Cognitive behavioural therapies, or CBT, are a range of talking therapies based on the theory that our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and how our body to experience distress or peace. If we change our behaviours or change our thoughts we can change our feelings, emotions and the experience in our skin.
When people feel worried or distressed we often fall into patterns of thinking and responding which can worsen how we feel. CBT works to help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better. CBT has lots of strategies that can help you in the here and now.
CBT has a good evidence base for a wide range of mental health problems in adults, older adults, children and young people. This research has been carefully reviewed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who provide independent, evidence-based guidance for the NHS on the most effective ways to treat disease and ill health.
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)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Schizophrenia and psychosis
There is also good evidence that CBT is helpful in treating many other conditions, including:
Physical symptoms without a medical diagnosis
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 or as part of a group. The number of sessions you need depends on the difficulty you need help with. This will usually be between six and twenty sessions, typically of an hour long.
Your therapist can help you to notice any patterns in thinking or behaviours which might be keeping problems going and can offer information about different CBT techniques which could help you.
You and your therapist will discuss your specific difficulties and set goals for you to achieve. CBT is not a quick fix – it involves hard work during and between sessions e.g. keeping track of what you are thinking, feeling and doing, or trying out new ways of thinking or acting. Your therapist will not make decisions for you. 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 available in a wide range of settings, including hospitals and clinics. It is sometimes provided in the form of written or computer-based packages. This may be combined with flexible telephone of 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.
CBT-based self-help books are available. There are also websites providing information on CBT techniques which are free to access. Evidence does show that using them works better with support from a therapist, especially for low mood. This is part of how we will work to achieve your goal in therapy for transformation.