What is CBT?

What does it stand for?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It focuses on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and how these all interact, as well as how these are triggered by the environment and each other.

Some therapists are purely trained in CBT, while others integrate elements of CBT into their wider practice.

CBT has a good evidence base with a wide variety of mental health conditions and is therefore the treatment of choice for many organisations, including the NHS.

What can CBT help with?

As I mentioned above, CBT deals with thoughts, emotions and behaviours and therefore there are some very specific issues that CBT is suitable for. Issues that involve irrational thinking, for example.

The main problems that CBT is used for include anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, phobias, panic disorders, eating disorders, and problems relating to substance misuse, among others.

A common thread among these mental health conditions is distorted thinking. For example, those with OCD may whole-hardheartedly believe that if they don't turn the lights on and off three times, their light bulb will explode, or someone with a phobia of flying may be associating being in an aeroplane with the terrible illness they came down with while flying as a child.

CBT will help the client to disentangle these beliefs from one another, pull out the rational from the irrational beliefs, and help the client to understand how certain situations might be triggering panic attacks, bouts of depression, or relapses.

What is different about CBT?

CBT is different from other talking therapies in a small number of ways. One of the main ways is that it often focuses on the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem. For example, it might focus on the experience of a panic attack, why it is triggered by certain events, and so on rather than looking deeper at why the person suffers from anxiety at all. A different kind of talking therapy might look at early childhood to explore where the anxiety might have developed.

Another way that CBT is different is that clients are expected to complete 'homework'. An example of homework might include driving building up to driving during rush hour or on an overpass for someone who suffers from panic attacks while doing so. The client night start by being on the bus during a relatively busy time, them during rush hour, then being a passenger in the car during rush hour, then driving at a less busy time, then during during rush hour, and so on.

All of this would accompany the therapeutic sessions, in which the therapist and client will be working on the thought patterns and processes that cause the client to suffer from panic attacks.

In general, CBT is often a much more solution-focused approach in comparison to other forms of talking therapy. CBT is often quite active rather than reflective and exploratory - there can be quite a few activities within CBT sessions. Some CBT activities include thought diaries, activity schedules, mapping bodily sensations on a diagram, and so on.

CBT is often much shorter term than other forms of talking therapy. Very often the therapist and client will agree an end date during the first or second session and work towards that. This, and the evidence base behind it, are the reasons that CBT is the preferred treatment of choice for the NHS.

As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at amylaunder.counselling@gmail.com or head to 'Book an Appointment'.

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