches, which makes it easy for you to decide who to work with or which approach to choose.
How effective is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Depression?
CBT is an effective treatment for mild, moderate and severe Depression. It is widely regarded as the most effective treatment for Depression worldwide. The NHS NICE Guidelines recommend Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Depression.
Is CBT better than antidepressants?
You may want to consider the use of medication. It is not effective for everyone. Many of the drug’s benefits are due to a placebo rather than the active ingredients. However, many people report feeling better from taking SSRIs (antidepressants).
There are dependency risks, and if you want to start or stop your medication, you should discuss it with your GP or Psychiatrist.
You can do CBT and take medication together, which may be the best option. CBT can be highly effective for Depression without the use of any medicine. Neither offers quick fixes, and medication will not address the causes or maintenance factors for your Depression.
CBT supports you while teaching vital skills to lift your mood and protect you from Depression returning in the future.
Who does CBT not work for?
If you are dealing with significant social or financial problems, it may not be the right time to do therapy. CBT can help you with many emotional difficulties, but you must have somewhere safe and secure to live.
Other therapeutic approaches may be more helpful if you simply want to talk about your present or past experiences. CBT works when you want to learn specific strategies to practise in your life. It’s about working together to create change.
Can CBT make anxiety worse?
Successful treatment for anxiety depends on a few different factors, including:
- A Good Relationship with your Therapist
- Learning relevant therapeutic interventions
- Practising techniques and changing routines in your life
Anxiety may get worse if one of these factors is missing. You will probably speak about difficult experiences and practice a new approach to therapy. Avoidance and emotional control tend to worsen anxiety, and CBT invites you to approach your fears. While you may expose yourself to more fear, it allows you to apply new techniques that help you handle your anxieties more effectively.
How long does CBT last for?
We do not place a time limit on therapy sessions because we prefer to work with you for as long as we need to do so.
It isn’t possible to say how many sessions you will need until you have attended a consultation and had several treatment sessions. A therapist would need to learn about your difficulties, determine how much it affects your life and work out what you want to accomplish. After several treatment sessions, you and your therapist will get a clearer idea of how many sessions you require.
Often it can vary from as little as six sessions to several years in therapy. On average, people usually come to therapy with us for approximately twenty sessions.