What is cognitive behavioural therapy – or CBT as it’s commonly known? It is a form of psychotherapy developed in the ’60s by Dr Aaron Beck, initially for the treatment of depression but research has shown over the years that it is effective for many areas of mental health and psychological wellbeing.
A lot of people think that CBT is ‘just’ about turning negative thoughts into positive thoughts. In actual fact, this element is just one part of a complex but often life-changing therapy process.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is about understanding the patterns we can find ourselves in – and reversing them. It is a practical type of therapy, which helps you to manage your problems by changing the way you think, feel and behave.
It is also a goal-focused and collaborative therapy. This means that you work with a therapist to understand the unhelpful patterns that you find yourself in. You work towards establishing more helpful patterns of thinking in order to improve your quality of life.
A key concept is that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviours are all interconnected and can trap you into a vicious cycle. CBT helps you to break this cycle and to deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way.
CBT focuses on improving things in the here and now. It doesn’t focus too much on issues from your past, although sometimes our current difficulties do stem from previous events, which then need to be discussed.
Below is a diagram of what’s called the CBT Model – developed by American psychiatrist Dr Aaron Beck
Think about a recent problem you have experienced and then consider the above model, what were your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how helpful were they?
Now take a moment to consider what you are like when you are at your very best without fear or anxiety and now consider the model again does it look different?
Importantly, CBT is grounded in a huge amount of science and research. This means that the techniques used by your therapist have been tried and tested.
CBT therapists, like myself, are highly trained and well equipped to work with clients who have the full range of anxiety disorders, mood difficulties and many other psychological issues. Sessions are more active generally compared with other types of therapies. This is because the therapeutic relationship is based on the individual being an expert in their experiences and the therapist being an expert in CBT and bringing these two elements together to solve problems and move forwards. It’s very collaborative and we work together to help you reach your therapeutic goal.
CBT sessions contain a lot of education about how the mind works, psychology and different areas of mental health. Ultimately CBT therapy will help you to learn and develop the knowledge and skills needed to become your own therapist and make changes for life.
If CBT therapy is something you are considering then it’s useful to get more information a good starting point can be The CBT Journal its an educational tool to help you understand more about CBT and how our thinking impacts how we feel and what we do, the practice journaling is a great place to start to become more aware of your mind, with awareness comes the ability to make different choices about how we think, feel and what we do and then make changes for the better all good CBT begins with creating awareness.
What’s your next step?
Have a read of this blog which will help you choose the right therapist for you – How to Choose a CBT therapist