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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

What is CBT?

CBT is a widely based researched therapy. It is a form of psychotherapy which combines cognitive and behavioural therapies. It helps individuals become aware of their distorted thinking patterns (cognitive element) and challenges them, in turn changing how they think, and feel. The behavioural aspect examines the relationship between our behaviours and thoughts. Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behaviours. Therefore, negative thoughts creates negative emotions which can make us engage in unhelpful and destructive behaviour.

CBT is a way of talking about:

How you think about yourself, the world and other people
How your actions affect your thoughts and feelings

What does CBT look like in practice?

Cognitive behavioural therapy differs from most other types of psychotherapy in several key ways:

  • It is practical: CBT looks at specific issues and engages the client through exploration/homework to make changes in their thinking and behaviour.
  • Sessions are structured: Rather than talking freely about your life, you and the therapist will agree on a specific problem and set goals for you to work towards.
  • CBT focuses on the present issue: Instead of trying to explore and resolve past experiences, CBT focuses mainly on how you think and act in the present.
  • CBT is a collaborative therapy: You work with your therapist to find ways of managing your current difficulties. Your therapist will not tell you want to do.

In CBT you will meet with a therapist for a number of weeks. On the initial session the therapist will be assessing if CBT is suitable to best meet your needs. Once agreed that this is the best fit for your issues, the therapist will begin to break each problem down into its separate parts. Your therapist may ask you to complete a weekly diary to help identify your personal patterns of thoughts, emotions, bodily feelings and actions to help with this process. The diary is a tool to help you and your therapist identify your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The therapist will use this information to work out if they are unrealistic or unhelpful and how they affect each other and you. Working together you will identify what you can change, here your therapist will introduce “homework” or other practical exercises to facilitate the changing process outside the therapeutic room. This may look like:

  • Questioning upsetting thoughts and replacing them with more helpful ones
  • Recognising when you are going to do something that will make you feel worse and instead doing something more helpful.
  • It is important to remember that the therapist cannot force you to do things that you do not want to. You decide the pace of the treatment.