Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or ‘CBT’ is becoming a household name when it comes to talk therapy, but how exactly does it work?
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The general thinking behind CBT is that we all learn to act and think in certain ways as a result of our lifetime experiences and how we perceive those experiences.
Usually what we learn is adaptive – we learn to become active participants in our lives, our society and our culture. However, occasionally we can become ‘stuck’ by our ways of thinking, feeling or behaving which hinder our personal development and wellbeing.
Sometimes a single event such a break-up or an accident will have major repercussions or, more often, experiences which stretch over a longer period of time, e.g. being bullied or being unemployed, can affect us emotionally in the long term.
Such negative experiences and our responses to them can lead us to develop low self-esteem, unhappiness, bitterness, anxiety, passivity, aggression, perfectionism and so on. These, in turn, colour the way we perceive new experiences and at worst, if unchecked, can lead to such disorders as anxiety, clinical depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a very popular and generally short-term therapy that is used to help a person manage their problems.
This is done by identifying our thoughts and behaviours and learning how to resolve ones that are maladaptive. CBT works on the premise that our thoughts and feelings heavily influence our subsequent behaviours. If a person spends a long time worrying and thinking about their weight, for example, this can lead to certain damaging avoidance behaviours such as withdrawal from social situations (like attending the local gym) and therefore missing out on opportunities and support. This can interfere and inhibit our adjustment to situations that we have learned to associate with our negative thoughts.
What is CBT used for?
CBT is often used for the treatment of:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders