What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a NICE approved psychotherapy used to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is a “doing” therapy which aims to help you learn practical life skills to help you manage your symptoms of anxiety and depression.
When we are down, stressed, or anxious, our thoughts and behaviours can change and become unhelpful, which can lead to us get stuck in what we call vicious cycles. For instance, if we are feeling low, we may start to lack motivation to do things, such as seeing friends, going to work, paying bills, or keeping the house clean. This behaviour change may initially give you a sense of relief that you do not have to face the burdensome activities. However, if we continue to withdraw from life, we miss out on chances to experience pleasure or achievement, meaning we are more likely to stay low. Additionally, by being more inactive, we have more time to sit with our negative thoughts, which will only reinforce how low we are feeling.
CBT can really help to break these vicious cycles by helping you to notice how your life has changed since you became low and to help you gradually reintroduce meaningful activities. Research has shown that this can be a powerful way to improve mood. CBT can also help you to examine any negative unhelpful thoughts that can also be very common when we are feeling low. Thoughts like, “what’s the point,” “I won’t enjoy it anyway,” or “I’m such a failure,” can really reinforce low mood, meaning we are less likely to do pleasurable activities and we ultimately stay stuck in a vicious cycle of depression. By learning to identify these thoughts, and by questioning them more instead of believing them as gospel, we can learn to think in a more compassionate way towards ourselves, which often results in a more improved mood.
With regards to anxiety, we may start to avoid situation/things that make us anxious. This makes complete sense because anxiety can be unpleasant to experience. However, what if it is giving a meeting at work that you are avoiding? What if it is meeting up with your friends? Eventually, avoiding things will become a problem because it can really start to impact your life and relationships. With this example, CBT can help you start to gradually reduce avoidance and learn to face the things that make you anxious to try and help you reclaim your life and take control back.
CBT involves “homework,” which is designed to help you practice the skills you have learnt in your sessions. The purpose of the homework tasks is a bit like going to a Physiotherapist to help with a shoulder injury. The Physiotherapist will suggest some exercises for you to do at home to help you overcome your injury. If you practice the exercises, you are more likely to recover. CBT is very similar in that frequent practice of CBT skills lead to a reduction in symptoms of anxiety or depression. If you do not practice the skills, you are unlikely to see an improvement. A certain element of motivation is required for you to practice these skills outside of your therapy sessions. Your CBT Therapist will support you with this and eventually, you should notice an improvement in your symptoms leading to you living a life that feels more worth living. If you want to read more about the role of homework in CBT, check out my blog here.
If CBT sounds like it is for you, be sure to check your therapist is BABCP accredited. The BABCP is the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and is the lead organisation for CBT in the UK and Ireland. Its purpose is to promote practice, theory, and development of CBT. When a therapist is BABCP accredited, it essentially means they have had the necessary training and clinical experience that is needed by the BABCP to work as an accredited CBT Therapist. You can check this by checking the CBT register (see link below) and typing in your therapists’ surname. If their name is on the register, this means they are BABCP accredited, which will ensure you receive the right evidence-based CBT in your treatment.
If reading this blog has led to you wanting to try CBT, you can book your assessment with me here.