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MBACP, BABCP, CBCAP; MSc RE/CBT, PGCert
We have come a long way since the ‘birth’ of psychotherapy. Traditionally, the term psychotherapy would be associated with lying on a couch, whilst the therapist would dig in our past with the aim to uncover the roots for our emotional distress.
Today there are a wide range of psycho-therapeutic approaches available, with psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy, person-centred counselling amongst the most common ones.
The limitations of such therapies resulted in the Cognitive Revolution, supported by classically-trained therapists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck. Together they embarked on a journey in order to find more effective ways of treating psychological distress and laid the foundation for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), as it is known today.
CBT is an evidence-based approach for working through common as well as more complex psychological and psychiatric disorders. It has a vast body of scientific research, proving its effectiveness.
As a result, the NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines, recommend CBT as the most effective psychotherapeutic approach for many psychological disorders.
CBT uses a collaborative approach: agendas are set together, therapy focus and goals are agreed at the beginning of therapy and reviewed throughout treatment.
The duration of CBT depends on the disorder which therapy focuses on with mild difficulties requiring short-term therapy, and more complex presentations needing longer-term treatment with follow-up sessions.
Simply speaking, CBT focuses on 4 main areas to help us overcome our ‘stuckness’ which can maintain psychological disorders and emotional distress:
Thoughts (Beliefs), Emotions, Physical Symptoms and Behaviours
Sounds too simplistic? I thought you might say that....
CBT advocates that it is not so much the actual situation which creates distress- for example, an unsupportive boss at work or an argument with a rude person. It is more about our ‘perspective’ which we hold that creates distress.
CBT emphasises that emotions and subsequent physical symptoms are difficult to tackle head on.
Instead, the aim is to challenge unhelpful thought patterns (negative automatic thoughts) and beliefs as well as behaviours which keep us trapped in unhelpful, and often counter-productive cycles.
CBT advocates to find more helpful and functional thoughts and behaviours which enable us to get better, feel better, and in the long-term stay better.
As opposed to other talking therapies, CBT's focus remains on the ‘here and now’ with the aim to improve your current state of mind.
Can CBT treat anything and everything?
Although highly effective with a vast evidence-base confirming its effectiveness in treating psychological disorders, CBT is NOT a panacea.
Therapy outcome depends very much on readiness to engage in therapy, having realistic goals for treatment, willingness to accept what can and cannot be changed, carrying out in-between session tasks to practise session learning, and being dedicated to adapting to a new way of being.
However, the main question should be: what have we got to lose by engaging in CBT and finding out how it can enable us to lead a healthier and less distressing life, by providing us with healthy ways of coping?
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