How does CBT work?
CBT therapy relies on the principle that all of our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physical feelings are linked. The assumption is that if we’re able to change one of these, the other factors can be altered too!
When we start feeling negative emotions or think negative thoughts, it can be easy to find ourselves in a downward spiral often worsening how we feel.
CBT therapy helps us notice these thought patterns early on and provides us with techniques to stop us spiralling in the first place.
What can CBT treat?
CBT is an effective technique in treating a variety of mental health illnesses. These include:
How can CBT therapy be done?
CBT can be done with a professional therapist on a one-to-one basis, in a group or even on your own! Sometimes, a person may use a combination of these three methods.
Here we’ll look at the 3 options:
1. One-to-One Sessions
CBT on a one-to-one basis is often held once a week or once every two weeks, with sessions lasting between 30 minutes to an hour. Treatment usually lasts between 5 to 20 sessions.
One of they key benefits of having your own therapist is the ability to focus on your own specific needs and struggles.
This is usually the most expensive option (especially if done privately), however can be free or subsidised if gone through the NHS or a charity.
2. Group Sessions
In a group setting, a therapist leads between 5 to 15 patients usually once a week or fortnight.
A key benefit of group therapy is the support network of others going through a similar situation to you. This can also help put your issues into perspective.
There are groups for specific issues such as addiction depression or grief, as well as more general groups for things like poor self-esteem or social skills.
If you don’t fancy seeing a professional or have financial or time constraints then CBT can be practiced on your own.
The internet now has loads of free resources to help you understand your issues and how to overcome them. These can come in the form of self-help workbooks or computer courses with support from a therapist. You may wish to supplement your CBT therapy with tools such as journals and notepads to help you stay focused.
One of the best benefits of this is the freedom to pick and choose the content you want on your own timescale. Although without guidance from a therapist, it may be harder to know what to look for and hold yourself accountable!
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What does a CBT session involve?
During a CBT session, you will discuss your issues with your therapist to work out where negative thought patterns and behaviours might come from.
Your therapist may ask you about your current life or previous experiences to understand how these may have affected you.
Activities during your CBT session may include:
- Going through your life experiences
- Role-playing activities
- Learning techniques to calm your mind and body
- Keeping a mood diary/journal
- Completing worksheets
- Discussing topics from previous sessions
It is common to receive homework or complete tasks outside of your therapy sessions. These can not only deepen you level of self-awareness but can be a good way to track your progress (e.g. in a journal).
By the end of your CBT therapy course, you should have the knowledge and techniques to become your own therapist! You can then use these skills in your everyday life.
How will I feel after CBT?
During CBT you may discuss a number of topics that make you feel uncomfortable or upset, such as previous traumas or negative thoughts.
After a session, you may feel a range of emotions depending how your session went, what was discussed and how you felt about it. These include feeling:
Whilst it may be tempting to stop your CBT therapy, remember that it’s normal to feel this way and progress is being made!
I’m ready to get started with CBT – what next?
You should hopefully now be able to answer ‘What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’!
If you think that CBT is right for you then there are a few options for you to explore.
- Speak to a healthcare professional like your doctor. They can point you in the right direction for additional support as well as giving advice on how to manage your symptoms.
- Find a licenced therapist privately. If CBT is what you are looking for, make sure that they are accredited with the BABCP.
- Look online for CBT resources – there are plenty to explore including the worksheet below created by us, Jellyhead!
Whatever you choose to do, good luck! Congratulations on taking the first step to a happier, healthier you!