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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Definition of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a structured form of talking therapy. It has shown to be effective for a wide range of problems, particularly helping people who suffer from mild to moderate depression and anxiety based disorders. It is recommended by the Department of Health and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

CBT is a form of therapy that aims to address how your problems are affecting you in the here-and-now. It involves developing an understanding as to how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact with each other in the development and maintenance of your problems. So for example, when people are depressed they are more likely to view aspects of their life in a negative way. This negative viewpoint can lead them to feeling worse, and changing their behaviour, in an attempt to make them feel better or prevent feeling worse.

However these changes of behaviour may actually reinforce or worsen their problems (e.g. drinking excessively to try to make a person feel better can actually result in the person feeling worse). Once we have developed an understanding as to how our thoughts and behaviours are maintaining our distress, CBT aims to help find alternative, more constructive ways of thinking about particular situations and issues. It also helps us to look at our behaviour and where appropriate, change our behavioural patterns so that we do not find ourselves going round in circles that worsen our problems.

What can I expect?

The team provides face-to-face CBT in GP surgeries and other venues. This means that appointments can be arranged in as convenient a location for you as possible, although we have limited availability in some areas. Therapy takes place on a weekly, fortnightly or less frequent basis as necessary. At the outset your therapist will discuss with you how many appointments they think are likely to be needed to address your presenting issues. The Steps to Wellbeing Services offer CBT as a time limited therapy, usually 10-12 sessions.

When you first meet your therapist they will ask you questions about your current problems and the impact they are having on your life. In particular they will be focusing on the links between situations, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. They will also ask you about your goals for therapy and what they hope to be able to help you with.

A key part of therapy is for you and your therapist to develop a shared understanding of your problems. This shared understanding is then used to form a treatment plan to help you alleviate your distress and achieve your goals. The two key areas your therapist will work on with you are:

a) to help recognise and modify unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs and

b) to recognise and change unhelpful behavioural patterns.

CBT is a very collaborative process and requires you to work hard to overcome your issues. Similarly to physiotherapy, where you may be given exercises between appointments to help progress, in CBT there is an expectation that you will take away new ideas and learning from your sessions and put these into practice before your next session.

Don’t worry if it is still not completely clear, when you first meet your therapist you will have the chance to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have.

Where can I find out more about CBT?

British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies

More information & support

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Service User stories

Client's view of CBT
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