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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that aims to help you manage your problems by changing how you think and act.

CBT encourages you to talk about:

  • how you think about yourself, the world and other people
  • how what you do affects your thoughts and feelings

By talking about these things, CBT can help you to change how you think (‘cognitive’) and what you do (‘behaviour’), which can help you feel better about life.

Who can use it?

CBT is particularly helpful in tacking problems such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and drug misuse.

Unlike other talking treatments, such as psychotherapy, CBT focuses on the problems and difficulties you have now, rather than issues from your past. It looks for practical ways you can improve your state of mind on a daily basis.

How many sessions are required

CBT usually involves weekly or fortnightly sessions with a therapist. The number of sessions required varies greatly depending on your problems and objectives, with treatment usually lasting from six weeks to six months.


CBT can help you see how your thoughts and behaviour relate to the way you feel, and how this might contribute to problems in your life.Your therapist will help you find ways to change your thought patterns and behaviour so you can cope with your problems and anxieties better (see below).

CBT cannot remove your problems, but can help you to manage them in a more positive way.

CBT is thought to be one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression.

Helpful and unhelpful reactions

CBT helps you to realise that your problems are often created by you. It is not the situation itself that is making you unhappy, but how you think about it and react to it. The Royal College of Psychiatrists illustrates this using the following example:

  • Situation: You have had a bad day, feel fed up, so go out shopping. As you walk down the road, someone you know walks by and apparently ignores you.
  • Unhelpful thoughts such as ‘They ignored me - they don't like me’ result in you feeling low and rejected, and you get stomach cramps and feel sick. You decide to go home and avoid the person.
  • Helpful thoughts such as ‘They look a bit wrapped up in themselves - I wonder if there's something wrong?’ mean you feel concern for the person, rather than negative feelings, and you get in touch to make sure they are ok.



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