What is CBT?
For anyone living with emotional and psychological distress, the variety of therapeutic approaches available is bewildering. Each approach has its value and many people feel that there is one particular model which suits them best. I offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) because (as indicated by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence – NICE) research evidence suggests that it is the most effective treatment for a number of conditions. I believe that CBT offers clients the possibility of regaining control of their lives in a way that is respectful, collaborative and cost-effective.
The idea behind CBT is that we develop patterns of thinking and behaviour in response to life experiences and events. These patterns may, initially, have served some kind of useful function or defence against anxiety or distress. However, in many cases, these patterns outlive their usefulness and get in the way of our living healthy, happy and productive lives.
CBT enables clients to gain insight and understanding into ways in which their thoughts and behaviour can actually maintain rather than alleviate anxiety and distress. As A CBT practitioner, I work with clients to explore the patterns they have established and to introduce new ways of behaving and looking at themselves, at others and the world around them.
Myths about CBT
You may have heard or read that CBT is formulaic, that it’s about ‘brainwashing’, or that it fails to acknowledge or consider the importance of past events when addressing difficult issues in the present. This is not the case.
It is true that with certain problems, such as panic or specific phobia, although something may well have set things off in the first place, the focus of treatment is very much on the here-and-now and retraining the brain to engage in more appropriate ways of responding to triggers. However, where problems are more complex, we will certainly explore how the past might have contributed to the present, but with a view to moving forward. So, we may well take a compassionate look at the past to provide information, understanding and a route to self-acceptance. But fundamentally, we are looking to bring about change in the present and future.
CBT is very collaborative – in other words, clients are actively involved in the design of their own treatment goals and methods. This sense of ownership of the process plays a large part achieving a successful outcome. In CBT, we do not do things to you, or reach conclusions about you which we don’t share: we work with you to support change.