Cognitive BehaviouralTherapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy. It helps you manage problems by helping you recognise how your thoughts can affect your feelings and behaviour. CBT combines a cognitive approach (examining your thoughts) with a behavioural approach (the things you do). It aims to break overwhelming problems down into smaller parts, making them easier to manage.

Living with a mental health condition can be difficult. While the topic of mental health and the importance of speaking up is becoming normalised, stigma still exists and this can make it difficult to know where to turn for support. If you're not comfortable talking to friends or family, you may want to speak to a professional - like a doctor or counsellor.

What is CBT?
CBT combines two approaches for a practical and solution-focused therapy.

The idea behind CBT is that our thoughts and behaviours influence each other. The premise is that, by changing the way we think or behave in a situation, we can change the way we feel about life. The therapy examines learnt behaviours, habits and negative thought patterns with the view of adapting and turning them into a positive.

Unlike some other therapies, CBT is rooted in the present and looks to the future. While past events and experiences are considered during the sessions, the focus is more on current concerns. During a CBT session, your therapist will help you understand any negative thought patterns you have. You will learn how they affect you and most importantly, what can be done to change them.

This type of therapy is particularly helpful for those with specific issues. This is because it is very practical (rather than insight-based) and looks at solving the problem. Some of the people that may benefit from CBT include:

Those with depression and/or anxiety.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Those with an eating disorder.
People who have an addiction.
People who are experiencing sleeping problems, such as insomnia.
People who have a fear or phobia.
Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Those who want to change their behaviour.
In some cases, CBT is used for people with long-standing health problems, such as chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While the therapy cannot cure physical illness, it can help people cope better with the symptoms and lower stress levels.

CBT has become one of the most popular forms of talk therapy and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for common mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety. During the treatment, your therapist will work with you to help you focus on the "here and now". They will help you recognise how past events may have shaped your thinking and behaviours, teaching you how to not only adapt your thoughts but manage them.

Being committed and doing the assignments set for you is an integral part of CBT. While the sessions offer support and space to explore your concerns, it is the work you do outside of your sessions that is likely to have the most impact. By staying focused and completing assignments, you will help yourself progress quicker. This way you will hopefully start to develop a stronger sense of self-confidence and self-belief.

Counsellor Marian Hanson explains CBT in this short video: