Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: CBT
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: CBT

  • Sunday, 26 April 2009 00:04
  • Last Updated Friday, 08 May 2009 01:00

What is CBT?

It is a way of talking about:

  • How you think about yourself, the world and other people
  • How what you do affects your thoughts and feelings.

CBT can help you to change how you think (" Cognitive") and what you do ("Behaviour)". These changes can help you to feel better. Unlike some of the other talking treatments, it focuses on the "here and now" problems and difficulties. Instead of focussing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now.

It has been found to be helpful in:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Agoraphobia and other phobias
  • Social phobia
  • Bulimia
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia

How does it work?

CBT can help you to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. This makes it easier to see how they are connected and how they affect you. These parts are:

A Situation - a problem, event or difficult situation
From this can follow:

  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Physical feelings
  • Actions

Each of these areas can affect the others. How you think about a problem can affect how you feel physically and emotionally. It can also alter what you do about it.

For example. There are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to most situations, depending on how you think about them:

Situation: You've had a bad day, feel fed up, so go out shopping. As you walk down the road, someone you know walks by and, apparently, ignores you.

  • Unhelpful thoughts: He/she ignored me - they don't like me
  • Helpful thoughts: He/she looks a bit wrapped up in themselves - I wonder if there's something wrong?
  • Unhelpful emotional feeling: Low, sad and rejected
  • Helpful emotional feeling: Concerned for the other person
  • Unhelpful physical feeling: Stomach cramps, low energy, feel sick
  • Helpful physical feeling: None - feel comfortable
  • Unhelpful action: Go home and avoid them
  • Helpful action: Get in touch to make sure they're OK

The same situation has led to two very different results, depending on how you thought about the situation. How you think has affected how you felt and what you did.

If you go home feeling depressed, you'll probably brood on what has happened and feel worse. If you get in touch with the other person, there's a good chance you'll feel better about yourself. If you don't, you won't have the chance to correct any misunderstandings about what they think of you - and you will probably feel worse.

What does CBT involve?

The sessions
CBT can be done individually or with a group of people. It can also be done from a selfhelp book or computer programme. In England and Wales two computer-based programmes have been approved for use by the NHS. Fear Fighter is for people with phobias or panic attacks, Beating the Blues is for people with mild to moderate depression.

If you have individual therapy:

You will usually meet with a therapist for between 5 and 20, weekly, or fortnightly, sessions. Each session will last between 30 and 60 minutes.

How effective is CBT?

  • It is one of the most effective treatments for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem
  • It is the most effective psychological treatment for moderate and severe depression
  • It is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression

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