Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT (sometimes referred to as Cognitive Therapy or CT) is a structured psychological approach that was introduced by Aaron Beck and his colleagues (1976, 1979).
CBT employs a variety of techniques aiming to address a wide range of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also used in the management of alcohol and substance addictions, as well as in more severe mental disorders.
CBT therapists focus on all aspects of a person’s experience by exploring their thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in an attempt to understand how these relate to one another leading to the experience of troublesome symptoms for the individual.
Nowdays, CBT is a preferred treatment for depression and anxiety disorders based on the evidence provided by a large number of clinical trials comparing CBT to other therapeutic modalities (see Roth & Fonagy, 2005, also visit the National Institute for Health and Clinical and Excellence website - www.nice.org.uk).
CBT is suitable for individuals presenting with particular symptoms and wishing to work towards alleviating these symptoms. The therapist employs an array of cognitive and behavioural techniques in order to help the clients meet their goals for therapy. Depending on the person’s emotional difficulties the therapist may use behavioural (i.e. graded exposure for phobias, relaxation techniques for anxiety) or cognitive techniques (i.e. identification and challenging of unhelpful or dysfunctional thoughts when treating depression and anxiety disorders) whilst on many occasions a combination of both may be employed (i.e. having identified the unhelpful thoughts the client may be asked to step outside these thoughts and test them out).
CBT is a highly collaborative approach and a person’s commitment to work in a highly structured way involving completing homework assignments between sessions is a prerequisite for effective therapy.
Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. New York: International Universities Press.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Roth, A., & Fonagy, P. (2005). What Works for Whom? A critical review of psychotherapy research (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z. & Kabat-Zinn J. (2007). The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. New York: The Guilford Press.