What is “cognitive behavioral therapy” (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a mixture of cognitive and behavioural therapy. This means a CBT therapist is trained to help you understand how your thinking and behaviour influence your situation and how to develop new thinking or behaviour which enables you to address specific problems, more effectively.

CBT is a structured, interactive therapy which uses explorative questions and a range of different exercises and behavioural experiments. CBT therapists combine these methods to help you understand problems from a new perspective and develop more effective strategies for addressing your concerns successfully.

It is a short-term, problem-focused therapy, which has been successfully used to treat a number of psychological and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety and addictive behaviours, over the last 20-30 years. It is the style of therapy most commonly recommended by NHS General Practitioners and Psychiatrists.

  • Structured (there is a clear plan for each session)
  • Focused largely on present problems that are causing distress
  • Collaborative (client and therapist work together to find solutions)
  • Skill-building (clients learn skills that can help them to deal better with problem situations, and practice these both within and between sessions)
  • Emphasise thinking and behaviour patterns that may be more effective than those in operation currently
  • Look at thinking which causes distress
  • Focus on practical ways to change all of the above

What differentiates CBT from other types of psychotherapy?

There are many aspects of CBT that differentiate it from other forms of psychotherapy. First and foremost CBT is devoted to reducing and eliminating psychological symptoms and distress as quickly and completely as possible. In CBT there is more of a focus on helping your develop new thinking and behavioral skills that will enable you to feel better and stay better. The skill development component of CBT differentiates it from other psychotherapies. In fact, sessions can feel more like a class than therapy at times, as you learn new skills you can experiment with between sessions. Finally, CBT has been more extensively researched than any other form of psychotherapy. The research generally shows that CBT is the most effective form of psychological treatment for anxiety disorders, depression and a host of other psychological problems.

Why is CBT the most recommended form of talk therapy?

Patients who adopt CBT methods have a good prognosis to overcome many psychological difficulties. There is proof, in the form of research studies, that show when patients develop new thinking skills and new behaviours they not only get better, they tend to stay better, or have a lower chance of relapse. For further information,you can click on the independent report published by the National Institute of Health, which reviews dozens of randomised control trials using CBT. Read the NIH report.

CBT is used extensively in the NHS and it is an approved talking therapy under the NICE Guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for depression and anxiety disorders. The NHS recommends CBT as treatment prior to prescribing antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. (see press coverage here)

What are the differences between online therapy and traditional in-person therapy?

In-person therapy involves chatting face-to-face with a therapist, which allows for verbal and non-verbal communication. This setting offers a private, focused environment conducive to building trust quickly, a crucial element in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

On the other hand, online therapy offers convenience and accessibility, suiting busy schedules or those with limited mobility. It encourages a different kind of openness as the world disappears and your attention focuses on the screen. Some people even find it easier to speak about difficult topics online rather than in person.

Both modalities align with CBT principles but vary in the level of personal connection and convenience. The choice often hinges on individual preferences, comfort with technology, and practical considerations.

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