What is CBT Anyway?


I get asked this question a lot. People often don’t really know what to expect from psychological therapies and this may be a barrier to seeking valuable and potentially life-changing support. It’s understandable to be unsure, especially given the stereotypes depicted in film and TV – from therapy couches and clipboards to white-coated psychiatrists at grand desks. My own early ideas of therapy came from watching Frasier so there's no judgement here!


There are many forms of therapy. This article will help paint an accurate picture of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is the clinically recommended treatment for common mental health difficulties, including anxiety and depression.


In conversations I’ve had over the years, people have shared reservations about therapy. This has included concerns about not wanting to 'open a can of worms' or delve into childhood experiences, not wanting to 'just talk' about their problems, and feeling concerned about how long they may need therapy for. Some have the misconception that it is enough to simply attend appointments and aren't aware of what's required from them to truly benefit. Based on these conversations, here’s some clarity over what CBT does and does not involve.


CBT does not involve:

  • Spending every session talking, 'offloading' or having a ‘chat’ with your therapist.

  • Being given advice or being told what to do.

  • Lying on a therapy couch!

  • Starting a session without a sense of where it might take you.

  • Having an open-ended plan with an indefinite number of sessions.

  • Getting better by turning up to appointments each week.


CBT does involve:

  • Being guided through conversations and exercises that help you process and understand your experiences and feelings and how they are affecting your day-to-day life.

  • Being asked questions that help you work the answers out for yourself and then jointly coming up with agreed next steps.

  • Sitting up with a pen in hand to work through exercises and make notes!

  • Agreeing clear therapy goals and completing weekly homework that helps you make active steps towards them. Having an agreed agenda for each session and having regular therapy reviews to help stay focused.

  • Being advised of the number of sessions recommended (informed by clinical research and scientifically backed treatment plans) at the start of therapy.

  • Improving your mental health and wellbeing by taking a proactive stance throughout therapy.

CBT is an active process that involves learning skills to help you make changes to the way you think and behave in order to improve the way you feel. As well as being effective for treating mental health difficulties, CBT can also be effective in their prevention. Stress, for example, has been named the epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organisation. It’s something I am sure we can all relate to. Stress itself is not classed as a mental illness. However, we know that it can increase risk of anxiety and depression. Using CBT to manage stress can help us develop skills to support our mental wellbeing and prevent the problem from escalating.


If you want to improve your mental wellbeing and like the sound of this approach, we’d love to help. You can find out more or book an appointment here.



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