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CBT - What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? Health Tips

What Is CBT?

You may well have heard people mentioning 'talking therapies' and wondered what they were and whether they could help you. Talking therapies have been designed to help individuals (and sometimes families or groups of people) work out how to deal with difficult thoughts, feelings or behaviours that they often find distressing. There are many different kinds of talking therapies that are used to treat a range of psychological disorders or emotional difficulties.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that is very useful in helping you to cope with your problems by working with you to change the way you think and behave. What CBT cannot do is get rid of your problems, but it will help you to be more positive and manage your feelings, thoughts and behaviours more effectively. CBT encourages you to consider how the ways in which you behave, affect the way you think and feel. Your therapist will work with you in order to change your thinking patterns, and your behaviours.

How Does It Work?

The therapy works by talking about your issues so that you can actively change your behaviour by altering how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). This can make you feel better about life generally and better able to cope. CBT works because it helps the patient make sense of problems that threaten to overwhelm them, by breaking them down into smaller parts.

In the early sessions of CBT, problem behaviours and problem thinking are identified. These are then prioritized and one or two of them will be addressed during the sessions with the therapist. Goals are usually set for each session, and the patient is expected to complete homework. Goals can take weeks and months to achieve. CBT is not a fast solution to your problems, but it is a long-term solution.

CBT therapists will take an instructional role. Patients will be encouraged to monitor and write down their negative thoughts and mental images and the way they felt when these things were occurring. An initial goal is to recognize how such ideas or thoughts affect mood and behaviour. CBT therapists may also teach vital coping skills, such as problem solving, as well as encouraging fun experiences and treats.

CBT can identify and change negative thoughts that are inaccurate and contribute to the development of depression. The therapist will work with the patient to reframe automatic thinking and negativity. Such thinking is usually irrational and not drawn from careful analysis, deliberate thinking or logic. For example, depressed individuals often automatically assume the worst: that everyone hates them if they have to sit alone at lunchtime; or that because the business is not doing well, they will lose their job; or if something bad has happened it is their fault.

What Is CBT Used to Treat?

As we have seen, CBT is particularly helpful for treating problems such as depression, and in a similar vein, it is useful for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also be used to treat eating disorders, anger management, and drug and alcohol abuse, along with obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) and phobias (such as flying, insects, dirt, food, etc.).

CBT can also treat people with long-term health conditions. These can include arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is important to remember that CBT cannot cure the physical symptoms of any physical health condition, but what it does do, is help people to cope with the issues better.

How Effective Is CBT?

CBT is recognised as being one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression and related conditions. It is particularly effective among those with moderate and severe depression and is just as effective as using anti-depressants in many cases.

Your GP can refer you for CBT treatment and you will usually have a session with a therapist once a week, or once every two weeks, for a total of 6-8 sessions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of CBT

There are a variety of advantages and disadvantages associated with CBT if you are considering taking some sessions. Research demonstrates that CBT can be as effective as anti-depressants for anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, and in comparison to other talking therapies, CBT can be completed over a short space of time. CBT in conjunction with anti-depressants are probably the most effective course of action for treating major depression.

However, in order to benefit from CBT, you really do need to be motivated, commit yourself to the process and engage with the homework and goal setting. The therapist cannot make your problems go away, but only support you as you deal with them.

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