What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, is a form of therapy that is designed to help you deal with problems in your life. It looks at how our thoughts can influence our actions, hence the name: ‘cognitive’ relates to how we think, ‘behavioural’ refers to how we behave.

It’s known as a ‘talking therapy’, which simply means talking to someone who is trained to help you deal with your thoughts and feelings. CBT can also be used as the basis for self-improvement apps and books.

What does CBT help with?

CBT can help you to deal with difficult life events, daily challenges or mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

It can be very helpful in tackling negative thought patterns. Negative thought patterns, or ‘thinking traps’, are easy to fall into, and can feel impossible to get out of.

An example of a ‘thinking trap’ might be that you’re having a get-together and one of your friends can’t make it. You remember last time you spoke to them, they may have sounded a little ‘off’. You immediately draw the conclusion that they must be angry with you, and start thinking back over everything you might have done to offend them. You later find out that they weren’t offended at all, but next time it happens, perhaps with a different friend, you find yourself jumping to conclusions once again.

CBT can teach you some simple techniques for challenging these negative thoughts. It may feel like you’ve got a mountain to climb, but you could be surprised at how quickly your thinking starts to shift.

How does CBT work?

CBT helps us to change the way we think. And because our thoughts affect how we feel and behave, changing our thinking can also change our mood and behaviours.

CBT aims to tackle the negative thinking patterns which can hold us back, affect our self-esteem and lead to low mood and depression.

It’s amazing how often we all have ‘automatic’ thoughts that we’re not entirely aware of. And when we’re not aware we’re doing something, how can we start to change it? CBT helps you become more aware of your thinking patterns, and once you’re aware of them, it helps you start to restructure the way you think.

CBT also teaches us ways of overcoming feelings of panic, to reduce the physical symptoms and the psychological distress of acute anxiety attacks.

What is involved in CBT sessions?

Usually you will have CBT sessions with a therapist, one-on-one. The therapist will find out what’s happening in your life that may be influencing how you currently think and feel. The therapist may also ask you about things that have happened to you in the past, although the main focus of the CBT will be the present. Keeping a journal is also a common part of CBT, so the therapist may set this as a ‘homework’ task.

You can also learn CBT techniques through books or self-improvement apps like My Possible Self. CBT is just one of the four different types of therapeutic techniques that we use in our app. Through information, case studies and activities, the app guides you to look at the way you think, and how that affects your feelings and behaviour. Download the app now and try our free module, Managing Fear and Anxiety.

Self-improvement books and apps are usually for mild-moderate depression and anxiety. If your symptoms are more severe, the first step is to speak to your GP to make sure you get the right care.

Does CBT work?

CBT has been shown to improve depression and anxiety in clinical studies, and is recommended by NICE as an effective form of treatment for these conditions.

CBT can be very effective but it does require a commitment from you, including work between sessions.

My Possible Self is a digital mental health toolkit that uses CBT techniques to take you on a self-development journey. It uses content that’s proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression in eight weeks. get the app now, and why not start with our free module, Managing Fear and Anxiety.

Sam Weston

I am a social media manager, content writer and audio enthusiast - I set a world record once upon a time!