Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is based on the idea that emotions and behaviour are determined by thinking and suggests that this can affect our physical and psychological wellbeing. The approach focuses on thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions, and teaches clients how each one can have an effect on the other.
Furthermore, monitoring emotional upset and identifying its triggers, CBT can identify negative thought processes and unhelpful beliefs, weigh up the evidence for these and replace them with more realistic ideas.
In this way CBT aims to alleviate distress. CBT can be helpful for a number of issues and has been shown to be especially helpful in cases of stress, anxiety, depression and phobias.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy suggests that the way we think affects how we act and feel. People can interpret the same event in many different ways leading to a variety of emotional and behavioural responses.
Some of these can be helpful and some not. CBT involves examining any unhelpful thought patters and exploring how they can affect our emotions and actions.
This can then help us to change how we think, which in turn makes us feel better. Whilst this kind of therapy can involve looking at past experiences in our lives, it primarily focuses on ways to improve our psychological wellbeing now.
The theory of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy proposes that negative thoughts and beliefs play a significant role in the development and maintenance of conditions such as depression, anxiety or low self esteem.
Therefore being able to challenge these beliefs by weighing up the evidence for and against them can assist a person in reducing their distress and enhancing their ability to cope in everyday life situations.
Typically a course of CBT tends to last between 6 weeks and 6 months, though if incorporated with other forms of therapy this may differ.
CBT can be hugely beneficial in cases of depression and anxiety. It is also used for a range of other conditions including low self esteem, family and relationship problems, addiction and eating disorders.
CBT is not about 'looking on the brighter side'. It is about learning specific strategies to think more realistically about life. These strategies are collectively known as 'cognitive restructing'.
CBT works on the principle that negative beliefs need to be 'tested' to determine whether they are accurate. Often, these thoughts are irrational misconceptions that we may hold about ourselves, others and the world around us, commonly known as 'cognitive distortions'.
These may serve to maintain an unrealistic and unhelpful belief system, which can affect us in many areas of life. Once recognised, these distortions are then replaced with alternative interpretations that are more realistic and factually based. In doing so, people are able to think about life situations in a more helpful and constructive manner, thereby coping better with the day to day challenges they face and learning to better manage how they react and respond in given circumstances.
As part of this process, your therapist may ask you to keep a weekly diary or written record of your thoughts, emotions and actions throughout therapy.
For CBT to be most effective, it is important to regularly practice and refine the strategies and techniques you acquire. The benefit of this is that the skills remain with you once therapy has ended and can be useful in the future.