Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It's most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.
How CBT works
CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. You're shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel. Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.
Uses for CBT
CBT has been shown to be an effective way of treating a number of different mental health conditions. In addition to depression or anxiety disorders, CBT can also help people with:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD);
- Panic disorder;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Eating disorders – such as anorexia and bulimia;
- Sleep problems – such as insomnia; and
- Problems related to alcohol misuse.
What happens during CBT sessions?
If CBT is recommended, patients typically have weekly/fortnightly sessions with a therapist. The course of treatment usually includes between 5 and 20 sessions, with each session lasting 30-60 minutes. During the sessions, patients work with their therapist to break down their problems into their separate parts – being thoughts, physical feelings and actions. These areas are then analysed to work out whether they unrealistic or unhelpful and to determine the effect they have on each other as well as on the patient. The therapist will then be able to help the patient change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, and practice effecting such changes in daily life. The eventual aim of therapy is to teach patients to apply the skills they've learnt during treatment to their daily lives, helping them to manage their problems and stopping said problems from having a negative impact on their lives – even after the course of treatment finishes.