What is cognitive behavioural therapy, or ‘CBT’? Yes, it’s very popular, but is it the right type of therapy for you?
Here are seven key things about cognitive behavioural therapy you need to know.
When you start CBT therapy you decide with your therapist how long you will commit to working together. While therapies like psychodynamic or humanistic are open-ended and often long-term, CBT therapy tends to be for up to 16 weeks.
Of course, if you and CBT therapist think it’s a good idea, you can always contract for another round of sessions after the first one ends.
“Cognitive’ refers to thinking. ‘Behavioural’ refers to acting. CBT therapy is interested in how the ways we think and act affect how we feel.
The idea is that there is a negative thinking ‘loop'. A thought affects the way we feel, which affects the way we act, which creates another thought, and the cycle goes on.
Negative thinking starts the cycle that leads to feeling bad. So CBT helps you recognise and question your negative thinking, so you can feel better.
The idea is that it less our experiences themselves that are upsetting, but the assumptions we let our minds make about them. When we learn to recognise these ‘cognitive distortions’, we can start to have more balanced thoughts that don’t bring us down.
You might briefly talk about your past in the first one or two sessions so your therapist can learn about what bought you to therapy. But after that, you will be working with the issues you struggle with in your current daily life.
Therapies under the psychodynamic and humanistic umbrellas involve talking and just seeing what comes up. CBT instead follows a structure. You learn specific tools and use worksheets or a workbook.
Part of the structure of CBT is homework, or weekly ‘assignments’. This involves using CBT tools in your daily life, and filling out worksheets you bring to your next session.
A lot of research has been done to show how cognitive behavioural therapy can help people. As an ‘evidence based therapy’ (proven to work), it has been show useful for: