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What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

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This piece for London-based therapist Kim Fisher was placed onto body-mindlife.com as a guest post. The article examines what CBT is, how it works, and whether or not this form of therapy is right for the reader.


What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?


Commonly used in the treatment of anxiety and depression, cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that can help an individual come to terms with their problems by altering the way that they think about certain situations. Although anxiety and depression are the two main issues that are associated with CBT, this form of therapy can also be used to treat a number of other mental and physical difficulties too.


We all have problems in our lives from time to time, but it is how we deal with these issues that determine our outlook on life. CBT can help those who may concentrate on the negative side of things to have a more positive outlook on life in general. Although CBT will not make the problems go away altogether, it can give the individual a foundation upon which to build a more constructive mindset that will help them to overcome any of life’s obstacles.


How does it work?


With the help of a cognitive behavioural therapist, the individual will explore ways in which they can begin to make more sense of problems that they may currently feel are overwhelming them. This is generally done by examining these issues and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable parts. These parts are categorised into five separate areas:


  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Situations
  • Feelings
  • Actions


The idea behind CBT is that these five areas are all interconnected in some way, and the result of how we feel about one can have a knock-on effect on how we regard the others. For instance, the way we think about a certain event or situation can cause us to behave or react in a certain way, both mentally and physically.


By examining these relationships between the five main areas, CBT allows the individual undergoing the therapy to see why they may be behaving in a way that often seems counterintuitive to them.


The sessions


CBT can be administered in one of two ways, either in a one-on-one setting or as part of a group. Group sessions are made up of people who are in a similar situation and a therapist who will guide them through the session. One-on-one sessions are exactly as they suggest, just you and the CBT therapist.


The amount of the sessions required will vary from person to person. If it is recommended that you have one-on-one meetings with a therapist these can take place over anywhere between 5 to 20 sessions which can be held either fortnightly or weekly, depending on the severity of your problems. Each session, or meeting, will last between 30 and 60 minutes.


What to expect from the sessions


Initially, the first couple of meetings will give you a chance to assess whether or not CBT will be right for you. They will also give you a chance to find our more about the therapist you’ll be working with and to see if you will be able to get along together. A big part of any therapy session is the trust that you have with your therapist, so this stage should not be understated.


It is likely that you will discuss various issues that you are currently encountering and how they are affecting your life, be that socially, within the family, or at work. Your therapist will also ask you about any previous treatments you may have had and what you hope to gain from going through the therapeutic process.


Once the initial question and answer session is completed, your therapist will tell you whether or not they feel that CBT will be beneficial to you. If they do not feel that you will get any value from future sessions, or if you do not think that CBT is for you, they will then go on to recommend other alternative treatments for you to consider.


If CBT is for you, what happens next?


Future sessions will be all about separating and segmenting your problems into smaller chunks as we discussed earlier. Your therapist may give you ‘homework’ to do outside of your sessions in order to keep on top of the good work that you will be doing with them.


This can be anything from keeping a regular journal through to simply questioning the thoughts that you are having and replacing the negative aspects of those thoughts with more positive ones. Your CBT therapist will give you guidance on how to best go about doing this as you begin to work through your issues with them.


During the sessions you will be asked how things are going and what you feel is changing in your life due to the daily practices you have been asked to undertake. This will allow your therapist to assess how the treatment is progressing and suggest further courses of action to help you move onto the next level.


It is worth stressing that your therapist will never ask you to do things that you feel uncomfortable with or that you do not want to do. This is not about breaking through barriers, it is about recognising certain aspects of your life and changing how you think and react to them.


After the sessions have been completed


The greatest thing about CBT is that it really teaches you skills that you can carry on using for the rest of your life. Just because the sessions have ended does not mean that you will no longer be able to enjoy the benefits of CBT, far from it. Knowing the core principles behind the therapy will allow you to enjoy life much more than you may have thought possible, and carrying on with the daily practices on a regular basis will make a reoccurrence of your symptoms much less likely.

  • : This piece for London-based therapist Kim Fisher was placed onto body-mindlife.com as a guest post. The article examines what CBT is, how it works, and whether or not this form of therapy is right for the reader.