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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

It is a way of talking about:

  • how you think about yourself, the world and other people
  • how what you do affects your thoughts and feelings.

CBT can help you to change how you think ('Cognitive') and what you do ('Behaviour'). These changes can help you to feel better. Unlike some of the other talking treatments, it focuses on the 'here and now' problems and difficulties. Instead of focusing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now.

CBT Works

How effective is CBT?

  • It is one of the most effective treatments for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem.
  • It is the most effective psychological treatment for moderate and severe depression.
  • It is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression.

There is a great deal of research evidence to show that CBT works effectively in treating depression and anxiety. This research has been carefully reviewed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

What can CBT help with?

NICE recommends CBT in the treatment of the following conditions:

  • anxiety disorders (including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • depression
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • psychosis
  • eating disorder

There is also good evidence that CBT is helpful in treating many other conditions, including:

  • chronic fatigue
  • chronic pain
  • sleep difficulties
  • anger management

CBT can be used if you are on medication which has been prescribed by your GP. You can also use CBT on its own. This will depend on the difficulty you want help with.


How CBT is delivered

CBT can be offered in individual sessions with a therapist. The number of CBT sessions you need depends on the difficulty you need help with. Often this will be between five and 20 weekly sessions lasting 60 minutes each. CBT is mainly concerned with how you think and act now, instead of looking at and getting help with difficulties in your past.

You will usually meet with a therapist for between 5 and 20, weekly, or fortnightly sessions. Each session will last 60 minutes.

In the first 2-4 sessions, the therapist will check that you can use this sort of treatment and you will check that you feel comfortable with it.

The therapist will also ask you questions about your past life and background. Although CBT concentrates on the here and now, at times you may need to talk about the past to understand how it is affecting you now.

You decide what you want to deal with in the short, medium and long term.

You and the therapist will usually start by agreeing on what to discuss that day.

You and your therapist will discuss your specific difficulties and set goals for you to achieve. CBT is not a quick fix. It involves work during and between sessions. Your therapist will not tell you what to do. Instead they will help you decide what difficulties you want to work on in order to help you improve your situation. Your therapist will be able to advise you on how to continue using CBT techniques in your daily life after your treatment ends.

CBT is sometimes provided in the form of written or computer-based packages. This may be combined with flexible telephone or face-to-face appointments to check progress and help overcome any barriers to putting into practice what you have learned. This way of delivering CBT has made it more accessible to people with busy lives, and has also reduced delays in getting help.