Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy that is action-oriented and, for the most part, focuses on strategies that help with addressing the here and now. Instead of looking into the past.
That is not to say that CBT does not look at underlying beliefs formed in the past, but it primarily focuses on the present and future. CBT will help you look at current thoughts, attitudes, behaviours that shape your feelings.
Research has found that CBT can help treat many mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction and much more.
At the root of CBT is the belief that how we think impacts how we feel and behave. So, therefore, when working with a therapist, they would help you identify thought patterns that do not serve your highest self.
What happens at a session?
In a CBT session with a therapist, they would introduce you to exercises for you to use when you are, for example, trapped in an anxiety loop, which is very common. Our mind gets ‘hooked’ onto a negative thought, and we cannot find our way out of the downward spiral.
CBT looks to change any mental distortions that have been created in your mind. Another way to look at it is that we have made assumptions about our reality that is not based on factual information. Human beings are incredible storytellers, and we often base those stories on false information. That is what usually happens when a person is struggling with anxiety or depression.
A CPT therapist will help you examine those stories and provide you with tools to not apply meaning to those simply not true stories.
Many of our thoughts are automatic; CBT sets out to stop these automatic thoughts in their track because often they are not very helpful. Our thoughts can increase our level of stress and worry when, in fact, there is nothing to be fearful or worried about.
As you work with a therapist, you will increasingly become aware of your mood’s shifting nature, which is good because most people are unaware of how interchangeable our mood is. In awareness, there is a great strength.
Over time, your confidence, self-worth and wellbeing should increase as your work with a therapist.
Different types of exercises that the therapist will introduce should help you to be able to move out of the anxiety loop.
For example, you will learn ways to:
- Remain calm
- Keep a diary
- Use self-talk strategies
- Embed Mantras
Life outside of CBT a session
An essential aspect of the journey with CBT is auditing your behaviour. In other words, monitoring your experiences and reactions over time help you and your therapist understand what triggers you the most.
Take, for example, a friend triggers you in one way, but another friend does. Why is that? What is the difference? This is the key to personal development and becoming the best version of yourself.
A course of CBT lasts typically 6 sessions, and you can learn to:
- Challenge your default thought patterns
- Gain a sense of perspective
- See problems with more clarity
- Become more aware of how reality is, over how you think it is
- Understand other people better
- Step away from all-or-nothing behaviour
- Become less judgemental
- Create goals
- Create a more positive frame of mind
- Raise self-awareness
- Decrease fear
CBT does not work for everyone; it depends mainly on your disposition. Some people are more thought-based, whilst others rely more on their feelings. In the case of people who are more feelings-based, they might benefit more from psychotherapy.
Choosing your CBT therapist
In the UK, you should be able to get a course of CBT via the National Health Service. That said, many still go private, and using CBT has grown in popularity over the last few years. Therefore, seeking out a recommendation is an excellent route to take.
You will also want to make sure the therapist has the proper credentials.
You may also find that the first therapist you are paired with is not the right one for you. As a result, I would recommend being open to testing out a few different therapists before you find the one that is right for you.
A good round of therapists are not always down the particular therapeutical approach, but your relationship with the therapist.