Cognitive behavioural therapy

Nervous patients are in luckCognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychology services or therapy, which is used to help people who are dealing with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. CBT can be used independently or in addition to other psychological services or treatments, including counselling and medication.

What does cognitive behavioural therapy involve?

Cognitive behavioural therapy involves weekly or fortnightly sessions with a trained professional, known as a therapist. The aim of the sessions are to encourage patients to talk about their emotions, identify possible triggers of anxiety, anger or sadness and work out how these emotions and feelings affect them and the people around them. The aim of CBT is not to take away problems, but rather to enable people to identify problems and find effective ways of coping with them. The number of sessions an individual attends depends on the individual, the nature of their problems and the aims they have for the treatment. In most cases, treatment lasts a minimum of six weeks and a maximum of six months but this is not always the case.

stress copyMost cognitive behavioural therapy sessions are carried out on a one-to-one basis but group sessions may also be available. There are also self-help books and computer programmes which can help. These are known as computerised CBT.

How does cognitive behavioural therapy work?

Cognitive behavioural therapy works by enabling people to break down large problems into smaller, more manageable problems. This makes it easier to cope with the emotions provoked by certain triggers or situations. Events or situations provoke thoughts, feelings and emotions and people deal with these in different ways. Sometimes, they do not deal with these in a rational or healthy way and this can affect their mental health and wellbeing.

A common illustration used to demonstrate how CBT works is how an individual responds to a divorce. It is an unhelpful response to feel guilty, blame yourself, feel down and spend time constantly thinking about what went wrong. A more helpful response would be to accept that marriage does not always work, feel optimistic about the future, learn from any mistakes you have made and move on. CBT does not tell people how to act or react, but it does enable them to find better ways of dealing with emotions and teaches them to identify their role in the problem. The aim is to stop negative cycles of thoughts and actions and enable individuals to manage stressful situations independently.


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