Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT is a short-term form of ‘talking’ therapy which aims to change the way you think and ultimately behave. It is widely considered a beneficial and effective method of therapy for a number of mental health related illness’.
CBT is also usually the first, and possibly the only step in helping to fix a problem of mental health. Before prescribing medication for depression or anxiety, for example, a doctor will usually suggest CBT. Medication may still be prescribed if needed after treatment, but CBT aims to resolve any disorder so that medication is not a necessary step.
For a very simple and helpful explanation of CBT, follow this link:
What can CBT help with?
CBT is usually suggested as a form of therapy (according to the NHS) for such problems as:
- Severe Anxiety
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Insomnia (and other sleep related disorders)
- Eating Disorders
- Addiction – alcohol, drugs, gambling etc.
In addition, CBT also helps people with long-term illness’ cope with their symptoms, but cannot cure them altogether. Examples of these are:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Crones Disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
How does CBT work?
CBT is different to a lot of other therapies, which tend to be subjective and circular. CBT is short-term and deal with current problems; these current problems may have been around for a while but this type of therapy does not delve into problems of the past, unless relevant, like other forms might do.
CBT aims to completely change a person’s process of negative thoughts and feelings, and shift their way of thinking into one of positivity through breaking down an overall theme which affects them into smaller and smaller thoughts to decipher causes.
The overall goal is to change your current situation and daily thoughts to help you overcome and disorders or mental health problems.
What happens in a CBT session?
Once referred by a doctor, your sessions will start. Usually, according to the NHS, people receive between 5-20 sessions which occur 1-2 times a week or even once every two-weeks.
During your session, the therapist will work with you to to first identify, then dissociate what is believed by the paitent to be the initial problem, for example: my partner left me, from all the underlying, ‘automatic’ thoughts that go with that and feed into ones particular disorder:
‘They don’t care about me , I’m not worthy of love, I must be unattractive, I must be a bad person’, and so on…
This is achieved through ‘thought tracking’. The patient is asked to keep track of the negative automatic thoughts daily, as these thoughts are never usually considered when trying to deal with the overall problem. The automatic thoughts are the ones which aren’t dealt with as well, because they are rarely questioned. Bringing these to the surface enables the therapist to help the patient get to the root of the problem by working downwards, as shown above.
Once these are discovered and discussed, you will work with your therapist who will help you deal with the problem(s) by advising you on what can be changed and how to change your unhelpful, negative thoughts in your day-to-day life. Next, you will put these into practice in your everyday routine, whilst still attending sessions for discussion on your progression updates or what you are still struggling with.
When it has been determined, you feel comfortable, you will continue to practice the methods as advised by your therapist into your lifestyle – and the goal is that the thoughts and feelings that had manifested themselves into a larger problem will cease to have a negative impact on your life anymore!
The sessions usually emphasise the team effort between the patient and the therapist, rather than it being and expert-telling-patient approach – the latter can be unhelpful and put people off seeking help!
Advantages and Disadvantages of CBT
Pros of CBT:
- Alternative to medicine, at least initially.
- It can help to work alongside any medication you are already on for the problem.
- Speed up the recovery period or process of healing of any given disorder
- The structure of CBT sees success in many different formats; single sessions, group sessions, verbal or written form.
- The methods learned can help you or other around you overcome any future complications – it is rare that CBT would have to be repeated.
Cons of CBT:
- It takes a level of commitment – you will have to set aside time for the sessions and the though tracking ‘homework’.
- It may make you uncomfortable at times – some of the questions/discussion may spark feelings of emotion and anxiety.
- Critics have highlighted that because CBT only focuses on current problems, it may miss vital underlying problems which date back as far as childhood.
Where to find a CBT therapist
Going through your local GP may prove the easiest option. They can discuss with you face-to-face at length the process and give their expert advice on whether it is the right treatment for you. This is also free on the NHS.
Alternatively, you can choose to pay to go privately to speed up the process. Your GP can also help you with this, they may be able to suggest any local therapists.
Refer to a register of all accredited therapists in the UK as determined by the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP).