What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?

Cognitive Behaviour therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy which explores how a person’s cognitive processes (thoughts, beliefs and attitudes) can affect how we feel (emotions) and behave. The aim is to identify any unhelpful thinking or behavioural patterns and to look at alternatives, which will then in turn, change how we feel about the problem.

What can CBT help with?

CBT has a large evidence base and is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for treating a range of problems such as:

  • Anxiety: including panic attacks, social anxiety, stress and phobias
  • Depression
  • Chronic physical conditions: including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and diabetes
  • Psychosis
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Trauma: including post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Difficulties managing emotions

CBT does not claim to be able to cure all of the problems listed. For example, chronic pain or disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Rather, CBT might help someone with psychosis, to find new ways of coping and having a fulfilling life alongside those disorders.

How CBT works

CBT usually consists of around 12-16 sessions, although this will depend on a variety of factors. Some people may not need this many, others may need a few more. Your therapist will help you to identify goals that you want to achieve, work towards understanding what is causing and maintaining the problem and identify alternatives. Each session is structured with an agenda of what will be discussed in the session. Work to be completed between each session is a large part of CBT in order to help you make changes in your life. This might involve completing thought diaries and practising new skills and techniques learnt in the sessions. These will then be reviewed in the sessions.