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What is CBT? [PDF]

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What is CBT?

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What is CBT?

CBT, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, is a talking therapy. It has been proved to help treat a wide range of emotional and physical health conditions in adults, young people and children. CBT looks at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we act. In turn our actions can affect how we think and feel.The therapist and client work together in changing the client’s behaviours, or their thinking patterns, or both of these.

CBT works

There is a great deal of research evidence to show that CBT works effectively in treating depression. This research has been carefully reviewed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

NICE provides independent, evidence-based guidance for the NHS on the most effective ways to treat disease and ill health. CBT is recommended by NICE for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

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

  • schizophrenia and psychosis

  • bipolar disorder

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

  • chronic fatigue

  • behavioural difficulties in children

  • anxiety disorders in children

  • 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 CBT sessions you need depends on the difficulty you need help with. Often this will be between five and 20 weekly sessions lasting between 30 and 60 minutes each. CBT is mainly concerned with how you think and act now, instead of looking at and getting help with difficulties in your past.

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. Your therapist will not tell you what to do. Instead 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, as well as hospitals or clinics. It is sometimes provided in the form of written or computer-based packages. This may be combined with flexible telephone or 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 now widely available on the NHS for the treatment of depression. 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, it is recommended that you check that your therapist is accredited by BABCP. You can find details of all CBT therapists accredited by BABCP online at www.cbtregisteruk.com.

About BABCP

BABCP stands for the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies. It has been the lead organisation for CBT in the UK since 1972. BABCP members work in the NHS, social care, education and universities. BABCP also provides accreditation to those who practise CBT in the NHS and privately. It is widely recognised by health and social care employers, training institutions and health insurance companies. BABCP believes that accreditation is important in protecting the public and raising the quality of CBT.

© BABCP Published October 2012

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