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What is CBT?

CBT seems to be all the rage at the moment, but what is it? CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and it is a type of talking therapy. “Cognitive” refers to your thoughts and “Behavioural” refers to the things you do. The idea behind CBT is that the way that we think about things affects how we feel, and therefore how we behave; by changing how we think about things we can improve how we manage and cope with things in day to day life. Some types of talking therapies focus on your past, whereas CBT is focused on current issues in your daily life, and aims to help you to cope better in future.

Breaking the cycle - negative thoughts

We all have negative thoughts sometimes, but if these thoughts go unchallenged, they can spiral and create a negative pattern of thinking.

For example, if you fail a test it can lead to thoughts of “I’m stupid”, “I’m not good enough”, or “I’m a failure”. This could lead to you feeling like you want to give up, and avoid situations where there is a possibility things might not go your way again.

Rather than dwelling on those negative thoughts about yourself, it can be helpful to try to break the cycle of negative thinking – failing a test doesn’t mean you have failed in life! Perhaps it was extremely hard and others found it challenging too? Or maybe you need to re-assess how you study? However, what is important is that you don’t allow this thought to define how you see yourself.

CBT focuses on stopping the cycle of negative thoughts, by breaking problems down and making them more manageable. By breaking the cycle, CBT can help to change the negative thought patterns and improve how you feel.

Who can CBT help?

CBT is a very effective treatment and has been proven to be of benefit in treating anxiety and depression. Additionally, it can help people with bipolar disorder, OCD, phobias, panic, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder and other mental health issues. What some people don’t realise is that CBT can be effective in people with chronic physical health conditions too; such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain and fibromyalgia.

How is CBT delivered?

CBT is a highly structured type of therapy, and is usually delivered in short courses, for example a weekly hour-long session for 12 weeks. Sometimes CBT is 1-to-1 with a therapist, and sometimes it is delivered in groups of other people with similar issues. There are also many books, online resources and interactive tools available.

One of the best things about CBT is that the principles that you have learned can often be applied to future situations, and this can help to prevent your symptoms returning.

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