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What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

CBT is a form of talking therapy that helps individuals cope with their problems, by altering their thoughts and behaviours. CBT is an effective treatment for several disorders such as anxiety, depression, and phobias. This treatment enables clients to identify and tackle discouraging thoughts and practice self-help strategies. These strategies aim to create positive changes for clients and improve their quality of life. CBT aims to demonstrate how our thoughts can impact our mood, and therefore help individuals change their mindset, and think more positively. 

How does CBT work? 

CBT is established on the idea that our emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations are interlinked and that negative thoughts and feelings can cause individuals to be caught in a negative cycle. During CBT sessions, clients will break down their problems into smaller segments, which will help them overcome these problems. CBT focuses on current issues faced by individuals, rather than problems from their past. In addition, CBT helps to identify practical techniques to change clients’ negative thinking styles. 

What can you expect from CBT sessions and a CBT therapist?

Clients usually have CBT sessions lasting between 30 to 60 minutes and ongoing between 6 and 20 sessions. During the first CBT session, the client and therapist will get to know each other and set expectations and goals for the upcoming CBT sessions. They both work collaboratively to separate their problems based on their thoughts, actions, and feelings. The client and therapist will examine each area, and establish how these areas impact one another. From this point, the therapist will help the client amend these unhelpful thoughts and actions, and request them to implement these changes in their lifestyle. The client will provide feedback to their therapist in the next session and update them with how they got on. Clients will be encouraged to implement the skills they have learned in their CBT sessions in their daily lives. This will allow them to manage their problems better, and prevent them from having a negative influence on their life. 

Who benefits from CBT?

Several individuals may benefit from CBT, such as those diagnosed with mental health disorders. These disorders include schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder), phobias, depression, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders. Moreover, individuals who face emotional challenges in their lives may also benefit from CBT. These challenges include: dealing with a medical illness, grief, overthinking, stress, trauma caused by abuse or domestic violence, addiction, and when medication is not effective for a mental health disorder. Furthermore, couples may also benefit from CBT. 

How does CBT help with overthinking?

Overthinking is when an individual constantly goes over the same thought in their mind and over analyses any situation. This can be problematic when it becomes difficult to stop these thoughts. As a result, those who constantly overthink may benefit from CBT. Challenging and amending negative thought patterns can help pinpoint any discouraging thoughts, which will eventually help break down the cycle of overthinking. For example, if an individual does not do well on a test they may think ‘’I will never get good grades because I am not smart enough’’. However, in CBT this thought can be challenged by clients asking themself ‘’Is this thought accurate?’’. The client may then realise that it would not be reasonable to question their intelligence based on one test. Therefore, this thought could be replaced with ‘’Grades do not define me, but I will make sure I revise thoroughly so I can do better next time’’. Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts can help individuals build a positive mindset. 

How can couples use CBT in their relationship?

Typical problems faced by couples include communication problems, being controlled, or a partner diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. CBT can help couples overcome these problems by first setting goals for each other and addressing their triggers and expectations of each other. The therapist can help the couple identify situations that caused the triggers, and discuss why they feel like that. This potentially helps the couple change their perspective on the situation, which could help them have a conversation calmly. The CBT therapist also helps the couple address any negative feelings and unhelpful thoughts about each other, and advises them to challenge these thoughts. For example, an individual may not seem to be in a good mood, and their partner may assume that their mood is associated with them. However, a CBT therapist can help by questioning the accuracy of this thought, which may make the partner realise that their partner’s bad mood might not have anything to do with them. This helps the partner to reframe this thought with a positive thought. 

How does CBT help with LGBTQ+-related issues?

Research suggests that those who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to report mental health issues such as suicidal feelings, depression, low self-esteem, and social anxiety. For instance, these individuals may feel anxious about opening up, or have a fear of rejection and being judged by others. As a result, CBT can help overcome these issues. For example, breaking down the negative thoughts and emotions associated with sexual identity. CBT can also establish the thoughts and emotions linked to emotional difficulties, such as managing the traumatic experience of ‘opening up’. Furthermore, CBT can help to identify any unhelpful thoughts and reframe them with positive thoughts. 

How does CBT help with addiction?

CBT is an effective intervention for the recovery of addiction, such as alcohol and drug addictions, as well as behavioural addictions. These addictions are aggravated by dysfunctional thought patterns and can have an impact on an individual's lifestyle choices. Disruptive thought patterns and beliefs can cause individuals to doubt their capabilities to recover. However, a CBT therapist can help individuals struggling with addiction by changing their thought patterns, before their behaviour. They can also help identify the negative thoughts and beliefs, which contribute to their behavioural or substance addiction. By identifying the negative thought patterns, a therapist can focus on a particular area of treatment. A CBT therapist can help these individuals replace their negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This will then break the cycle of negative thought patterns which lead to addiction.

Who does not benefit from CBT?

Although CBT is an effective treatment for several mental health disorders, it may not be beneficial for certain individuals. For instance, individuals with complex needs or learning difficulties, such as autism might not benefit from CBT. This is because CBT involves confronting your feelings, which could be an uncomfortable experience for some individuals. Furthermore, CBT focuses on current problems faced by clients, rather than problems that have occurred in the past. As a result, CBT may not be suitable for individuals who are emotionally impacted by experiences from their past.