Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is used by therapists around the world to help people overcome a wide range of mental health conditions. It is considered to be one of the most effective therapies available, often helping people achieve life-changing results in just a few weeks.
What is CBT?
CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps people overcome their challenges by learning to change the way they think and act.
CBT is an empowering type of therapy because it helps you realise that you are much more in control of your life than you may think. CBT shows you that your thoughts, not external circumstances or people, are what determine the way you feel and behave.
How does CBT work?
The basis for CBT is the idea that all thoughts, feelings and actions are connected. The process encourages you to notice and identify the current thoughts you are thinking.
With CBT, you begin to appreciate how your thoughts are creating certain challenging emotional responses and behaviour patterns in your life.
Once you have identified unhelpful thought patterns using the CBT process, your therapist will guide you to choose new, empowering thoughts. You will be able to start practising thoughts that make you feel calmer and allow you to behave in the ways you want to, without being overcome by anxiety or fear.
What are the uses of CBT?
Although CBT was originally developed to treat depression, it is now used to help people with a wide range of mental health problems manage their symptoms and live happier lives.
Research has shown that CBT is highly effective in treating many different conditions, including:
- Aggression and anger problems
- Anxiety disorders, including social anxiety and panic attacks
- Bipolar disorder
- Chronic pain and fatigue
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia
- Stress, in general
- Substance abuse and addictions, including gambling
If you are struggling with any of the challenges listed above, the Blue Tree Clinic offers private cognitive behavioural therapy in London, designed to help you manage your symptoms and live life on your terms.
What are the benefits of CBT?
There are several advantages of CBT over other types of therapy.
CBT benefits include:
1. Helping people take on new thoughts and beliefs.
The CBT process helps people challenge their negative thoughts, first by noticing them and then by questioning them. These steps help people break free of restrictive, habitual negative thinking and start thinking new, more empowering thoughts.
Since the whole basis of CBT is that our thoughts determine our feelings and behaviours, this means that thinking these new thoughts actually helps people live happier lives with more confidence and less worry.
2. Providing people with a support network to help lift the weight of their mental health condition.
Your therapist is someone you know you can turn to for emotional support. They are someone you can trust, who you can open up to honestly without fear of judgment or worrying that someone’s feelings are going to be hurt. They are there to listen to you and to help you feel supported, knowing that your sessions with them are private and confidential.
CBT also teaches people how to communicate their feelings and experiences more openly with the people around them, without shame or anger, so that they can be better understood and supported by their friends and family.
3. Giving people hope about their condition and their future
CBT teaches people new skills and strategies to cope with challenges day to day. This empowers people, knowing that they have the ability to change their own lives and deal with whatever difficulties arise in the future.
CBT helps people feel calmer, more relaxed and more in control of their internal experiences. It gives people hope that their struggles are not permanent and they have the ability to overcome challenges all by themselves.
4. Helping people build their self-esteem
Often, low self-esteem is at the root of the challenges many people face. CBT allows people to work on overcoming their problems one step at a time.
The process gives people the opportunity to notice their growth and successes, and as they do, they build their confidence and boost their self-esteem (which helps them overcome their challenges with even more ease).
What kinds of skills can CBT teach you?
CBT provides you with the opportunity to learn many new life skills that will help you feel calm and in control whenever you face stressful or challenging situations.
Many different tools and techniques can be used during CBT to help you overcome your specific problem and reach your goals. You can work with your therapist to learn the most helpful techniques for your situation and preferences.
At the Blue Tree Clinic, our private CBT therapists will work with you to develop a treatment strategy that is tailored to you, one that will give you the specific skills you need to move forward confidently.
Some examples of skills that CBT can teach you include:
- Calming your mind and relaxing your body
- Problem-solving with a creative, optimistic mindset
- Setting, measuring and achieving specific goals courageously
- Identifying situations that you would typically avoid and working towards facing them with confidence
- Embracing activities you enjoy, such as hobbies, social activities or exercise, and making them a part of your regular routine and weekly schedule
- Identifying, questioning and deconstructing habitual negative thought patterns and beliefs
- Using journaling to help you pay attention to your regular thoughts, feelings and behaviours
- Using journaling to help you keep track of your progress and successes
- Using journaling to help you challenge your negative thoughts and find new, more empowering ones
- Using breathing exercises to help you manage your anxiety and stay calm in situations that you previously feared
- Practising mindfulness to help you manage general, day-to-day stress
- Using relaxation techniques to help you reduce your anxiety
Pros and Cons of CBT
Although CBT is a fast, effective treatment option for many people, it is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Take a look at the list of CBT pros and cons below to help you decide whether CBT is right for you.
- Highly effective – There is strong research evidence backing the effectiveness of CBT to produce noticeable results in people’s lives.
- Fast – CBT produces results very quickly, within 5 to 20 weeks, compared to other types of talk therapies that can take years before similar changes are noticed.
- Empowering – CBT holds you accountable for your problems and reminds you that you have the power to overcome them all by yourself.
- Problem-focused – CBT helps you set goals and overcome a specific problem or life challenge.
- Present moment-focused – CBT helps you overcome difficulties in the here and now, without having to dwell on past trauma or re-live painful memories.
- Reality-focused – CBT helps you make real progress since it allows you to practice and test the skills you’ve been learning in your sessions quickly and easily in everyday life. This is one of the reasons people experience improvements so quickly with CBT – the act of simply living life allows you to practice everything you’ve been learning so that you get better and better at managing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
- Widely applicable – CBT provides you with a life-long toolkit of skills that will help you manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviours during stressful situations. It teaches you a range of techniques that you can take with you long after you leave your last therapy session to help you feel calm and in control no matter what life throws at you.
- Engaging – CBT is not a passive treatment strategy; it requires you to actively engage with your therapist and make a conscious effort to change your thoughts and behaviour. Although some people might view this as extra “work”, it means you end up feeling engaged and powerful throughout the process.
- Involved – Successful CBT requires effort, often including the completion of “homework” tasks in your own time. In order to be effective, CBT needs you to be willing to take an active role in the process, even in your own time in between sessions. In CBT, you are ultimately responsible for your progress.
- Present moment-focused – Since CBT tends to focus on the present moment and your current experiences, you are not likely to explore childhood experiences or past traumas in as much depth as you might in other types of talk therapy, such as psychodynamic therapy. Although this feature can be considered a “pro”, some people may view it as a “con”. CBT doesn’t always address deeper, root causes of problems in ways that some other longer-term forms of therapy might.
- Narrow in scope – CBT focuses on one specific problem at a time; therefore, you may find that although you successfully overcame the initial problem you sought help for, you still have other challenges you would like to conquer. To do this, you can book more CBT sessions with your therapist to work on a new specific problem, or you can try a different form of talk therapy, such as eye movement desensitisation and reprogramming (EMDR) therapy.
- Limited – Although CBT can successfully help many different people with a range of mental health challenges, it may not work for people with severe mental health disorders or learning difficulties.
CBT is a highly-engaging, fast technique that allows you to make rapid changes in the way you think, feel and act.
It offers much faster results than many other forms of therapy and also provides you with a toolkit of skills that you can take with you and use whenever you face challenges throughout the rest of your life.