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What is CBT and how does it differ from other psychological therapies?

Updated: Feb 8

CBT or otherwise known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is a form of psychological therapy with a focus on thoughts, feelings and how these affect behaviour. CBT is helpful to manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave and focuses more on the here and now as opposed to previous experiences or issues.

CBT is based on a concept that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours all work together to form a cycle and negative thoughts can begin a vicious cycle, negatively impacting your feelings and behaviours. CBT work aims to break that cycle, by recognising and breaking down those negative thoughts.

Unlike other talking therapies CBT is a more practical approach, in the sense that it provides the client with tools to deal with their negative thoughts and techniques to help them change their thoughts and state of mind.

Because of this practical approach, CBT is widely used to treat many different mental health illnesses and research has shown it to be a very effective approach. CBT is used for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality disorders and many more mental health difficulties.

Unlike other talking therapies such as counselling (person-centred therapy) or psychodynamic therapy, CBT can often be seen to be a 'quicker approach' as there is evidence to show the effectiveness of CBT in a relatively short period of time. However, CBT does require a lot of work from the client, there is often homework involved and it really requires the client to be motivated to want to make a change.

CBT can also be seen as a more structured approach to therapy, which suits some clients more than others. Rather than talking freely about your life and problems you wish to address, the client and CBT therapist will discuss specific problems and set clear goals for the client to achieve. It can also be seen to be more pragmatic than other approaches, in the sense that it identifies problems and aims to solve them.

Often clients can find a mixture of approaches can work well for them as they might find they have previous issues they wish to address such as childhood issues or relationship issues which would be more suited to a psychodynamic or person-centred approach, but they also might have negative thoughts or current issues in their life that they would like to solve. A mixed approach to therapy is usually known as an integrative approach.

If you wish to seek CBT or other forms of talking therapy please ensure you find an appropriate therapist who is accredited by one of the following accreditation bodies:

HCPC- Health and Care Professionals Council

BABCP- British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies

BACP- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

UKCP- UK Council for Psychotherapy

It is very important to check out your therapist's qualifications before embarking on therapy with them.

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