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 anxiety, depression, anger and panic disorder. It is also used to uncover and remedy problems that exist within your relationships with other people.

CBT explainer video

CBT is a therapy model that combines a plethora of cognitive and behavioural approaches, such as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT—Ellis 1962) and Cognitive Therapy (CT—Beck 1976). David et al 20141

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’s a CBT session like?

I’ve made a quick video to explain what will happen in therapy.

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

Hamlet

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).

Sarah and John see a dog in the park. For Sarah, this event creates 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 of what it means.

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

How does CBT work?

CBT works by changing your belief systems that are 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 things you avoid.
  • T is for therapy

Thoughts affect feelings

Your thoughts and feelings and the things you do are all connected. If you think you are not good enough to get your dream job, you will feel this. You might feel unhappy or inferior. These thoughts and feelings together will affect what you can do or not do. You will not feel motivated to apply for the job, thinking, what’s the point?

  • C is your cognitions; I’m not good enough.
  • B is your behaviour – in this case, avoidance, not apply for the job.
  • T is for therapy; If you think you must have been good enough to get other jobs in the past and were successful at an interview before, you might feel more hopeful and motivated to apply for the job. Then you have given yourself a chance.

Why are thoughts important?

CBT looks at negative automatic 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 was feeling so low and had such critical thoughts about herself, she will 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 make things worse with 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 her 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 that you did never seemed to measure up to your parents’ expectations. For example, you got a grade A on a test, but your parents asked why did you not get an A+.

You could grow up thinking no matter what you do; it is never good enough. 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 your parents 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.

If you would like my help, all my CBT courses are now online.

Find out more about my courses

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, rather it will give you the opportunity 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 quite harsh as shown in the video below. In the explainer video, you can see how the person feels bad 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 very important concept in CBT

Where do I go if I want to have CBT?

There are several options open to you. You can meet with someone like myself, a psychologist; you can also use self-help books or online CBT.
I use CBT in all of my online courses, and if you want to find out more, please view the courses.

References and Footnotes

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. 

Sarracino, Diego & Dimaggio, Giancarlo & Ibrahim, Rawezh & Popolo, Raffaele & Sassaroli, Sandra & Ruggiero, Giovanni. (2016). When REBT Goes Difficult: Applying ABC-DEF to Personality Disorders. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. 35. 1-18. 10.1007/s10942-016-0258-7.