What is CBT Therapy

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What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is a talking therapy. It is an evidence based intervention which has been proven to help treat a wide range of psychological, 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 feel and act. In turn our actions can affect how we think and feel.

The therapist and client work together in exploring, identifying and changing unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns maintaining the cycle of emotional distress.
The BABCP website provides more information about what CBT is and its effectiveness with a range of anxiety, depression and mental health problems.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a branch of psychotherapy designed to teach clients to be aware of the thoughts and feelings that can negatively influence their actions. At the core of CBT is a range of talking therapies that help clients take notice of distressing thought patterns and learn to change how they affect them.

CBT is focused on helping clients to overcome a specific issue or challenge in their lives. A CBT therapist educates clients to identify negative thought patterns and understand the disturbing beliefs that have a destructive effect on their emotions and behaviours.


The basis of CBT

The primary foundations of CBT are the concept that our feelings, thoughts and emotions play a central part in the way we behave.  When we encounter feelings or emotions that reinforce false beliefs, we can become pre-occupied by them and let them overtake our life. These emotional difficulties can potentially cause issues with our families, relationships, health and career.

This type of distorted thinking can build to such an extent that a person will suffer psychological problems.  Imagine a person who spends a disproportionate amount of time worrying about car accidents, these disruptive feelings may make that person avoid car journeys or be fearful of driving, which can have a significant adverse impact on their life.

Cognitive behavioural therapy aims to teach clients that they cannot possibly control every aspect of their environment. But what they do have control over is their interpretation of the surroundings and how to deal with the feelings and thoughts that certain situations can evoke.

CBT is an effective therapy option, which is well-supported and has been proven to successfully overcome a host of adverse behaviours. The therapy is designed to help clients deal with their current issues and not problems in the past.  By breaking down the negative emotions that affect day-to-day life and changing those thought patterns, clients will improve the way they feel and think about previously stressful situations.


What can CBT treat?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is evidence-based and has been successfully used to treat a number of emotional difficulties and psychological conditions including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • PTSD
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Whilst CBT cannot reduce the symptoms of physical conditions, there is evidence that it can help with the worrying thoughts that chronic pain or other long-term health issues can induce.


Reducing negative thought patterns

During the CBT process, clients are encouraged to examine the harmful thoughts that can cause or heighten anxiety, depression and emotional struggles.

CBT treatment challenges the client to look at the evidence that can either support or refute their disturbing thoughts. By teaching the person to think objectively about the unrealistic feelings that contribute to their anxiety, they can begin to employ healthier thought patterns.


Learn how to change destructive thoughts

A specialist in cognitive behaviour therapy will begin treatment by showing their client how to recognise their difficult thoughts and then lead them towards an understanding of how feelings, emotions and situations can be a contributing factor in developing negative thoughts. The procedure will take a varying amount of time depending on the individual but guides them towards a goal of self-discovery and a more positive thought process.

CBT therapists have a range of strategies to help clients deal with unhelpful thinking by showing them how to re-evaluate their thoughts with realism. This will help to create a better coping mechanism when faced with difficult circumstances.

Once a client is comfortable in engaging with troublesome thought patterns, the therapist will move to the second element of CBT – the behaviours that are feeding the problem.

Changing someone’s behavioural patterns may involve teaching the person to face their fears rather than use avoidance tactics. Therapists encourage a role-play scenario to prepare their clients for potential anxiety-inducing situations. A CBT therapist will always offer reassurance and provide the tools to calm the mind and relax the body and will take a very active role in the treatment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is oriented towards achieving a specific goal, with the therapist and the client working as mutual collaborators to reach the desired outcome.


Types of CBT therapy

  • Depression CBT: Depression is a persistent feeling of emotional pain, uselessness and grief. Verbal counselling sessions, listening, evaluating and most importantly understanding the disturbing thought process can determine the medical level of the depression and take steps towards an effective treatment to redefine the negative thoughts.
  • Anxiety CBT: Anxiety affects people in many different ways. PTSD, stress, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorders can all induce anxious feelings. CBT offers a systematic approach to talking through a person’s fears and exposing them to their phobias in a controlled way. Often, when a person confronts their phobia, they do not get the negative outcome they had feared, and the anxious state of mind will gradually diminish.
  • Couple Therapy: Modern relationships are challenging to maintain. Emotionally charged discussions and perceived mistakes the other partner may have made can all contribute towards a damaged relationship. Couple therapy is a very verbal form of CBT which establishes the relationship goals of both parties with the aid of a neutral third-party perspective. The aim is to bring clarity to the relationship and both partners on a personal level.


Qualified CBT Professional – Jamie Dempsey

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Interventions located in Manchester, provide effective evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy treatment to inspire our clients to achieve empowerment, growth and positive change.

Jamie Dempsey is accredited as a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist with the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychologies (BABCP). Jamie provides verbal counselling to help his clients understand their emotional distress and develop techniques to change thinking patterns to live life to the fullest.

Other sources of information about CBT therapy:


The NHS Choices website provides patient information and videos to advise patients considering CBT