Is CBT for me?
If you are reading this blog then perhaps you are thinking about getting support for something that you are experiencing difficult. In this blog, we talk about what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is, how it works and who it is for. We hope that it gives you some understanding and helps you to consider whether this is the right approach for you.
Firstly, what is CBT?
CBT is highly popular and almost always the first to be recommended for individuals experiencing psychological distress by healthcare professionals, such as your GP. This is because CBT is “evidence-based” which means that it has been studied extensively across all age ranges and proven to be effective. You may have heard of CBT in passing, experienced it for yourself or know someone who has. Yet, for a model that is pretty much the ‘gold standard’ treatment, it is not always clear to the public what CBT is really about and how it actually works. We hope to remedy that as you read on…
The fundamental principle of CBT is that your thoughts (cognitions) affects how you feel (feelings) which in turn affects how you behave (behaviour).
Let’s use an example to illustrate how these three are linked. Imagine you are walking down the street and wave to someone that you know but they do not wave back. You might have a thought of ‘they ignored me’, and/or ‘they don’t like me’. Now, if you instantly accept this thought as being 100% true, you may experience feelings such as sadness and/or anxiety. Your emotions are likely to influence how you then choose to behave. For example, you might start to avoid that person assuming that they do not like you. Before you know it, your relationship with them has become affected because of how the situation has been interpreted.
In reality, there could actually be several reasons why the person did not wave back. This includes the very real possibility that they simply did not see you. Imagine how different you would feel and behave towards that person if you considered the thought that ‘they did not see me’ instead. It would be fair to say that you probably would not be feeling as sad and/or anxious.
What does CBT involve?
CBT involves reframing your experiences. At the very heart of the model, it encourages you to become more self-aware of the thoughts that pop into your mind, how you feel and behave. CBT involves exploring what you are finding difficult and how this may have evolved. It is a very collaborative process, and encourages you and your therapist to developing a shared understanding of what’s going on for you. CBT particularly focuses upon the content of your thoughts, and the type of ‘unhelpful thinking styles’ that you may experience. It also involves examining how realistic or true those thoughts are, and whether you can consider alternative thoughts. CBT is also particularly great at focusing upon behaviours that may be keeping you stuck (e.g., drinking, smoking, avoidance). It encourages you to work towards developing more healthy ways of coping. Practicing techniques that you have learned out of sessions also really goes a long way to making great change.
Does it actually work?
Yes, CBT has a high success rate and research shows that it is one of the most effective treatment for depression and anxiety, as well other mental health problems. The biggest contributing factor in making CBT successful is how committed and engaged you are to understand how your thought processes work, and apply these principles of CBT on yourself. CBT can be used in conjunction with other therapeutic models where necessary, and can also compliment prescribed medication.
Can you benefit from CBT?
Yes. If you are willing to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours to help you understand what is maintaining your current difficulties, it is worth considering engaging in CBT. As mentioned above, CBT is designed for all ages and for a range of problems.
Here is a question that you might wish to consider. Are you prepared to invest time in learning about yourself and to try out some new tools/techniques to help you learn how to cope better? If so, CBT might be your answer.