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What is CBT?

  • CBT is a psychological approach which research has shown to be effective for a wide range of problems. For example:
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Eating Problems
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress
  • Phobias
  • CBT is currently the psychological therapy of choice within the National Health Service for a number of common mental health conditions.
    Click here for NICE guidelines web link

  • CBT is the commonly abbreviated term for Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy (CBP), which is aimed at helping people who are experiencing emotional difficulties or distress.

  • CBT is unlike some of the other types of 'talking treatments' because it focuses mainly on the 'here and now' symptoms, distress and difficulties. It looks for ways to improve your state of mind and how you function now, instead of focusing on the past for possible causes of your problems.

  • CBT is an active therapy, depending on the client and therapist working together, identifying and agreeing upon goals and working towards agreed targets of treatment.

  • With CBT, coping strategies are learnt, allowing more effective management of problems and consequently more efficient and satisfying day to day functioning.

  • CBT helps you to understand how you think about yourself, the world and other people. It also gets you to see how what you do affects your thoughts and feelings, just as how you feel and what you are thinking about has an impact on what you do.
    An example is shown below.

  • CBT teaches you to change unhelpful aspects of how you think ('cognitive') and what you do ('behaviour'). These changes can help you to feel better.

What does CBT involve?

  • CBT can help you to make sense of what may seem like overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts or areas:
  1. Situation (i.e. a problem, event or challenging environment)
  2. Thoughts
  3. Emotions
  4. Physical feelings
  5. Behaviour/Action

This helps you to see how they are connected and how they affect you.

Each of these five areas can affect any one, many or all of the other areas and affect how you feel physically and emotionally.
Click here for diagram to demonstrate '5 areas'

An Example of CBT 

How you think about a problem can affect how you feel (physically and emotionally) and what you do about it.

The example shown below should help you understand better how there are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to most situations, depending on how you think about them:

1.Situation

You have had a busy week at work and feel tired, when you receive a text message from a friend cancelling the cinema arrangements for that evening.

 

HELPFUL

UNHELPFUL

2.Thoughts

'It's unlike my friend to let me down at the last minute like that. They might be having some problems. It was probably difficult for them to phone and explain why they'd had to cancel.

'They don't like me. They must not care about me to send such a blunt text.'

3.Emotional Feelings

Concerned

Rejected, sad

4.Physical Feelings

None - feel comfortable

Low energy, feel sick, stomach cramps

5.Action/Behaviour

Get in touch to make sure they are okay and make new plans to go out.

Go home and avoid friend.

In the example in the right hand column, the unhelpful thinking style has resulted in a jump to conclusions, without very much evidence to back them up - and this is important, because it has led to:

  • uncomfortable feelings
  • unhelpful actions/ behaviour

The unhelpful actions/behaviours will probably result in the person brooding on what has happened and keeping bad feelings going, since there has not been a chance to find out the truth and correct any misunderstandings about the situation.

This pattern of connections can lead to a 'vicious circle' that can continue feelings of rejection and sadness and even create new situations that worsen feelings.

In the example in the middle column, the more helpful thinking style has allowed more rational, objective thinking about the situation and this has led to:

  • Feelings that are more comfortable, less self-focussed and not at all distressing
  • Constructive and helpful behaviours/action

The more helpful actions/ behaviour mean that there is a greater likelihood of finding out what really has happened. Therefore, there is a very good chance of more positive thinking about the situation, that in turn leads on to the planning of another social event.