WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT is a collaborative therapy that helps the individual to change unhelpful or negative thinking, beliefs and behaviour in order to improve areas in their life and cope more effectively.

CBT is a combination of cognitive (thinking) and behavioural therapies. It is based on the theory that our feelings, thoughts and behaviour are connected and can affect one another. For instance, if we think negatively about our self or our situation, it will affect how we feel about our self (we may feel low in mood or lose our confidence), how we behave (we may start to avoid doing things we used to enjoy) and in the long term, our self beliefs. CBT is aimed at breaking the vicious cycle that one can find they are trapped in, through the use of structured therapeutic techniques. The client and the therapist at the beginning agree on the goal(s) that they want to focus on during therapy sessions and they outline steps towards achieving positive change.

CBT is evidence-based and proven through research to be effective for treating psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD or chronic worry), insomnia/sleep problems, phobias, OCD, habits (e.g. facial tics, hair pulling/skin picking (trichotillomania), anger, low self-esteem, social anxiety/shyness, stress, eating disorders, weight loss management, body dysmorphic disorder, adjustment issues, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), health anxiety, pain management, chronic fatigue syndrome/ME, drug and alcohol abuse etc.

Because CBT is a structured therapy, it can be wrongly assumed that it is impersonal, directive and often too brief to focus on underlying issues. Rather, the client is seen as the expert as they have the most experience on the problems that they bring to therapy.

It is collaborative in that the therapist does not ‘teach’ the client what to do but helps the client build on past strengths, and gain the confidence to solve current or future problems by using new techniques. The CBT sessions are tailored to the individual’s problems therefore the sessions can be brief or long-term, depending on the nature and complexity of the issues. The client is respected, accepted and treated as a unique individual by the CBT therapist.

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