Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

TherapistFounder - Albert Ellis (1913-2007)

Cognitive (CBT) therapy is based on the assumption that human beings are born with a potential for both rational, or straight thinking and irrational, or crooked thinking.

CBT attempts to change the way in which a person thinks about life experiences, and it concentrates on finding ways to change negative or irrational thought patterns into more constructive ones.

These therapies usually concentrate on the client's present state of mind, and the underlying assumption is that emotional distress starts with negative or irrational thoughts about their circumstances or about themselves.

People have predispositions for self-preservation, happiness, thinking and verbalizing, loving, communication with others and growth and self-actualization. However, they also have propensities for self-destruction, avoidance of thought, endless repetition of mistakes, superstition, intolerance, perfectionism, self-blame and avoidance of growth potentials.

Taking for granted that humans are fallible, cognitive behaviour therapy attempts to help clients accept themselves as creatures who will continue to make mistakes, yet at the same time learn to live more at peace with themselves.

Behavioural therapies have an underlying assumption that behaviour that causes emotional distress is a learned behaviour pattern. Behaviour therapy attempts to teach the client new behaviour patterns which will beneficially cause a healthier emotional response.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has written a leaflet about CBT, click here to download it.

client information sheet

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that looks at your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviours.  Unhelpful thinking patterns can negatively affect your feelings and behaviours which can then develop into vicious cycles and serve to maintain problems in the here and now.

By making links between what we do, think and feel, CBT can help us make changes in the way we think ("Cognitive") and the way we act ("Behaviour)".  Making changes in what we think will affect what you do and feel, and changing what we do, affects the way we think and feel.

CBT recognises it is helpful to discuss the past and understand how our pasts have influenced our lives and how problems have arisen; CBT mostly focuses on looking for ways to improve your mental wellbeing now.  CBT says that it's not the event which causes our emotions, but our interpretation of the event - what we think or what meaning we attach to an event or situation.

CBT can help to break vicious cycles of negative thinking, feelings and behaviour. When you see the parts of the vicious cycle clearly, you can change them - and therefore change the way you feel.  It can also be helpful to look at the way our thoughts and feelings affect our bodies, and the physical sensations we can experience.

Who can use it?

CBT is well evidenced and thought to be one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression.  Unlike other talking therapies, CBT focuses on the problems and difficulties you have now, rather than issues from your past.  CBT does not ignore the past it is often important to understand how our pasts have influenced our lives and how problems have arisen however CBT mostly focuses on looking for ways to improve your mental wellbeing now.  CBT cannot remove your problems, but can help you to manage them differently.

How many sessions will it take?

CBT usually involves weekly or fortnightly sessions with a therapist.  It does not involve a fixed number of sessions and therefore can last from six weeks to six months.

What do I need to do to make CBT work for me?

Confronting depression, anxiety and other problems can be very difficult however your therapist will only work at a pace you are comfortable with.  During your sessions, your therapist should continue to check you are comfortable with the progress you’re making.  CBT requires between session homework which is a routine part of a CBT session, the idea of doing work between appointments is that in order for us to make changes in our lives we need to practice new ways of coping outside of sessions.