What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?



CBT is a talking therapy that can help you change how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). These changes can help you feel better and unlike other therapies, it focuses on the here and now problems and difficulties.

It is a way of talking about:

  • What you do affects your thoughts.
  • How you think about yourself, the world and other people.

CBT can help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Phobias(agoraphobia & social phobia)
  • Stress
  • Bulimia
  • Eating Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder & Psychosis
  • Low Self Esteem
  • Anger
  • Physical Health- Pain or Fatigue

How does CBT work?

CBT can help put into perspective overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. This will enable the client to see how they are connected and how they affect you. These parts are:

  • A situation – an event, problem or difficult situation.
  • Thoughts
  • Physical Feelings
  • Emotions
  • Actions.

CBT helps you understand the link between your thoughts, emotions and behaviour. This is important because sometimes, when you talk about things that are difficult, you may feel worse to begin with. CBT will help you discover skills like:

  • How to understand your individual problem more, as you’re the expert in your problem.
  • Identify links between your thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
  • Arrive at an individualised formulation to what is keeping the problem going.
  • Try out different ways to problem solve
  • CBT is not about thinking more positively as thoughts are not facts.
  • CBT helps the way you feel to improve what you think and what you do. By being able to approach situations in a more balanced way, you will hopefully be more effective in solving your problems and feel more in control of your life.

How are sessions implemented?

If you agree CBT is the right treatment for you, you will be expected to meet with your therapist regularly in one-to one sessions or in groups together with other people who are going through the same problems as you. If you have CBT on an individual basis, you’ll usually meet with a CBT therapist for between 5 and 20 weekly or fortnightly sessions, with each session lasting 30-60 minutes.

To help your therapist to understand your difficulties, you will be asked to complete some questionnaires or worksheets. These may be repeated throughout your treatment. Your progress within treatment will be monitored and discussed with you on a regular basis, as your views are important.

The therapist will help you understand your problems and help you discover ways of dealing with them. You will be encouraged to practise them outside of your therapy (for example, at school or college or at home). This means that tasks or homework will be set at the end of the meeting. You may be given worksheets to help remind you of what you need to do.

Why do I have to do homework?
CBT will help you learn:

  • how to overcome negative thoughts (she doesn’t like me)
  • unhelpful behaviours (not going to the party)
  • difficult emotions (feeling sad)

It is important to practise the CBT skills you are taught for the following reasons:

  • to be sure that you understand them;
  • to check that you can use them when you need to (e.g. when you are feeling upset about something);
  • so that any problems you may have in using these skills can be worked on in your therapy.
    It’s not always easy to learn new skills, so you will need lots of support from your therapist, your family/carers.

Go to How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Help? >