What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sees problems as coming from beliefs and behaviour patterns which you have learnt during your life.
The basic idea in cognitive therapy is that our emotional reactions and behaviours are strongly influenced by our cognitions (thoughts, beliefs and interpretations) about ourselves, events that happen or situations in which we find ourselves. So our emotions are affected by our interpretation of events rather than events themselves. In behavioural therapy the idea is that our behaviour (what we do) is crucial to maintaining, or changing, our state of mind. CBT brings these types of therapy together.
How does it work?
Whilst it can be important to understand how problems have arisen, CBT tends to focus on the here-and-now and practical ways of changing your state of mind now. For example, initial sessions may focus on breaking negative circles of thoughts and behaviours that have been keeping a problem going.
Later we may also look at underlying beliefs that may have made you vulnerable to particular problems. Altering these beliefs can help to reduce the risk of having similar problems in the future.
What to expect in therapy
CBT is collaborative in that you and your therapist work together on whatever is troubling you. It is not a treatment that can be done to you, rather something you do, with the help of your therapist. It tends to involve working between sessions on tasks like keeping notes of what happens, practising particular skills or trying out new ways of tackling problems. During sessions we tend to look at issues in detail, for example, exploring negative thoughts or working out possible new skills.
I usually suggest six to eight sessions to give time to see whether this approach is working for you, but you are free to stop therapy at any time. Depending on your needs and goals, you may have more sessions.
What does it help with?
CBT has been well researched and is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the treatment of choice for a wide range of difficulties including depression, anxiety, panic, obsessions and compulsions, trauma and many others. It has been found to be highly effective for a large number of people.