Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is focused on the here and now and is based on psychological research . It looks in detail at the pattern of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and then teaches you ways of overcoming any problems. The aim of CBT is to break any negative cycles by teaching people to recognise their unhelpful beliefs and to change them to more balanced and realistic ones (not just positive thinking) and to modify any unhelpful behaviours that are helping to keep the cycle going. Research has shown CBT to be effective in many conditions and is recommended by the

National Institute for Clinical Excellance, NICE, in their Guidelines for the treatment of:

Anxiety and Worry








Cognitive: This is the way a person thinks, the meaning they attach to events and situations. If a person felt a change in their heart rate they may interpret it as a heart attack and impending death, which would lead to panic. Someone else may see it as evidence of a normal physical change and so remain calm. Another example would be the person who is criticised or makes an error who then sees it as another example of their failure and worthlessness. This would lead to feelings of depression. The person who perceives errors and criticism as inevitable as he is not perfect and not as a comment on him as a person will not suffer the same emotional reaction. These two examples show that a persons interpretation of an event play a significant role in how that person feels and reacts.

Behaviour: People behave in ways to make them feel safer based on their beliefs about a situation. If a persons beliefs are irrational then their behaviour can become counterproductive, helping to reinforce the negative cycle. The person with social anxiety will fear that they will be ridiculed so they monitor who they talk and behave leading to avoidance, which reinforces their beliefs that they are socially unacceptable. The person with depression will avoid doing things for fear of failure and withdraw from people as they believe they will be rejected. This will of course help to reinforce these beliefs.

Therapy: CBT has been shown through research to be helpful with a wide range of psychological and emotional problems. As already stated CBT works by teaching people to recognise their faulty thinking and behaviour and teach them how to change it.

People are taught to recognise the ABC pattern of A: Activating event, B: Beliefs and C: Consequences (feelings and behaviours). Beliefs are changed by firstly recognising the thinking errors and then looking at the concrete evidence to see what the reality is, and to consider alternative rational interpretations. The new healthy belief is then strengthened by further testing by experiment and experience.

People are also helped to notice unhelpful safety behaviours, which may reduce distress in the short term but help to maintain or worsen problems in the long term. Activity planning and goal setting is also important to help overcome beliefs of hopelessness and failure.

Finally CBT is an active and co-operative therapy. The therapist works together with the client to overcome their problems through experiment and discovery. This means that the client has homework to complete away from the session to continue this process. This is an essential part of the process.