If you are considering trying Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) as a treatment for your mental health, you might be a bit anxious about what this involves. Here is our beginners’ guide to what you should know about CBT before setting out on your journey.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is built on the philosophy that thoughts, feelings and behaviours combine to influence a person’s quality of life. The emotions that we feel can make us behave in certain ways and can greatly impact all aspects of our lives.


What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?

  • A therapy that recognises that it is difficult to change emotions directly, like sadness, worry or fear, but we can address the negative thought processes that fuel our feelings.
  • It is useful in treating a range of psychological conditions and emotional issues, including anxiety, depression, self-esteem, anger management, relationship problems, and addictive behaviours. CBT is an easily accessible therapy approach which works well for adults, teenagers, children and also groups.
  • Through CBT, you work on identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts and learn practical strategies that you can put into action whenever you need them.
  • CBT teaches people how their own thinking affects their emotions and mood, and then helps them change these negative thinking patterns. It gives control over thoughts and emotions back to the individual.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been known to bring some incredibly positive and immediate changes in a person’s life. Like every therapy however it doesn’t work for everyone, but it is absolutely well worth a try.

Here are our Top 7 things you should know about CBT if you are thinking of giving it a try.

1. It is a combination of two existing therapies.

When you study psychology (or any science really) you start to see how the current theories are based on the learnings of those who came before. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy was developed in the 1960s as a natural combination of two existing techniques of the time; cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy.

Psychologists at the time realised that when individuals change their underlying beliefs about themselves, their world and the people around them, they are successfully able to sustain long-term positive change in their lives.

2. It puts the individual in the driver’s seat.

People respond well to CBT because it is all about giving you back control of your own life. You are a very active participant in CBT, putting you firmly in the driver’s seat of your own treatment.

It is important that you learn to understand yourself and the way that your particular thought processes lead to your moods and your behaviour.

For most, this level of control and self-growth is incredibly empowering, and essentially what they are looking for in going to treatment – to be able to get well and stay well on their own.

3. It can be short or long-term.

CBT is a wonderfully flexible treatment and can be delivered either as regular CBT or through Brief CBT intervention sessions. It is something that can have an impact relatively quickly which can be extremely beneficial.

For people who are particularly struggling, CBT can be put into place quite fast to stop a cycle of mental illness from getting any worse. This gives the individual a moment’s break to gather themselves before taking on longer therapeutic interventions as needed.

Because CBT can work quickly, it is important for the individual and their therapist to establish a strong working relationship almost immediately. It is essential that you find the right therapist who puts you at ease and who you feel you can be open and trusting with.

4. It can help almost anyone.

CBT involves psychotherapeutic sessions of talking, but mostly is based on the individual learning self-help strategies and to monitor and look after themselves ongoing. It doesn’t require complicated psychological knowledge for the patient to understand, and is easily accessible for any age, intellectual level and even groups.

5. It is taught so you can take away the strategies and look after yourself when you need them.

Once upon a time psychotherapy was something that you kind of signed up to for life. People went into therapy and would still be talking to the same therapist week after week because the help needed to be ongoing. The level of background knowledge required to study and assess a person’s emotional health was something that you constantly needed a therapist’s help with.

CBT is not one of those forever therapies. You learn the self-help strategies that work for you, and then you can take them away and implement them in your life whenever you need to. You don’t need ongoing assessment, advice, and treatment (although it’s always there to come back to if you want).

6. It really helps if you do your homework.

With CBT there is often a bit of homework, wherein between therapy sessions you need to watch how you are going, and make notes about the things that are happening in your life. Most importantly you will start to recognise the recurring emotions you have, the thoughts that accompany them and the behaviours that trigger them, or that follow them.

CBT works best if you put in some extra effort after hours to get to know yourself better. You will notice patterns in your thinking and your behaviour that you can get a handle on once you identify them.

In this way, you will also be able to work out which CBT strategies are the best for you moving forward. Some strategies will really resonate with you and be very helpful, while others may not work. Through the trial and effort of a bit of homework you will work out which ones are good for you, and then with practice, you can become confident enough to use them on your own.

7. There are many CBT techniques – so it is said that there will be something that will work for everyone.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy offers a range of techniques to examine and break down the negative thought patterns you are having. These techniques work to take the sting and power of the negative thoughts and separate you from them.

Different techniques work for different people, so wonderfully CBT has a whole range to choose from. You can put together a psychological toolkit of strategies that you can try as needed, and you can mix and match as the situation requires. Some negative thoughts might be a bit more stubborn, so you could throw several strategies at them, like a CBT strategy mash-up.

Whatever works really.

For more information on how Cognitive Behaviour Therapy may be able to help you, wherever you are, contact The Mindful Hub.