Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a structured form of talking therapy. It has shown to be effective for a wide range of problems, particularly helping people who suffer from mild to moderate depression and anxiety-based disorders and is recommended by the Department of Health and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

CBT aims to address how your problems are affecting you in the here-and-now. It involves developing an understanding as to how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact with each other in the development and maintenance of our problems. So for example, when people are depressed they are more likely to view aspects of their life in a negative way. This negative viewpoint can lead them to feeling worse and changing their behaviour in an attempt to make them feel better or prevent feeling worse.

However, these changes of behaviour may actually reinforce or worsen their problems (e.g. drinking excessively to try to make a person feel better can actually result in the person feeling worse). Once we have developed an understanding as to how our thoughts and behaviours are maintaining our distress, CBT aims to help us find alternative, more constructive ways of thinking about particular situations and issues. It also helps us to look at our behaviours and, where appropriate, change our behavioural patterns so that we do not find ourselves going round in circles that worsen our problems.

When you first meet your therapist, they will ask you questions about your current problems and the impact they are having on your life. In particular, they will be focusing on the links between situations, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. They will also ask you about your goals for therapy and what they hope to be able to help you with.

A key part of therapy is for you and your therapist to develop a shared understanding of your problems. This shared understanding is then used to form a treatment plan to help you alleviate your distress and achieve your goals. The two key elements of your treatment will be:

  1. to help you recognise and modify unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs and;
  2. to recognise and change unhelpful behavioural patterns.

CBT is a very collaborative process and requires you to work hard to overcome your issues. With CBT, there is an expectation that you will take away new ideas and learning from your sessions and put these into practice before your next session.