A Brief Breakdown of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Published on 22/03/2024 by admin

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Last modified 22/03/2024

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You might have heard the term Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) thrown around more readily as we become more aware of the respective benefits of various methods of therapy.

Is there a strong focus on thoughts, attitudes and behaviours? Yes. Is it a Freudian analysis of the childhood events that have had a subconscious impact on those thoughts, attitudes and behaviours? Not quite.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short, is based on the relationship between thoughts and behaviour. CBT aims to reshape dysfunctional cognition and maladaptive behaviours through the intentional reframing of one’s attitudes, including breaking down automatic thoughts and counterproductive reactions.

While the origins of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be traced all the way back to 1913, CBT continues to be implemented as a successful short-term mode of therapy across clinical psychology today, depending on the patient and their unique mental health conditions.

CBT is often recommended for a range of mental health conditions that include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), anger management, obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD), marital or relationship crises and even schizophrenia.

If the idea of implementing CBT in a clinical setting sounds worthwhile, postgraduate psychology courses will aid you to pivot careers in becoming a professional psychologist or related mental healthcare provider.   

What does CBT involve?

 CBT is a culmination of both behavioural therapy and cognitive or psychotherapy.

Behavioural therapy involves teaching more helpful behaviours and discouraging counterproductive behaviour. For example, a socially anxious person may be taught conversational skills that they are able to implement at informal social gatherings. This learnt behaviour is a practical method to help them and their unique circumstances.

Cognitive or psychotherapy involves changing the way you think about an issue that may be cause for concern. This includes an examination of attitudes and automatic mental reactions to various stimuli. For example, one might possess the belief that they are unworthy of love and respect. Cognitive therapy will examine that belief and its origins by seeking proof of its validity and establishing the roots of the misguided belief, such as through a traumatic childhood event. 

The success of CBT also amounts to the direct correlation between thoughts and behaviours. As such, changing the former often affects and determines a change in the latter.

How does CBT work?

CBT focuses on five areas seen as interconnected and affecting one another. These five areas are: situations, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours. For example, how you feel about a particular situation can prompt both emotional and physical responses, resulting in a change in your behaviour. The entire process can become so automatic and this therefore forms the basis of a habit. The basic aim of CBT is to break the habit of negative thinking and its behavioural consequences.

What are the key concepts of CBT?

This form of psychological treatment centers on altering negative thought patterns to improve emotional well-being. Using techniques like exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring, CBT helps individuals challenge and change unhelpful beliefs, thus reducing anxiety and depression. Additionally, it encourages the development of personal coping strategies and problem-solving skills.

Which therapeutic techniques are used in CBT? 

Albert Ellis’ ABC technique continues to be utilised across CBT implementation today. The approach identifies and examines the first three steps in which someone might develop an irrational belief or cognitive distortion. A stands for Activating Event; an event that might have prompted a highly emotional response that may have lead to dysfunctional thinking, B is the beliefs; patients are encouraged to note all their beliefs or any negative thoughts that they’ve had as a direct result of the activating event, and C are the consequences; the resulting negative attitudes and behaviours that the event has caused. The B or beliefs serve as a bridge to the C or consequences in attitudes that have manifested as a result of the activating event.

Treatment methods also vary and can include Exposure Therapy, Journaling (to directly assess self-reflection on attitudes and behaviours, Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Rescripting to name a few.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is a common and effective short-term method implemented in therapy. The practical approach focuses on the correlation between thoughts and behaviours, and the impact of mindfully changing thoughts and behaviours to break down automatic counterproductive habits. 

You can speak to your mental healthcare provider about CBT and how it may help you. If this is your first time accessing mental healthcare, speak to your GP about your symptoms and they may be able to offer you a subsidised Mental Health Treatment Plan.