What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

It is a way of talking about –
How you think about yourself, the world and other people.
How what you do affects your thoughts and feelings.

CBT can help you to change how you think (“Cognitive”) and what you do (“Behaviour)”. These changes can help you to feel better. Unlike some of the other talking treatments, it   focuses on the “here and now” problems and difficulties. Instead of focussing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now.

It has been found to be helpful for:

  • anger management
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • child and adolescent problems
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • chronic pain
  • depression
  • drug or alcohol problems
  • eating problems
  • general health problems
  • habits, such as facial tics
  • mood swings
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • phobias
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • sexual and relationship problems
  • sleep problems

How does it work?   CBT can help you to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. This makes it easier to see how they are connected and how they affect you. These parts are:

A Situation – a problem, event or difficult situation

From this can follow:

  • Emotions
  • Physical feelings
  • Actions

Each of these areas can affect the others. How you think about a problem can affect how you feel physically and emotionally. It can also alter what you do about it.

What does CBT involve?

The sessions
CBT can be done individually or with a group of people. If you have individual therapy you will usually meet with your therapist for between 5 and 20, weekly, or fortnightly, sessions.

In the first 2-4 sessions, your  therapist will check that you can use this sort of treatment and you will check that you feel comfortable with it.

The therapist will also ask you questions about your past life and background.     Although CBT concentrates on the here and now, at times you may need to talk about the past to understand how it is affecting you now.

You decide what you want to deal with in the short, medium and long term.

You and your therapist will usually start by agreeing on what to discuss that day.

The Work  

To help this process, your therapist may ask you to keep a diary.  This will help you to identify your individual patterns of thoughts, emotions, bodily feelings and actions.

Together you will look at your thoughts, feelings and behaviours to work out if they are unrealistic or unhelpful and how they affect each other, and you.

Your therapist will then help you to work out how to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours

It’s easy to talk about doing something, much harder to actually do it. So, after you have identified what you can change, your therapist will recommend “homework” – you practise these changes in your everyday life. Depending on the situation, you might start to:
Question a self-critical or upsetting thought and replace it with a positive (and more realistic) one that you have developed in CBT.

CBT acts to help you understand that this is what’s going on. It helps you to step outside your automatic thoughts and test them

So what impact would CBT have on my life?

So what impact would CBT have on my life?

Depression and anxiety are unpleasant. They can seriously affect your ability to work and enjoy life.
CBT can help you to control the symptoms.
It is unlikely to have a negative effect on your life, apart from the time you need to give up to do it.

A new strategy for coping can lead to more lasting changes to your basic attitudes and ways of behaving.

If you are an anxious client you may learn to avoid avoiding things!  You may also find that your anxiety is not as  dangerous as you assumed.

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