What is CBT, and how does it work?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that focuses on identifying and improving the way we think (our cognitions) and the way we act (our behaviours). The theory being that how we think about and react to something has a large influence on how we feel emotionally.

Certain events and experiences will have a natural human emotional reaction of sadness, anger, anxiety etc. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy doesn’t look at these things, but instead looks at situations when our reactions are illogical.

How does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy work?

CBT is a teaching style of therapy. The focus is on helping you to better understand what is going on and why, and then teach you scientifically proven strategies for overcoming your symptoms or problems. In a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy session, your therapist will be an active participant, they will ask questions, share knowledge, and teach you useful techniques.

CBT is a change-based therapy which will help you to break vicious and unhelpful cycles. As part of this there is typically tasks or experiments that are set to be completed between the sessions to further the learning and progress.

Does CBT look at the past?

It’s regularly spoken about that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on the here and now. A common misconception with this is that it’s assumed this means that CBT ignores the past, and this is not the case. A lot of how we think and act in the here and now is influenced by our earlier life and previous experiences. This is something that nearly all types of therapy agree on.

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy differs is that it only explores the past to help make better sense of the here and now, and only when it’s relevant to the current problem an individual seeking treatment for. As a CBT therapist, I don’t just work on the surface, I address the root of the problem.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy used for?

CBT is used for a wide range of problems and symptoms. It has been shown to be highly effective for Depression, Panic attacks, Agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, Health Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Phobias.

But Cognitive Behavioural Therapy isn’t just for these mental health disorders. CBT is beneficial for several common emotional issues such as stress, setting boundaries, jealousy, worry, anger, low self-confidence, and burnout. All these issues have a common theme – irrational thinking or overthinking, and irrational behaviour – exactly the things that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is set up to deal with.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy NHS versus CBT Privately

In NHS services CBT can only be offered when a person is suffering from symptoms that meet the clinical diagnosis for a mental health disorder. This is quite different from in private practice when we have the freedom to work with any symptoms that CBT techniques would be useful for. This means that several people who would be declined NHS support but are still suffering can get their needs met in private practice.

In my private practice I regularly work with people who are classified as high functioning. Therapy isn’t just for people who are ‘ill’. There are many successful professionals that recognise they are not enjoying life in the way they would like or are feeling stressed or exhausted and seek out therapy privately.