What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?

Often clients come to counselling wanting CBT. They have been told by their Occupational Health team or their GP that this is what they need.  However they do not know what it is.

The theory behind CBT is:

What we think and do affects our mood

It is difficult to change how we feel, or how a situation affects us physically (churning stomach for example) but we can choose to do something differently (behaviour) and we can also challenge our thoughts (cognitions).  By changing the way we think in a positive way and by doing something different, there will be a knock on effect and our mood will also improve.   

An example would be:
•    You struggle with low mood or depression
•    It takes a huge effort for you to go out and when you do you may feel everyone is looking at you and judging you
•    You feel anxious. If there is any sort of incident and you are put in the spotlight, you may feel even worse  
•    Yet staying at home is lonely and when you stay at home, you hate yourself too
•    You go out less and less, and your mood lowers as you tell yourself you  are hopeless if you cannot even go to the supermarket, and no one is interested in you

Working with a client such as this, the therapist would:

Identify and challenge negative thoughts

Set achievable goals thus changing their behaviour – how would it be to go to the corner shop – telephone a friend etc.

Identify and rate moods to find out what increases or decreases low moods

Identify thinking errors – we all have a tendency to exaggerate, or assume, or catastrophise, or think in a black and white way (amongst other common thinking errors)

Identify and challenge core beliefs - ‘I am hopeless’, ‘no one likes me’

Educate – explaining all as we go along

Teach – coping strategies, including Mindfulness

Although some background history is helpful, CBT does not focus on the past.  It works with what is happening in the here-and-now. It is a collaborative way of working and often has positive outcomes.

CBT works well alongside Mindfulness (MBCT).