Is cognitive behavioural therapy effective?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely studied forms of treatment and has proven effective in treating a range of mental disorders including (but not limited to) anxiety, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders. The treatment techniques and approaches to dealing with thoughts, emotions and behaviours range from structured psychotherapy to self-help materials. As an example, CBT is an effective tool in learning how to deal with stressful life situations because it is a problem-specific, goal-oriented approach that requires the participation of the individual to succeed. CBT aims to identify challenging and unhelpful thoughts and to learn practical self-help strategies. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvements in functioning and quality of life of the clients. It is one of the most well-researched forms of therapy, partly because treatment focuses on specific goals and measurable outcomes.

Typically people with clearly defined behavioural and emotional concerns find CBT helpful. It can also help people develop positive patterns of thinking and behaviour as a CBT focused psychologist can help you take a closer look at your thoughts and emotions. Once you recognize that your emotions and thoughts influence your actions, you can learn how to make your thoughts positive and helpful to you. With the help of CBT you become more aware of inaccurate negative thinking so you can look differently at challenging situations and react in a new way.

CBT focuses on thoughts, feelings and behaviours

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) your therapist may ask you to pay attention to your physical, emotional and behavioural responses to different situations to help you identify patterns of thinking and behaving that could be contributing to your problems. For example, a therapist might ask a client to keep a journal of events that cause anxiety or depression so that they can examine the thoughts that are related to those events and then further examine what emotions rise up with those thoughts. According to CBT events don’t make us feel a certain way, it’s our interpretation (thoughts) of the events that cause the emotions. Therapists use CBT techniques to help people challenge their belief patterns and replace thought defects, known as unhelpful thinking styles (such as overgeneralization, magnifying the negative, and minimizing the positive), with more realistic and effective thoughts that reduce emotional distress and self-destructive behaviour.

Furthermore, CBT focuses on how a person’s thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect their feelings and behaviour. It aims to identify harmful thoughts, assess if they are an accurate reflection of reality and to apply strategies to challenge and overcome them. It can be helpful alone or in combination with other therapies to treat mental illness. CBT is good for those who need support to find the unhelpful thoughts that prevent them from achieving their goals and living the life they want to live. For example, it helps people with depression by giving them the tools to challenge negative thoughts and overcome them through more realistic and positive thought processes. It can be as effective in treating depression and anxiety as medication.

Cognitive behavoural therapy