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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Explains what cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is, what it is for, what happens during therapy and how to find a therapist.

Your stories

How CBT helped me beat the bully in my head.

Sarah blogs about how cognitive behaviour therapy helped her manage her anxiety disorder.

Posted on 27/11/2014

Therapy turned my life around

Dolly blogs about her successful therapy

Posted on 26/03/2010

Being diagnosed with depression

Becca
Posted on 25/09/2013

What is CBT?

CBT is a type of talking treatment that focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems.

It combines cognitive therapy (examining the things you think) and behaviour therapy (examining the things you do).

I have depression. [CBT is] very, very good for helping [me] not listen to [my] self critical voice, which is so damaging.

What's the theory behind CBT?

CBT is based on the idea that the way we think about situations can affect the way we feel and behave. For example, if you interpret a situation negatively then you might experience negative emotions as a result, and those bad feelings might then lead you to behave in a certain way.

How does negative thinking start?

Negative thinking patterns can start from childhood onwards. For example, if you didn't receive much attention or praise from your parents or teachers at school, you might've thought "I'm useless, I'm not good enough".

Over time you might come to believe these assumptions, until as an adult these negative thoughts become automatic. This way of thinking might then affect how you feel at work, university or in your general life.

If your negative interpretation of situations goes unchallenged, then these patterns in your thoughts, feelings and behaviour can become part of a continuous cycle:

CBT diagrams 2015

How does CBT work?

In CBT you work with a therapist to identify and challenge any negative thinking patterns and behaviour which may be causing you difficulties. In turn this can change the way you feel about situations, and enable you to change your behaviour in future.

You and your therapist might focus on what is going on in your life right now, but you might also look at your past, and think about how your past experiences impact the way you see the world.

CBT is learning to stop the cycle of negative thinking. I still have relapses now and it is the one tool that I use to get me out of the truly dark spots.

 


This information was published in February 2015. We will revise it in 2018.


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