Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or "CBT" is a psychological approach or "talking therapy" that can help with a wide range of emotional issues and mental health problems. CBT is a proven evidence based treatment that focuses on the here and now although some reference maybe made to the past in order to understand how problems may have developed and what triggers them. However, the main focus of treatment is on learning to identify and challenge negative thought patterns or beliefs that are no longer helpful to you. Therapy may also involve exploring more practical ways of helping you deal differently with day to day situations and develop new coping strategies that are more effective or helpful to you.
CBT offers a structured, open and collaborative approach. Following assessment of your difficulties an agreed problem list with goals will be set and reviewed through out therapy. The focus of treatment is not just what is discussed in the session but also what happens outside therapy. Clients are expected to gather information and practice new skills or techniques out with sessions as part of the "homework" tasks. The skills and knowledge gained in therapy will not only help with current difficulties but can equip clients to deal with similar problems should they arise again in the future.
CBT can be used to treat a variety of problems and is known to be particularly effective in the treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders such as OCD, Phobias, Health Anxiety, Social Anxiety and Panic Disorders. It is also the approach used to treat PTSD and Eating Disorders and can also help with other issues such as relationship difficulties, work related stress, low self esteem or lack of self confidence.
CBT focuses on the way you think about yourself , the world and other people. Your behaviour or actions also affects your thoughts and feelings. This model shows how our thoughts (cognitions), behaviour, feelings (mood) are all inter related. How we interpret a situation has an impact on how we think, feel, behave and on our physical well being. An example that is often used to illustrate this is imagining that your neighbour passed by you on the street but did not acknowledge you. What would be your immediate response? You may think that they deliberately ignored you because they don't like you (cognitions) in which case this may then lead to feelings of being down, sad and rejected. Physically you may feel tired, low energy and sick. Your actions may change in that you may then try to avoid that neighbour in the future which in turn may reinforce ideas and thoughts that the neighbours dislikes me.
If however, you interpreted this situation in a different way you might have quite a different experience. For example if you thought the neighbour hadn't seen you and looked preoccupied then you may not feel sad or upset but more concerned or curious about what was wrong with them. You may notice little by way of physical symptoms and may in the future behave in a way where you go out your way to try and speak to them and ask them how they are. This example shows how we think has a strong impact on the way we feel about ourselves and our situation. Our thinking can also be influenced by previous negative experiences or events in our life. Its important to recognise this and CBT can teach you to be aware of how certain negative patterns or cycles can maintain the problem and make you feel worse. It will teach you the skills to break out of these unhelpful cycles and assist you in developing more adaptive ways to manage situations that work more effectively for you. CBT however, is not a quick fix as a certain level of motivation is required and new skills need to be practiced. However, with the right amount of commitment to therapy then CBT can have a lasting positive impact on your life forever.