Wednesday, 15 April 2015

What is CBT?

There are many different explanations out there on the internet that attempt to describe what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) really is. Some of them are overly technical and complicated and some of them are very simple and don’t fully explain how it works. This is us trying to create a description somewhere in the middle.

The easiest way to get an understanding of what it’s all about is to look at how it can be broken down:

CBT is a way of understanding the world. Different people see the world in different ways. For example some people find spiders fascinating whilst others find them terrifying. These thoughts are what make us all different. However they can also cause us problems. CBT is a way of looking at negative thoughts and finding ways to change them therefore changing the way you act in certain situations.

CBT can help with a wide range of mental health difficulties. From mild stress up to strong levels of OCD and depression, all our behaviours can be changed by adapting the way we think and perceive the world.

In order to best understand how the therapy works its best to use an example. Following on from the previous example of a fear of spiders CBT can be used to adapt the thought processes in order to overcome the anxiety associated with this fear.

For example:
A fear of spiders stems from a belief that spiders are dangerous and can cause the individual harm. The individual with the fear will then avoid spiders in order to lower their anxiety. Whilst this anxiety is lowered on a day to day basis, when the individual does come across a spider their fear is heightened even more.
This is where CBT can intervene. By changing the initial thought processes and beliefs it can eliminate the fear altogether. By encouraging the individual to spend more time with spiders and directly interact with them the individual realizes that no harm has come to them. When they next come across a spider the memory of holding a large tarantula and being safe will be a more predominant thought than of being afraid of a smaller house spider. Therefore the individual no longer has the anxiety associated with the fear.

CBT works on a personal level with the individual to discover where various thought processes and behaviours stem from. The individual will work with the therapist for a set period of time. Unlike other talking therapies that can go on for years CBT is known for its quick treatment. Usually 6-10 sessions are enough to begin the initial behaviour changes. In between sessions the individual will work on various exercises to help reinforce these changes and ensure that they learn to help themselves instead of relying on a therapist. This ensures that they have a healthier future leaving them in charge of their own thoughts and behaviours.

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