Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the premise that the way we think about a situation affects how we act. In turn, our actions can affect how we think and how we feel. It follows, therefore, that if we are to overcome negative and unhelpful thoughts, and difficulties such as stress, anxiety and depression, then it is necessary to change both the act of thinking (i.e. our “cognitions”) and also our behaviour, at the same time.
If negative interpretations of situations go unchallenged, patterns in thoughts, feelings and behaviours can become part of a continuous cycle which can be hard to break:
Image courtesy of the charity MIND
So how does CBT “work”?
The treatment combines cognitive therapy (examining the things we think) and behavioural therapy (examining the things we do), and attempts to break the unhelpful cycle.
Your therapist will seek to identify your negative thinking patterns, and then discuss them with you and work with you to challenge and recalibrate them, so that they are no longer unhelpful. This will include what is going on in your life right now, but may also look at how your past experiences impact the way you are feeling. Problems are typically broken down into five main areas:
- the situation(s)
- our thoughts
- our emotions
- our physical feelings
- our actions
Having broken the problem down, each area is discussed in a structured way with the objective of turning negative thoughts into positive ones and acquiring coping skills. Achievable targets or goals are sometimes agreed to help this process.
How is CBT different from other psychotherapies?
There are many forms of therapy available – some work better in certain situations than others, and of course everyone is different. CBT is:
- pragmatic – it helps identify specific problems and tries to solve them
- highly structured – rather than talking freely about your life, you and your therapist discuss specific problems and set goals for you to achieve
- focused on current problems – it’s mainly concerned with how you think and act now rather than attempting to resolve past issues
- collaborative – your therapist won’t tell you what to do; they’ll work with you to find solutions to your current difficulties
The significance of the negative thoughts
CBT, then, is based on the premise that it isn’t the actual events or the situations themselves that upset us, but the meanings that we give them. If our thoughts are too negative, they can block us seeing or doing things that don’t confirm what we believe is true. We fail to learn anything new, and cling to our old thoughts even though they are unhelpful to us.
Of course, negative things can and do happen – but when we are in a negative and unhappy state of mind, we may be basing our predictions and interpretations on a biased view of the situation, making the difficulty that we face seem much worse. CBT helps people to correct these misinterpretations.
When can CBT help?
CBT is a highly effective way of treating a range of conditions. Commonly used to deal with stress, anxiety and depression … it can also help with:
- obsessive compulsive disorder
- panic disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia)
- alcohol misuse
Our highly skilled psychologists at Vivamus have vast experience in helping people achieve positive outcomes using cognitive behavioural therapy and a range of other treatments – working with you we ensure that the most effective treatment is adopted for each individual’s unique circumstances.
CBT therapy London – we are here to help you
All Vivamus Psychologists are registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and hold a practising certificate through the British Psychological Society (BPS) and are bound by the Society’s code of conduct and ethical principles.
If you would like to discuss anything that you’ve read in this article in greater detail, would like additional information, find out how we can help you, or arrange a consultation, please contact us:
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In a 2014 survey by the BACP, 69% of people think the world would be a better place if people talked about their feelings more!