Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy which can help with various conditions. It is a type of therapy that can help reduce distress and improve a person’s mental health. It is based on the idea that thoughts, physical symptoms, feelings and actions are all connected.

It has two main parts. The “cognitive” part of CBT focuses on the negative thoughts that feed low mood and anxiety. The therapist will help the person develop strategies to challenge these negative thoughts.

The “behavioural” part encourages the person to become more aware of behaviour patterns that make them feel worse. They will be encouraged to make practical changes to these behaviour patterns to improve their mental health.

Compared to some other therapies, the focus of CBT is more on the here and now, rather than problems in the past.

Fast Facts!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was developed in the 1950’s by Professor Aaron Beck. He noticed that when we feel down, we tend to think negatively. We may get the wrong idea about things because we see them from a negative point of view. He thought that therapy should focus not only on how we act but how we think.

Over 2013 and 2014 there were over 1 million CBT appointments made in England, making it the most widely used psychological therapy. It is commonly used as a first treatment for many common mental health problems, and has an excellent body of evidence showing it can make a real difference.

How is it treated?

When is it used?

CBT is used to help people with lots of different mental health conditions. It is one of the main treatments for:

  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • eating disorders
  • insomnia

CBT can also be used to help with physical symptoms such as chronic pain. While CBT doesn’t cure the underlying cause in these conditions, it can help people relate in a more positive way to their physical symptoms. CBT can help individuals to learn and develop new coping strategies to manage when things are difficult, and to help them challenge their own thoughts and behaviours prior to things getting out of control.

What does it involve?

In each session you and the therapist will discuss your mental health. They will suggest techniques to help you become more aware of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Together, you will form strategies to challenge negative thoughts and to change unhelpful behaviours.

You may receive homework or tasks to complete in your everyday life. To see the benefits of CBT, you must try your best to complete the homework.

Some CBT courses may also be in a small group with other people seeking help. The course could also be delivered online or in a booklet.

The strategies and practical changes you try in CBT can be used again to help you cope with future stresses and difficulties, even after the CBT course has finished.

Want to know more?

Useful Links

Statistics reference:

MIND description of CBT:

NHS choices