CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is something many of us may have heard of but may not fully understand what it is. The clue is in the name – a talking therapy which can change how you think (cognitive) and therefore how you behave (behavioural).
CBT is often used in the treatment of some mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. A key difference between CBT and some other therapies, is that CBT focuses on the present and on what is happening now, rather than on what happened in the past. How we view or interpret certain situations or events effects how we behave and therefore how we feel as a result. If how we think is changed or managed to something more positive, we behave or react in better ways and ultimately feel better about life and ourselves.
CBT has been shown to be as effective as some anti-depressants in the treatment of depression and anxiety and is an effective alternative for many who would rather avoid taking medication for their condition. CBT can also help alleviate the symptoms of OCD, phobias, PTSD, panic disorders and eating disorders, and has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of some long-term physical health conditions such as IBS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
CBT can be undertaken either individually or as part of a group. Up to 20 sessions of CBT may be required. There are also a variety of self-help books and apps on the market which some people find more beneficial if they find it difficult to openly discuss their personal thoughts and feelings with others.
For many the therapy is more successful in a one-to-one situation with a mental health professional, as the treatment can be better tailored to the patient’s own specific needs and wishes. It is key to the treatment that the therapist works with the patient and at the patient’s own pace in developing ways of identifying and changing negative and unhelpful thoughts and feelings which are contributing to their overall condition. This is done by breaking down challenges into smaller parts and dealing with each one individually, ending negative thought cycles and developing coping strategies which can be used even after the course of CBT therapy has finished or if the symptoms return at some point in the future.
The therapy can involve discussions with the therapist and ongoing feedback, role-playing, keeping a diary to record specific feelings and behaviours in certain situations, gradually increasing exposure to things or situations which cause anxiety or fear, and sometimes homework assignments in order to practise some of the skills learnt during a therapy session. Patients learn to question distressing thoughts and to replace them with more positive ones, to recognise behaviour patterns which make them feel worse about themselves, and instead to behave in a more positive way. As the therapy goes on, the patient will have developed ways of solving problems themselves which in turn gives them a greater feeling of control, reducing stress and feelings of negativity, and ultimately better mental health.
Watch Dr Winbow’s video for an explanation of CBT and how it is used to treat some mental health conditions.
At Private Psychiatry CBT is just one of the therapies we offer to our patients to treat a variety of mental health conditions. If you have a mental health condition and feel you may benefit from CBT, please get in touch.