What is CBT?

  • Research evidence endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) indicates that CBT works effectively in treating depression and anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, health anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, chronic pain, long term medical conditions, chronic fatigue, insomnia and many others.

    You may have come across this type of popular and accessible therapy before but not sure what it entails and whether it can help you.

    CBT looks at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we feel and act.  When we feel low or anxious we may think or behave in an unhelpful way which exacerbates the intensity of our feelings and we are more likely to feel worse as the result of our thinking and behaviour.  Therefore, changing the way we think and behave can have a positive effect on our mood.

    CBT therapists help clients to identify unhelpful thoughts by asking them what is going through their minds. Many people are more likely to be aware of their mood and what is happening in their bodies (physical symptoms) as opposed to what they are thinking, whilst others are not attuned to their bodies but can capture their thoughts and feelings. CBT teaches clients to understand triggers and how thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms and behaviours interact with each other.

    Another helpful thing to know is that CBT tends to focus on “the here and now” instead of looking at your past.  However, it is useful to make links between the past and present to help clients understand why they formed certain beliefs. For example, if you have been growing up with a critical parent or have been bullied at school, it is understandable that you may have a core belief: I am not good enough.

    From my clinical experience, clients like the CBT because it is practical and collaborative in reaching therapeutic goals. CBT involves homework assignments between sessions to maximise the effectiveness of therapy. For example, your therapist may ask you to keep a diary or do a behavioural experiment such as asking you to test your anxious predictions about something you feel afraid to do.

    The ultimate aim of CBT is to teach you how to become your own CBT therapist, so you can work out your own strategies for tackling problems.  This is understandably empowering and is designed to give clients control over their difficulties. You can find free CBT resources online; I recommend you visit: getselfhelp.co.uk Furthermore, CBT-based self-help books are available to purchase or borrow from your library.

    It is useful to know that CBT can be used in conjunction with anti-depressant medications, which has been prescribed by your GP. I work with many clients who find both modes of treatment very helpful.

    If you feel that CBT may be helpful for you, do not hesitate to discuss it with your GP who can refer you or you can also self-refer. Before starting CBT, I would like to recommend that you check that your therapist is accredited by the British Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (BABCP). You can find details of all CBT therapists accredited by BABCP online at www.cbtregisteruk.com