Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment. It is used to help people whose behavior is affected by their beliefs, assumptions and the meanings they attach to events that cause upset.
What follows is a list of 10 reasons why CBT could be a useful therapy option. It should be remembered that CBT is not a quick-fix solution to psychological problems and that it may, for some people, be only part of a longer therapeutic process, or may have no value at all. Although CBT has been around in some form since the 1960s, research is still uncovering both its benefits and its limitations.
- CBT has a proven track record for a range of conditions including depression, panic attacks and other anxiety-related disorders, drug and alcohol problems, phobias, eating disorders, sleep disorders, pain management, and bereavement.
- Although it is far from a cure for all psychological conditions, CBT has a fairly impressive success rate of around 50%, although estimates do vary somewhat.
- CBT is a relatively inexpensive and relatively short duration therapy option that can take as few as 6 sessions to complete. CBT is a psychological therapy however and the duration of therapy may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Most CBT practitioners will attest to its empowering properties. The client is an active participant within the therapy process and ultimately becomes their own therapist once sessions with the therapist come to a close.
- Because the focus is on the relationship between thought processes and behavior, there is usually less interest in delving into the client’s upbringing as a child or in the disclosure of psychologically scarring events. This alone can be a huge relief for some people who resist, dismiss or otherwise hold negative views about the analytical therapies and therefore may avoid treatment. A qualifying comment is needed however. No competent therapist will completely ignore the past or the client’s personal circumstances if it becomes clear that this may be underpinning some of the client’s immediate problems. For example, if sexual abuse is clearly an intrusive thought it would be unethical for the therapist to simply ignore this.
- CBT is an active process that requires the client to attend a fixed series of task-oriented sessions. Between sessions with the therapist the client is expected to undertake homework activities and report these back. In this way the client is not simply the passive recipient of therapy but an active partner.
- Locating a psychologist, or other health professional, with CBT credentials is pretty straight forward. The American Psychological Association website, for example, offers a handy ‘psychologist locator’. Always look for an accredited therapist. If, after meeting your therapist you simply don’t connect with the person, it would be wise to look elsewhere.
- CBT is natural and safe. Unlike most medications that come with a list of potential side effects, there is nothing in the CBT process that can cause harm. The key to successful CBT is to help clients to feel safe enough to gradually change their beliefs and behaviors. Like most therapeutic interventions CBT should be managed by a qualified and accredited therapist. Relevant professional bodies will vary from country to country.
- The theory and practice that informs CBT is fairly easy to understand. Unlike some psychological therapies that can appear both elusive and elitist, the principles behind CBT are well documented and available to anyone with access to the internet or their local bookshop or library.
- Contrary to some of the myths that seem to have clustered around CBT, a competent therapist is far from a cold and heartless machine. In other words it is far more likely that the therapist will be interested in your personal circumstances and situation. Furthermore, the therapist will want to establish a good relationship and they will be interested in your thoughts and feelings.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.