What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a 'doing' and talking therapy. It is based on the idea that how we feel is affected by our thoughts (cognitions) and beliefs about ourselves and other people, and by how we behave.

CBT involves helping people to see how their thoughts and behaviour relate to the way they feel and how this might contribute to their problems. 

For example, a person may become depressed because of a break up in their relationship or stress at work. Once depressed, they may have negative thoughts such as 'I'm a failure', 'It’s all my fault', 'Things always go wrong for me', which can make them more depressed and can lead to negative behaviour such as no longer doing things they usually find pleasurable.

Thinking, behaving and feeling this way may start a downward spiral. CBT cuts into this by encouraging people to start doing activities they enjoy. It also helps them to notice specific patterns in their thinking and how this affects what they do, and identify whether there are different ways to look at things that might make life easier for them.

Sometimes CBT focuses more on helping people to change their behaviour.

For example, a person who is anxious about being in a crowd might start to avoid using the local supermarket. In the short term, this stops them having to worry about seeing lots of people, but it can lead to more and more avoidance. Eventually they may find themselves unable to go out at all. 

CBT encourages them to start to face up to situations that they fear, gives them ideas about how to cope better and gradually gives them back their confidence about going out.

When does CBT help?

CBT is recommended for panic, agoraphobia, social phobia, specific phobias, generalised anxiety disorder, health anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression - mild to severe.

CBT can also help if you have difficulties with anger, low self-esteem or physical health problems, like pain or fatigue.

How does it work?

CBT is a structured approach with an 'agenda' for each session. It focuses mainly on the 'here and now', and goals that are agreed between you and your therapist.

It involves planning and doing practical exercises and experiments with your therapist and carrying these out together or as homework between sessions. CBT encourages people to engage in activities and to write down their thoughts and problems for discussion during therapy.

CBT can also involve problem solving and learning how to deal with worry or difficult memories.

CBT can be offered in regular face-to-face meetings with a therapist or over the telephone. Some people work individually; others in groups. Some people find that they benefit from using books or handout materials to apply the therapy for themselves, with support from a trained worker.

All of these approaches work, and all are used by Inclusion Matters Wirral.

Working together 

One of the most important features of CBT is that it involves you and your therapist working together as a team.

This means your therapist will try to be as straightforward as possible about what they are doing and invite you to make an active contribution to your own therapy. The idea is that as time goes by you will learn more about yourself and can apply the things that your are learning.

CBT aims to get you to a point where you can 'do it yourself' (act as your own therapist), and work out your own ways of tackling these problems.
 

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Download additional information on CBT

The guide (right) provides more information on CBT and what you can expect from your CBT Practitioner at Inclusion Matters Wirral - including;

  • Starting off
  • Getting a picture of your problems
  • Explaining how CBT might work for you
  • Sharing ideas about the treatment plan
  • Length of treatment
  • Working together
  • Structured sessions
  • Keeping written records
  • Homework or practice assignments
  • Ending the therapy

CBT information video from NHS Choices

A cognitive behaviour therapy expert explains how this psychological treatment works and who could benefit from it.

Laurie's Story

Laurie's depression started when his son died and eventually meant he had to resign from his job. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helped him to cope with day-to-day life.

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