What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

I believe there are SIX fundamental principles of CBT

1. Evidence based and Effective

CBT is based on evidence of what works. As a treatment, it has been subject to rigorous applied research and major research reviews over decades and has been shown to be the most effective treatment for a range of common psychological and emotional difficulties. For these reasons it is the treatment of choice approved by the government’s official health watchdog, the National Institute of Clinical Health Excellence (NICE).

2. Interacting Systems Principle

Perhaps the most important principle in CBT, is the idea that it is not actual situations in our lives that determine how we feel; it is our interpretation of them. An analogy of this often used is if we were to imagine one of our dear friends walked passed us in the street. This situation can be interpreted in many ways, each leading to different emotions. For example, one person may interpret this as their friend acting like they’re too good to talk to them in public, and feel angry and annoyed. Another person may interpret this as a sign that their friend doesn’t really like them, and feel down and sad. Yet another person may interpret this event as their friend being in hurry and feel quite ok with them not stopping to chat. CBT is NOT about positive thinking, but it does aims to help you identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts that may be leading to unnecessary negative emotions.

3. Structured and Direct

CBT is typically a brief, time-limited therapy. To ensure we make the best use of the time we have available, sessions are structured using an agenda which is set out together at the start of each session. This generally helps us stay focused on the problems and goal at hand. I encourage you to think of things you would like to add to the agenda between our sessions. 

4. Focus on the ‘here and now’

Much of the emphasis in CBT is on how things currently are in your life, and how you would like things to be in the future. That is not to say that the past isn’t important, it is, and it does have an effect on how we are today. However, CBT takes the stance that when you find yourself suffering with any mental health problem, it’s a bit like you’ve fallen down a hole, and you might feel a bit stuck. When you start therapy, I join you in the hole and suggest we have two options in terms of how we spend our time together:

1. We focus on discussing and speculating why you fell down the hole, and going over how awful, upsetting and dark it is down there (all the meanwhile staying down the hole).

OR

2. We spend the majority of our time working out how to get out of the hole and taking action to do so. Then, once you are out of the hole, we spend our time figuring out why you fell down in order to prevent it happening again in future.

Which would you prefer?

5. Problem and Goal Orientated

CBT maintains that is paramount in the early stages of therapy to have a clear understanding/ definition of exactly what the problem is, simply because namely it is a good place to start to overcome it-(it is nonsensical to attempt to overcome a problem if you’re not quite sure what it is!)It is also vital to have clearly defined goals at the outset, otherwise therapy would be like setting off on a journey and not knowing where your destination is, you could end up driving all over the place, going around in circles and never really achieving anything.

6. Collaboration and Active Participation

In CBT both therapist and client are seen as responsible for change. A good way of explaining this by using the analogy of therapist as “coach”, and client as the “sportsperson”. Based on their own training and experience, a coach is able to support and guide the sportsperson into achieving their goals. However, the coach can not play and win the match for the sportsperson. In view of this, ‘between-sessions’ tasks are set each week to enable the client to implement some of the strategies learnt while still in therapy. These tasks are considered vital for improvements to effectively occur.

Do you have questions?

It's not unusual to have questions about what type(s) of therapy may be suitable for you.

I'm here to help. Please don't hesitate to get in touch so we can discuss what might help you.