CBT | therapy worth talking about

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapies, or CBT, are a range of talking therapies based on the theory that thoughts, feelings, what we do and how our body feels are all connected. If we change one of these we can alter the others.

When people feel worried or distressed we often fall into patterns of thinking and responding which can worsen how we feel. CBT works to help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better. CBT has lots of strategies that can help you in the here and now.

CBT works

CBT has a good evidence base for a wide range of mental health problems in adults, older adults, children and young people. This research has been carefully reviewed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who provide independent, evidence-based guidance for the NHS on the most effective ways to treat disease and ill health.

What can CBT help with?

NICE recommends CBT in the treatment of the following conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders (including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia and psychosis
  • Bipolar disorder

There is also good evidence that CBT is helpful in treating many other conditions, including:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Physical symptoms without a medical diagnosis
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Anger management

CBT can be used if you are on medication which has been prescribed by your GP. You can also use CBT on its own. This will depend on the difficulty you want help with.

How CBT is delivered

CBT can be offered in individual sessions with a therapist or as part of a group. The number of sessions you need depends on the difficulty you need help with. This will usually be between six and twenty sessions, typically of an hour long.

Your therapist can help you to notice any patterns in thinking or behaviours which might be keeping problems going and can offer information about different CBT techniques which could help you.

You and your therapist will discuss your specific difficulties and set goals for you to achieve. CBT is not a quick fix – it involves hard work during and between sessions e.g. keeping track of what you are thinking, feeling and doing, or trying out new ways of thinking or acting. Your therapist will not make decisions for you. They will help you decide what difficulties you want to work on in order to help you improve your situation. Your therapist will be able to advise you on how to continue using CBT techniques in your daily life after your treatment ends.

CBT is available in a wide range of settings, including hospitals and clinics. It is sometimes provided in the form of written or computer-based packages. This may be combined with flexible telephone of face-to-face appointments to check progress and help overcome any barriers to putting into practice what you have learned. This way of delivering CBT has made it more accessible to people with busy lives and has also reduced delays in getting help.

Self-help CBT

CBT-based self-help books are available. There are also websites providing information on CBT techniques which are free to access. Evidence does show that using them works better with support from a therapist, especially for low mood.

Finding a therapist

CBT is widely available on the NHS. If you feel that CBT may be helpful, then you should first discuss it with your GP. Private therapists are also available. Before starting CBT, we recommend you check that your therapist is accredited by BABCP.

BABCP believes that accreditation is important in protecting the public and raising the quality of CBT.

To find details of BABCP-accredited CBT therapists visit www.cbtregisteruk.com

Let's Talk About CBT
Podcast

Dr Lucy Maddox interviews experts in the field including people who have experienced CBT for themselves. A mix of interviews, myth-busting and CBT jargon explained.

Find out more

Royal College of Psychiatrists

What is CBT? [External Link]

CBT Register UK

Find a CBT Therapist