Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; CBT

Dr Elaine Ryan

Table of Contents

What is CBT?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a short-term therapy model that focuses on solutions to your problems and provides practical activities to help you feel better.

During the process of CBT, you will discover how your attitudes, thought processes, and behaviours affect not only how you feel but also the things you do.

CBT is used to help people with mental health conditions such as,

CBT explainer video

CBT is a therapy model that combines many cognitive and behavioural approaches, such as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.(1)

The cognitive approach examines how your thoughts can affect how you feel, and the behavioural approach looks at the relationship between what you do and what you are thinking.

What is a CBT session like?

I’ve made a quick video to explain what will happen in a CBT session with a therapist.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

These are sage words, meaning that nothing is good or bad; how you feel about a situation depends on your interpretation; the meaning you give to it is essential to work with your cognitions (thoughts).

Example. Sarah and John see a dog in the park. For Sarah, this event created fear as a dog chased her when she was a child, and she has been fearful ever since.

It delights John to see the dog, and he approaches it as he loves dogs. The event is the same, seeing a dog in the park, but two different people have different feelings about the dog based on their interpretation.

For Sarah, it means danger, and it means fun for John.

CBT therapy

How does CBT work?

CBT works by changing the belief systems holding you back and changing the things you do that keep your problem going. For example, if you believe that you are not good enough, you might not apply for the job you want. It will not matter if, in reality, you are the best candidate, as your beliefs about yourself will hold you back.

I shall briefly explain how CBT helps by using the scenario above where the person did not apply for their dream job as they believed they were not good enough.

For example, if you believe that you are not good enough, you might not apply for the job you want. It will not matter if, in reality, you are the best candidate, as your beliefs about yourself will hold you back.

  • C is your cognitions, your thought processes and memories. How you talk to yourself inside your head.
  • B is your behaviour- things you do, like sleeping, eating or avoiding something.
  • T is for therapy.

CBT looks at negative automtic thoughts

As I stated above, it’s not events themselves that are bad, but the meanings you give to them. The job interview in my example above was not bad, but the person’s thoughts about themselves were not good. They thought they were not good enough. Repeated negative thoughts such as

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m stupid
  • others are better than me

 

Can stop you from getting what you want or feeling good about yourself. It also makes it hard for you to see examples in life when you are doing well, as it will not fit with how you view yourself.

Negative thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If the person in my example felt so low and had such critical thoughts about herself, she would think, ‘I won’t apply for the job.’

Having the belief in her head, the thoughts are true; she does not give herself the chance to get the job. On the day the interviews are being held, she may worsen her thoughts; I’m a mess; it will upset my friends when they find out I didn’t even apply for the job. They’ll think I’m a loser. 

Things go from bad to worse and strengthen the belief system that she is not good enough.

Where Do These Negative Thoughts Come From?

Some can originate when you are pretty young if things you did never seem to measure up to your parents’ expectations. For example, you got an on a test, but your parents asked why did you not get an A+.

You could grow up thinking that it is never good enough no matter what you do. I have to be the best at everything I do to be good enough.

That last sentence was an example of a maladaptive assumption. I have to be best at everything I do to be good enough may have been adaptive as a child to get my parent’s praise, everything had to be perfect, but as a grown-up, it is tough to live up and become maladaptive. It also stops you from seeing when you are doing well.

How will CBT help with negative thoughts?

First, it will make you aware of them as they can be so entrenched in how you are as a person that you may not notice them.

Undertaking CBT will not tell say are wrong; instead, it will allow you to set up experiments to find out if your thoughts are accurate or not.

If not, it will show you how to change your thoughts to more helpful ones.

CBT and your self talk

Self-talk is how you talk to yourself inside your head. More often than not, your internal dialogue can be pretty harsh, as shown in the video below. In the explainer video, you can see how the person feels terrible about herself based on the judgement she makes in her internal dialogue.

We call all the judgements and thoughts negative automatic thoughts in CBT, and they change your mood.

The link between what you are thinking and what you are feeling is a fundamental concept in CBT.

Where can I get CBT?

If you are ready to start therapy and want to undertake CBT, there are several options open to you.

  1. David, Oana & Matu, Silviu & Pintea, Sebastian & Cote?, Carmen Domnica & Nagy, Diana. (2014). Cognitive-Behavioral Processes Based on Using the ABC Analysis by Trainees’ for Their Personal Development. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. 32. 10.1007/s10942-014-0189-0. 

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