Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that our thoughts and beliefs drive our emotions and behaviour. In CBT the therapist and client work together to find ways of reacting differently to thoughts and feelings (for example by challenging negative thoughts). It also aims to bring about changes in behaviour to help clients feel better. It is a structured approach which is usually aimed at a particular problem and the intervention is fairly brief (6-20 sessions).

CBT is the first line psychological treatment for anxiety and depression in many NHS services. CBT has a strong evidence base and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends CBT for depression, postnatal depression, anxiety, OCD, managing long-term illnesses and post-traumatic stress.

CBT is a present-focussed, active, and collaborative treatment. Whilst CBT may touch on what the client learned at earlier stages of life (with an emphasis on strategies that they learned to use in order to cope with life challenges), the therapy primarily focuses on the current patterns that are maintaining the client’s difficulties. Therapy tasks may include monitoring thoughts and behaviours and engaging in behavioural experiments to reduce problematic behaviours. The therapist helps the client become their own agent of change by guiding them to get their actions in line with their broader goals and values of life. At the end of treatment the focus will be on how to ensure that improvements are maintained.