CBT is short for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, a method with proven results and many positive outcomes.
What is CBT?
In CBT, the counsellor will target the thinking processes and behaviours of a person; the focus is not on the person’s emotions as in many other methodologies (3).
CBT’s goal is to assist in changing negative thoughts and behaviours by developing positive solutions to issues a person is struggling with. By making use of various CBT methods the counsellor challenges negative symptoms in the client’s behaviour and thinking, and then empowers them with skills and techniques that can be used for ongoing improvement of the client’s mental health (5).
In the counselling process, the client is empowered with tools tailored to their own situation, so that they are able to help themselves when difficult issues arise. Thus, the client is not dependent on the counsellor to help sort out all the issues they may be struggling with.
What can CBT help with?
CBT has been found to be effective in treating a range of issues, including:
- General anxiety, and specific anxiety conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), phobias, social anxiety and panic disorder;
- Stress and depression;
- Eating Disorders;
- Acquired Brain Injury;
- Somatic Disorders;
- Sexual Dysfunction;
- Couples/marital problems;
- Anger Management;
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
CBT techniques can also be effective when adapted for use with children, for example to help with behaviour problems, anxiety and depression.
As the name suggests, CBT combines cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on the client’s thinking patterns, while behaviour therapy focuses on the client’s associated behaviour to his patterns of thinking.
The Strengths of CBT
The chief strength of CBT lies in the fact that it not only helps the individual to overcome the symptoms of issues currently being experienced, but also equips them with new skills and strategies which can be used with an future difficulties or issues (1).
Other strengths of this therapeutic technique include:
- The focus on the individual’s thoughts: Psychological disorders in many people have been found to display maladaptive assumptions and thoughts.
- Testing and measuring: The theories and methods used in CBT can be tested.
- Address the root of the problem: The thoughts of a person are the reason for both accomplishments and problems, especially behaviour problems.
- Evidence-based: CBT has been proven to be effective for the treatment of depression and anxiety related issues.
- Cost-Effective: CBT is also viewed as a cost-effective method of treatment, because it tends to result in change occurring quickly when used with some types of problems (3).
The Limitations of CBT
At the same time, there are also some weaknesses or limitations with this technique. For example:
- The exact role cognitive processes play is yet to be determined.
- The cognitive model or theories are very narrow in scope. Our thoughts are just one part of being human – there are more issues that need to be addressed.
- CBT is classified as a directive therapy that aims to change thoughts and beliefs, however this is sometimes done in a more forceful way. There are even those who argue that this method can be unethical (4).
CBT is a complex methodology that has various models which can be used in therapeutic practice.
One of the more popular models is the ABC model where the individual and counsellor identify:
- A – the activating event, eg the event that caused the meltdown or panic attack;
- B – the individual’s belief relating to the event and the consequences this belief has on their life and relationships.
- C – and ways to change the individual’s belief about a specific event ie in changing the belief, the consequences caused by this belief will also change.
What to Expect with CBT
In addition to counselling sessions, the client will have some homework to do between appointments. The counsellor will ask the client to keep a journal of when beliefs have an influence on his daily life, and also what triggers these beliefs. These homework assignments are ways to track the influences on the client’s internalized self-messages. By making use of this method the counsellor can help the client to challenge his irrational thinking, and thus reduce their anxiety (2).
As a counsellor I use various methodologies and theories, but CBT is the method I use most of all.
I find it is very effective when the client does their “homework”, as there is the need for the client to spend some time alone, out of the counselling room, for self-reflection about the issues he struggles with, as well as the triggers and effects the problem has on themselves, their relationships and work life. and his work life. By making use of self-reflection, the client becomes more aware of the impact his beliefs and actions have on various areas and people in his life.
For the desired positive outcome, it is of utmost importance that the client is comfortable in the counselling situation, trusts the counsellor, and is able to be honest with themselves.
Author: Corey Human, B Th (Hons), M Counselling, Dip Youth Work, Dip Youth Justice, Dip Couns, Dip Pentecostal Theology, Dip Ministry. Member of PACFA and CCAA.
Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience in providing counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans. In relationship counselling and education, his aim is to empower each couple with the tools to help themselves when they get to points of conflict in their relationship.
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- AACBT (n.d.). What Is CBT? | AACBT. [online] Available at: https://www.aacbt.org.au/resources/what-is-cbt/ [Accessed 25 Aug. 2018].
- Corey, G. (2017). Theory and practice of counselling and psychotherapy. 10th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning, pp.269 – 288.
- Geldard, D. and Geldard, K. (2012). Basic Personal Counselling: A Training Manual for Counsellors. 7th ed. Frenches Forrest: Pearson, pp.127-130.
- McLeod, S. (2015). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy | CBT | Simply Psychology. [online] Simplypsychology.org. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-therapy.html [Accessed 25 Aug. 2018].
- Thiswayup.org.au. (n.d.). What is CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) | THIS WAY UP. [online] Available at: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-we-can-help/cognitive-behavioural-therapy/ [Accessed 25 Aug. 2018].
For additional readings on CBT please have look at this article from Choosing Therapy – CBT for PTSD: How it Works, Examples, & Effectiveness.