Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an evidenced based approach to therapy that involves both a focus on the way we think and feel and how that effects behaviour. It is a talking therapy where the therapist and the client identify negative thoughts and feelings about yourself or your situation and replace those with more helpful thoughts. It is an active approach to therapy that requires the client to actively put new ways of thinking into practice. Homework or behavioural experiments between sessions is a typical feature of this approach to change.

How does it CBD work?

The client and the therapist work together to understand what the most troubling problems are and work out what thoughts, emotions and beliefs are associated with these situations. Once you have done this you then identify which of these thoughts, emotions and beliefs are negative or inaccurate. The therapist and client then challenge these negative or unhelpful thoughts by looking at evidence or simply asking themselves if it is true? The next stage of the approach is to identify what behaviours are being enacted on the basis of these negative beliefs and agree strategies that could be employed to substitute or change particular behaviour. Ultimately the client is equipped to find ways to think and act in more helpful ways.

What is CBT used for?

CBT has a large base of evidence demonstrating that it is effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, anger, stress, fears and phobias, relationship issues, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and many more.

What can I expect from CBT

In the first session the client should expect that the therapist will conduct a full assessment in order to gain an understanding of the client’s view of the problem and the person holistically. Subsequent sessions will be structured with a check-in and review of homework in order to establish if there are any obstacles and identify strategies to achieve the established goals. The final session is focused on consolidation of learning and behavioural change. CBT is a brief therapy in most instances of between 6 to 20 sessions, with latter sessions being spaced less frequently.

When doesn’t CBT work

CBT is not typically employed to address complex Personality Disorders and schizophrenia (although if may be effective in managing problematic behaviours and minimising distress from the underlying condition).

Things to consider before choosing CBT

The client must be engaged and motivated to change. The therapist must be skilled in the approach. Many clinicians claim to be conversant with CBT, so checking training and experience is an important first step.

Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross - Psychologist at Counselling in Melbourne


This content has been researched, prepared and written by Counselling in Melbourne psychologist Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross.

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