for better mental health

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.

What can CBT help with?

CBT is a relatively flexible therapy that can be adapted to meet your particular needs. Evidence suggests it can be an effective treatment for a range of mental health problems, such as:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) particularly recommends CBT for depression and anxiety. There are also formal adaptations of CBT to treat particular mental health problems, such as phobias, eating disorders, PTSD and OCD.

You may also be offered CBT for:

CBT can also help you find new ways to cope with physical health problems, such as:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • chronic pain
  • habits or problems, such as facial tics
  • general health problems.

You may also be offered CBT if you are experiencing a mental health problem alongside a physical health problem. The tools and techniques you learn during CBT can often be applied to other problems in the future.

"CBT got me through my chronic health anxiety disorder. It was a tough six months, but I still use the skills I learnt over 10 years ago to rationalise with myself."

Does CBT work without medication?

For some people CBT can work just as well as medication for treating problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.

Depending on the symptoms you experience, your doctor might suggest a combination of CBT and medication, such as an antidepressant. If you want to discuss whether CBT is the right treatment for you, you can talk to your GP. (See our pages on is CBT for me? and having your say in treatment for more things to consider).

"I had CBT... when I had severe depression. It got me through a really tough time, from being suicidal and off work on long term sick [leave], to fully functioning again and now in a successful career. I found it worked really well in combination with antidepressants. It pulled me back from a very dark place and reintroduced structure to my life when I'd given up."

This information was published in October 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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