Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

 

CBT is a model of counselling that works on the premise that thinking drives feelings which in turn drives behaviour. Using a set of structured techniques, CBT aims to identify thinking that causes painful feelings and behaviour patterns. The client then learns to change this thinking which, in turn, leads to more fulfilling behaviours.

CBT can help you to change how you think (“Cognitive”) and what you do (“Behaviour”). These changes can help you to feel better. CBT focuses on the “here and now” problems and difficulties. Instead of focussing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now.

 

Who can benefit from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

 

People who would benefit from CBT include those with the following specific, focused problems:

 

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Drug or alcohol problems
  • Other addictions, such as gambling
  • Eating disorders
  • Social phobia & other phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

 

How does CBT work?

 

CBT can help you to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. This makes it easier to see how they are connected and how they affect you. These parts are: 

 

  • A Situation - a problem, event or difficult situation

 

From this can follow:

 

  • Thoughts 
  • Emotions
  • Physical feelings
  • Actions

 

Each of these areas can affect the others. How you think about a problem can affect how you feel physically and emotionally. It can also alter what you do about it.

 

An example

There are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to most situations, depending on how you think about them.

 

Situation: You’ve had a bad day, feel fed up, so you go out shopping. As you walk down the road someone you know walks by and doesn’t acknowledge you.
Unhelpful Helpful
Thoughts: He/she ignored me – they don’t like me He/she looks a bit wrapped up in themselves – I wonder if there’s something wrong?
Emotional Feelings: Low, sad & rejected Care for the other person
Physical: Stomach cramps, low energy, feel sick None – feel comfortable
Actions: Go home and avoid them in future Make some contact and find out if they’re OK

 

The same situation has led to two very different results, depending on how you thought about the situation. How you think has affected how you felt and what you did.

 

In the example, in the left hand column, you’ve jumped to a conclusion without very much evidence for it – and this matters, because it  has led to:

 

  • a number of uncomfortable feelings
  • unhelpful behaviour

 

If you go home feeling depressed, you’ll probably brood on what has happened and feel worse. If you get in touch with the other person, there’s a good chance you’ll feel better about yourself. If you don’t, you won’t have the chance to correct any misunderstandings about what they think of you.

 

This “vicious circle” not only makes you feel worse, it  can even create new situations that make you feel worse. You can start to believe quite unrealistic (and unpleasant) things about yourself. This happens because, when we are distressed, we are more likely to jump to conclusions and to interpret things in extreme and unhelpful ways.

 

Aims of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

 

CBT can help you to break this vicious circle of altered thinking, feeling and behaviour. CBT aims to get you to a point where you can “do it yourself”and work out your own ways of tackling these problems.


CBT will provide insight and skills to improve your quality of life. The strength of CBT is that you can continue to practice and develop your skills even after the sessions have finished. This makes it less likely that your symptoms or problems will return.

 
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