Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic approach which helps clients to understand their thoughts and feelings and how these impact on or influence their behaviours. CBT is often used when working with clients who present a wide range of difficulties including anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, phobias and addictions.
CBT is generally short-term and focuses mainly on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. During the course of therapy, clients learn how to identify and change ‘distorted’ thought patterns that have a negative influence on behaviour and emotions. Clients often experience thoughts or feelings that reinforce negative and faulty beliefs. These beliefs can result in problematic behaviours that can affect many areas of their lives such as work, school, family, romantic relationships and social activities.
For example, if a client were suffering from low confidence or low self-esteem, they could experience negative thinking patterns about their abilities or appearance. As a result of these negative thinking patterns, the individual might start avoiding social situations or pass up opportunities for advancement at work or at school.
The principles that underline CBT are that our thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in our behaviour. For example, a person who spends a lot of time thinking about plane crashes, runway accidents and other air disasters may find themselves avoiding air travel.
The goal of CBT is to teach clients that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment. Clients will learn about their own thinking patterns and will challenge these using evidence based approaches. CBT is a gradual process that helps clients take positive steps towards changing negative thinking patterns and in turn creating a more balanced outlook. This then influences the client’s behaviours and so on.
In order for CBT to be effective, the client must be ready and willing to spend time and effort analysing and understanding his or her thoughts and feelings. Such self-analysis can be difficult, but it is a great way to learn more about how internal states impact outward behaviour. There will be practical elements also where clients can do work away from the session.
CBT is best suited to clients looking for a short-term therapy option that helps them develop coping skills that can be useful both now and in the future.
If you feel CBT could help you with your difficulties, contact me for an initial assessment and I would be happy to discuss all options with you.