As a therapist who offers cognitive behaviour therapy both as a stand-alone model or to complement the models of counselling and psychotherapy I offer, I read and hear of a number of misconceptions around this specific therapy, more than any other.
What is CBT for?
The core purpose of CBT is to help individuals reflect on intrusive, distressing thoughts that might otherwise lead to behaviours which serve us less than we might wish. Then, when we have learned to grow awareness of these thoughts, to be able to consider alternative, more helpful versions. Many of the unhelpful, uninvited and negative thoughts may be recognised as:
- emotions associated with anxieties from emotional or physical trauma – recent or from many years earlier
- obsessive and compulsive behaviours
- phobia’s (such as with flying, medical procedures and needles at the dentist or for the provision of blood samples via the hospital, health centre or doctor’s surgery)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is another prevalent and often under-diagnosed condition that can respond well to CBT.
CBT is Gold Standard and Best Practice and is currently the recommended treatment of choice for many psychological conditions, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
How does it work?
CBT is one of a number of talking therapies that looks to encourage an exploration of current thoughts – and the resultant emotions these may create. This, in turn, provides more clarity around the subsequent behaviours that are a result of – or which sustain the unhealthy thoughts and emotions.
As well as talking through the difficulties being experienced, homework is often (certainly not always) provided, as agreed, to continue observations and new-found objectivity outside of the therapeutic meetings. These observations can then be discussed and explored for benefits and value, or re-appraised and new action points found.
However, sometimes we face Right Person – Wrong Treatment so I offer CBT only when appropriate and agreed. It can also be highly useful as an adjunct to other talking therapies, including counselling, psychotherapy and mindfulness training; integrating well for many when used in this way.
Sadly, many people are being asked to wait for CBT who may subsequently find they are not able to work with this model. More and more assessments are being offered to try and reduce this but one telephone call or meeting is rarely enough to demonstrate whether or not this therapeutic approach will be suitable for an individual.