Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is about demonstrating how thoughts have become distorted, and finding rational alternatives
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"People are not disturbed by events, but by the view they hold about them"
If you're suffering from one of the common mental health problems such as depression, or one of the anxiety disorders, your GP may very well suggest you could benefit from a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
CBT is a short-term psychological therapy that usually involves seeing a therapist once a week for between six and twenty sessions, and where the patient is set a number of 'homework' assignments to do between sessions.
The treatment is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy because it focuses on the patient's thinking patterns, or cognitions, and also on the patient's behaviour. Scientific research has shown that CBT is effective for a wide range of mental health problems and disorders, from depression, to anxiety disorders, to panic, to PTSD.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy starts off by breaking down such problems into smaller components, often trying to identify particular problematic thoughts and behaviours; and, once broken down in this way, CBT often suggests a fairly straightforward way in which the patient and therapist, together can intervene to promote recovery, as well as to learn new techniques which will reduce the likelihood of the patient experiencing that problem again in the future.
There are two main techniques that are used in CBT. The first is a series of discussions between Therapist and Patient around evidence for and against negative beliefs. The second is what are called Behavioural Experiments, which are ways in which the patient tests out his/her beliefs by changing behaviour and seeing what happens.
CBT has a lot of characteristics in common with a host of similar 'talking therapies', but it is considered to be more highly structured than most and tends to focus more on the 'here and now'; finding practical ways of solving problems, rather than spending much time delving into the past — though, at times, some of that can be helpful.
CBT isn't a panacea. And neither is it the case that it works for absolutely everyone. And in those for whom it is helpful, there is a range of responses you can get: there is a significant group of people who have a complete recovery, where the problem they came into therapy to 'fix' has completely gone away. There are other people who achieve worthwhile benefits — it allows them to get back to work and to do many of the things that the condition was preventing them from doing, but for whom some residual problems remain.
What we know from the research is that CBT tends to reduce the risk of further problems if things go wrong in one's life. So, for example, depression is usually a recurring problem, and people who have one episode have quite an increased chance of having future episodes later in their life. But CBT seems to reduce the chance of that happening, without completely abolishing it.
The following short articles explain some of the central concepts around Cognitive Behavioural Therapy