Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT as it is commonly referred to, is a talking therapy that emphasises how our thoughts (cognitions) are closely linked with our feelings and what we do (behaviour). During times of mental distress, people think differently about themselves and what happens to them. Thoughts can become extreme and unhelpful, which can worsen how a person feels. As a consequence, they may then behave in ways that prolongs their distress. For example, by avoiding or withdrawing from people, situations or from pleasurable activities and interests.
CBT is one of the most well researched forms of talking therapy and it has been shown to be effective in helping people with a wide range of mental health problems. In many instances, CBT is the treatment of choice (as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) for common problems such as anxiety and depression.
CBT therapists work in a collaborative way with their clients in order to help each person develop more balanced and helpful ways of thinking, and to support them in changing self-defeating behaviour. The result is often a major improvement in how a person feels and the quality of their lives in general.
During sessions, the emphasis is on working in a practical, step-by-step manner toward achieving your goals. This also involves completing in-between session or ‘homework’ tasks (e.g. completing diaries of your thoughts and emotions or doing something different) to help you make gradual changes in your day-to-day life and relationships.
CBT can be used to help anyone irrespective of ability, culture, race, gender or sexual preference. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with medication, depending on the severity or nature of each person's problem.
Research has shown that CBT can help with many different types of problems, such as:
CBT approaches have also been developed for problems related to anger control, adjustment to physical health problems, chronic pain and fatigue (e.g. ME), drug and alcohol problems, health anxiety, low self-esteem/worth, insomnia and interpersonal and relationship problems.
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