A Guide to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

A Guide to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

1. What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a goal-orientated, short-term type of talking therapy that helps individuals identify and correct harmful thought patterns that can lead to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and a number of other psychological problems.

2. What can be treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is considered an effective treatment for a number of mental health problems including:

  • Low Mood & Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders (including GAD, Health Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Phobias, Panic Disorder, OCD and PTSD)
  • Stress
  • Bipolar Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Abuse & Addictions
  • Sleep Problems (including Insomnia)
  • Relationship Problems
  • Work-Related Stress
  • Sexual Problems & Intimacy Issues
  • Skin Picking, Tics, and Hair Pulling
  • Chronic Pain
  • Psychosis

3. How does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy work?

CBT works on the principle that our behaviour and feelings depend to a large degree on our perception of what we understand is happening. The first part of CBT involves helping clients to identify their thoughts patterns and assess their validity. A person who is suffering from low mood may be constantly thinking about how bad they are; a person who is suffering from anxiety may be constantly thinking that the worst case scenario will happen. In CBT the therapist will help the client become their own therapist by teaching them strategies to listen to their own internal dialogue and become more aware of their thinking style. The therapist will help clients to catch their negative automatic thoughts and challenge them with realistic thoughts based on external evidence.

4. What are Automatic Negative Thoughts?

Automatic thoughts are a core component of Cognitive Behavioural therapy. These are the immediate, first, quick thoughts that enter a person’s mind when something happens, and they directly influence their emotional and behavioural responses to the external event. They are usually brief and simple, and go mostly unnoticed and unquestioned by us. They are the ones responsible for the emotional reaction that happens - not the external event itself.  Some examples include: 'I can't do it!'. ' They will laugh at me.' 'He thinks I am weird.' 'I won't make it.'I am a bad person.' 'He does not respect me.' They are mostly accessible to the individual as they work at surface level. They are based on our Core Beliefs.

5. What are Thinking Errors or Cognitive Distortions?

Thinking Errors also known as Cognitive Distortions are thinking styles that lead us to perceiving reality inaccurately. They refer to our biased ways of thinking about oneself, other people and the world around us that are deeply grounded in our core beliefs. Cognitive distortions can contribute to negative emotions. Read the most common thinking errors below and see if you can identify the ones that are familiar to you:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-and-white categories with no shades in between.
  2. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Magical thinking: The belief that acts will influence unrelated situations.
  4. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count as much as bad ones” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  5. Jumping to conclusions: You interpret the meaning of a situation with little or no evidence.
  6. Mind reading: You interpret the thoughts and beliefs of others without adequate evidence.
  7. Fortune Telling: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is a fact.
  8. Catastrophizing: You see only the worst case scenario as the outcome of a situation.
  9. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t. The emotional consequences are guilt and low mood. When you direct should statements toward others, you generally feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  10. Emotional Reasoning: You assume that the way you feel about something reflect the way things really are.

6. What are Core Beliefs?

Core beliefs are a core component of CBT. They are the very essence of how we see ourselves, other people, the world, and the future. we are mostly unaware of them as they are considered to be at the deepest level of our thinking. They represent our deepest perceptions and ideas about ourselves, other people and the world. Core belief statement have an absolute quality to them such as: 'I am unlovable.' 'If I fail I deserve to be punished.' 'Other people never respect my opinion.' 'The world is unsafe.' Learning about your deep core beliefs in therapy can help you to become more aware of your thinking patterns, which can be challenged and changed with the support of your therapist.

7. How does CBT work for specific mental health conditions?

To find out more about how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy work for specific mental health conditions such as low mood & depression or anxiety disorders please read our series of blog posts on this topic:

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