Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a method of treatment for psychological disorders, that takes a practical, task-based approach to solving problems.

It is designed to help change negative thoughts and behaviours, by providing more positive and fulfilling solutions.

The focus of CBT is to address symptoms while they are present, and to learn skills and techniques that can be used in the ongoing improvement of mental health.

How does CBT work?

As the name suggests, cognitive behavioural therapy works by teaching a person to change their thoughts (cognition) and their behaviours. The aim is to assess the negative thoughts a person is having about themselves, and their view of the world, and to replace them with more positive and constructive thoughts and behaviours.

By addressing the thoughts and behaviours which contribute to the development and maintenance of problems, CBT seeks to offer a holistic approach to mental health care.

In its simplest form, CBT requires only two things: learning and doing. A person undertaking CBT will learn coping skills and techniques, both ones that are pertinent to their health issue, and more general ones that will help with everyday life.

They will learn about their health condition, and how it is being maintained. This aspect of CBT is founded on the adage that knowledge is power. The more someone knows about their own disorder, the better equipped they will be to recognise its symptoms and do something about it.

With this knowledge, a person will then be equipped to actively change their behaviours. They will be able to face their fears, or to deal with situations that they were previously unable to deal with. CBT seeks to enforce this relationship between knowledge and activity, in order for a person to take practical steps to alleviate their symptoms and to recover.

What can CBT help with?

CBT has been successful in the treatment of many health issues, from anxiety and depression, to chronic pain and bad habits. CBT has been found to be most suitable for people who have particular, identifiable issues, that can be addressed with specific tasks and goals.

The practical nature of CBT makes it helpful for people who are looking for a hands-on approach to their treatment.

People suffering from the following problems could benefit greatly from treatment with CBT:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Child and adolescent problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Problem gambling
  • Sleep problems

CBT can also be used to address other health problems. Primary Mental health care professionals can advise as to whether CBT will be useful in the treatment of other health issues.

How effective is CBT?

There is a large body of evidence which shows CBT is a very effective treatment for the reduction of symptoms associated with a wide range of health issues, especially the common anxiety and depressive disorders.

Additionally, the effects of CBT don’t stop at the end of treatment. The lessons learned from CBT are ingrained through practice, and so make substantial and ongoing changes to a person’s life. The practical coping mechanisms are also transferable, so skills and techniques learned through CBT can positively affect other facets of life, like work, study, and personal relationships.

Jamie Milne is a Qualified CBT practitioner via the University of Applied Psychology, U.K.

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