What is it?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term talking therapy based on the theory that the way you think about a situation or problem can affect the way you feel and behave – and how you act can affect the way you think and feel.

CBT helps you to focus on the way you think about things in your life (your cognitive process) and how this affects the way you behave and deal with your problems.  Making common errors in your thinking (thinking that something is true because of how you feel, jumping to conclusions, over generalising, labelling and mental filtering, for example) can all lead to vicious cycles of negative behaviours and thoughts. CBT helps to replace these ways of thinking with more useful or realistic ways and breaks down seemingly overwhelming problems into manageable parts.

CBT was pioneered by US psychiatrist Dr Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s.

It can help if …

CBT has been proven to help people who have problems like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug misuse, bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also help with sleep disorders, anger management and fatigue, as well as with long-term health conditions like arthritis, chronic pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). CBT won’t make the condition or problem go away but it may help you cope with it better.

What happens?

A course of CBT usually lasts between six weeks and six months, with 30-60 minute sessions. You and your therapist will explore your problems and work out a plan of action with a series of goals and practical techniques for you to deal with them. You can have CBT one-to-one, in a group, or follow exercises in self-help books or on a computer.

For more information, see the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies.