Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a commonly used therapy within mental health services, and M1 Psychologist Greta Neilsen provides this introduction to help you consider if it might be the right choice for you.
There is strong research evidence supporting CBT’s effectiveness for a variety of problems (1) including:
- depression and bipolar disorder;
- anxiety disorders;
- obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD);
- post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- eating disorders;
- substance use disorders;
- psychotic disorders; and
- pain management.
As the name suggests the two core principles of the therapy are the cognitive principle and the behavioural principle.
The Cognitive Principle
According to The Cognitive Principle, it is the interpretation of events, not the event itself, that is crucial to our reaction to that event.
For example, if someone cuts us off in the traffic we may react by getting angry and yelling. CBT looks for the thoughts that lead us to get angry in this situation. So someone cuts us off in traffic, we may think “how rude and disrespectful!” and feel angry.
If we interpreted the situation in a different way, for example, we get cut off in traffic and think “that driver must not have seen me and made a mistake”, our emotional reaction will be different, maybe still a little annoyed, but not quite as angry. Both interpretations are possibly true, because we don’t know what the other driver was thinking, but each interpretation has a different emotional cost.
The Behavioural Principle
The Behavioural Principle, refers to the concept that what we do has a powerful influence on our thoughts and emotions.
For example, you arrange to meet a friend in the city for coffee. At the last minute she cancels and you are left at the cafe alone. What do you do?
If you interpret the situation to mean “she doesn’t like me”, this may make you feel low, rejected and depressed. You might decide never to put yourself in this situation again, thus avoid making plans with people to prevent feeling hurt and rejected. By avoiding going out, you miss out on the opportunity to have pleasant experiences, thus the negative thoughts and emotions have a chance to be reinforced and grow, for example: “I don’t go out because people don’t really like me and they will let me down”, which can potentially lead to depression.
CBT looks at problems as interactions between thoughts, emotions, behaviour and physiology and the environment in which the person operates. It looks at how these interactions are maintaining the problem and where the interaction can be changed to alleviate the problem.
This is not saying that anyone’s thoughts or behaviours are wrong; generally these interactions have developed through reasoning that seems logical and sensible at the time the links were initially made, however over time they have created a problem that is interfering with full enjoyment of life.
What Can You Expect from CBT?
- CBT is a collaborative approach. Both the therapist and the client are active participants, each bringing their own expertise to the table. The therapist has knowledge about effective ways to solve problems, and the client is the expert in the experience of his/her problems.
- Therapy is structured around the goals for therapy and active engagement is required.
- CBT tends to be time-limited and brief (usually in the range of 6 to 20 sessions).
- CBT is problem-oriented in approach, it focuses on resolving the problems identified by the client.
- CBT uses guided discovery – clients are guided to work out for themselves, new ways of looking at things and testing out new perspectives.
- The therapeutic approach is based on research evidence.
- Behavioural methods are used to test new perspectives, enhance learning and encourage generalisation from treatment sessions to everyday life.
- Regular summaries and feedback are provided.
If you are interested in finding out more about CBT, and how it may help in your situation, I welcome you to make an appointment with me.
Greta Neilsen has a wealth of experience in the treatment of depression and anxiety in adults of all ages, and endeavours to provide her clients with a safe space to understand the challenges they face, as they develop ways to overcome their difficulties.
To make an appointment with Loganholme Psychologist Greta Neilsen, please call (07) 3067 9129 or you can book online today.
- Australian Psychological Society, (2010), Evidence-based psychological interventions in the treatment of mental disorders: A literature review, 3rd edition.
- Westbrook, D., Kennerly, H., & Kirk, J. (2013). Cognitive behaviour therapy: Skills and applications, 2nd edition, SAGE: London.