You may have heard of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT for short) as it is currently a popular form of talking therapy which is widely used by the medical profession and in psychological interventions. CBT is often mentioned in the media and there are many self-help and self-development books and internet sites which are based on CBT techniques. As talking therapies go, CBT can achieve results in a relatively short period of time (which is one of the reasons it is favoured by the NHS). It is also a very practical therapy which has a large body of research evidence supporting it’s use in the successful treatment of many emotional and physical conditions.
The ‘Cognitive’ in CBT refers to our thoughts (cognitions), and the ‘behavioural’ refers to our behaviours, or the things we do. CBT is concerned with how our thoughts, behaviours and subsequent feelings interact with each other and the aim is to change problem thoughts and behaviours by teaching coping skills. CBT recognises that some things are beyond our control, but that we do have the capacity to control the way we think about those things and our behaviour, which can in turn change our feelings.
The focus in CBT is on the present and the future, rather than the past, and on teaching techniques to improve overall wellbeing. There is also an emphasis on learning and goal setting and its success is dependent on active participation. ‘Home-work’ may be set between sessions, and as with most things in life, you cannot expect to see results without putting some effort in. However the practical tasks can be both enjoyable and enlightening and CBT is a very empowering therapy.
The discovery of CBT was a huge factor in overcoming my own anxiety in my 20s, and I continue to apply CBT techniques in many areas of my life. The more you use the techniques, the easier they become and I can honestly say that they have given me so much more control over my thoughts and behaviours and I barely even notice when I use them these days!