What Is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based talking therapy – meaning that there is research supporting its use and evidencing positive outcomes for many clients.

Traditional CBT explores our thoughts, feelings, how our bodies feel and our behaviours. It seeks to identify and understand patterns within these areas, as well as gaining insight into how they influence each other.

CBT Therapists spend the majority of their work with clients in the present, exploring how our behaviours or thinking patterns in certain situations and areas of our lives could be maintaining our difficulties. There may be some discussion about your past and history however the focus on the work is helping you in the here and now.

CBT supports clients to find alternative ways to approach difficult situations and to reduce distress.

You can watch a video by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies for a simple explanation of CBT.

What can CBT help with?

CBT is one of the recommended interventions for anxiety and depression by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), however, as with all therapies, is not a ‘one size fits all’.

CBT therapists have understanding of various different approaches and methods to work with a variety of different presentations however, some of the reasons people access CBT for are:

  • feeling depressed or low in mood,
  • feeling anxiety or worrying frequently,
  • OCD or struggling with repetitive behaviours and habits,
  • phobias,
  • feeling anxious in social situations,
  • experiencing panic attacks or being worried about your health,
  • Post traumatic stress disorder, or experiencing stress or anxiety relating to a particularly difficult situation.

CBT works well with adults and children and usually consists of weekly sessions for between 8 and 20 sessions.

What do CBT sessions look like?

In the initial stages of therapy, your CBT Therapist will work with you to develop a formulation – this can be understood as a working model of your difficulties. The aim of this is to build a shared understanding of what is happening for you, and to identify areas that could change the cycle that may be maintaining difficulties.

CBT, as its name suggests, works with cognitions (thoughts) and/or behaviours – this could mean that your sessions involve various different approaches such as:

  • Identifying and challenging negative automatic thoughts (for example “everyone is judging me” or “if I don’t do this, something bad will happen”)
  • Understanding your current behaviours and identifying possible alternative behaviours which may be helpful (such as increasing activities that are important to you and align with your values, rather than socially withdrawing when feeling low)
  • Developing behavioural experiments to safely and supportively gather evidence to support or refute thoughts and beliefs.  

CBT is an active therapy, that works towards your goals with the support of a therapist. You are likely to be asked to do tasks outside of the therapy session to help support you in developing your new skills – however these will always be developed in collaboration with you. You are very much in the driving seat!

You can read more about CBT at The Retreat here.

I’ve had CBT before, and it wasn’t what you’re describing…

This could be for many reasons; there are various forms of CBT and ‘third wave’ approaches which may look a little different to traditional CBT. Additionally, some therapists do short courses in CBT and use ‘CBT informed approaches’ which, will look different to a traditional and ‘pure’ CBT approach.

If you are ever in doubt about the kind of therapy you are having or your therapist’s approach, you are always welcome to ask your therapist who will be happy to explain. You may also find the BABCP website a helpful place to find out more about CBT.

If you are interested in learning more about CBT, or how it could help an issue you are facing, our team of experienced therapists can talk you through any queries you may have. Please get in touch by contacting us on 01904 412551, or by emailing info@theretreatyork.org.uk.