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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

In modern times Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is both a therapy on its own and an umbrella term for a group of therapies.[1]  CBT involves strategies to control and overcome troubling memories and experiences.  Essentially it teaches coping skills to address a range of psychological problems.  CBT has been around since the late 1960’s and it has been demonstrated in over 350 studies that it is highly effective at treating numerous psychological conditions.[2]

What is the basis for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

One thing that separates CBT from other forms of therapy is that rather than focusing on the past to understand current behaviour CBT is more concerned with a person’s present thoughts and beliefs.  CBT maintains that there is a close link between how we think, feel, and behave.  The basic premise behind CBT is that the route of many psychological problems result from the unhelpful ways people think and behave.  CBT suggests that in response to certain triggers they are faced with (situations) people will think about uncomfortable or threatening situations which they are faced with (thoughts).  The thoughts will then lead to that person experiencing an emotion (feelings).  This is often, but not always, accompanied by a physical sensation.  The thoughts and feelings we experience will then lead to people behaving in an unhelpful way (behaviour).  In turn, these unhelpful behaviours will reinforce the thoughts and feelings we have and create a vicious cycle.  For instance, those suffering from depression will think negatively about themselves and they will be self-critical (thoughts).  These negative and self-critical thoughts lead to feelings including a lack of motivation, exhaustion, and unhappiness (feelings).  The feelings will often cause people to withdraw from others and to isolate themselves at home (behaviour). In turn, this behaviour reinforces the negative thoughts we have about ourselves and create a vicious circle.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Cycle Diagram
How does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Work?

Even though there are numerous techniques used in CBT it has been observed that there is a basic form which underlies all approaches.[3]  CBT treatments in general work towards supporting people to develop strategies to better manage their unhelpful thoughts and feelings.  This process usually includes a helpful step by step approach whereby people learn to:

  1. Challenge, dismiss, or not pay attention to unhelpful thoughts; and

  2. To gradually learn how to change behaviours so that they can face their fears or take part in those situations and activities which they have sought to avoid because of their unhelpful thoughts and feelings.


CBT will also usually involve some homework outside of Therapy sessions as part of the process.  This may include things like keeping a diary of thoughts and feelings or practicing techniques to change behaviours.  The overall aim of the process is to support people to recognise the vicious cycle and learn how to break it.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy suitable for?

CBT has been well researched scientifically and studies have shown that CBT is highly effective for treating conditions such as Depression,[4] Anxiety,[5] Panic Attacks,[6] Low Self-Esteem,[7] IBS,[8] Phobias, Eating Disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).[9]

If you are ready to explore if this type of therapy is suitable for you or if you want learn more about what we offer by way of Counselling in Dundee and throughout the UK we offer a Free Counselling Consultation by telephone for 20 Minutes to see if we are good fit for you.

(Created: 27/03/2022)

  1. For a detailed overview see Mansell, W. (2008). “The Seven C's of CBT: A Consideration of the Future Challenges for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.” Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36(6), 641-649. doi:10.1017/S1352465808004700.

  2. Beiling, P.J, McCabe, R.E, & Anthony, M.M (2006) “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in Groups”.  The Guilford Press. London.  P.3

  3. Bond, W.F & Dryden. W. (2002).  “Handbook of Brief Cognitive Behavioural Therapy”.  John Wiley & Sons Ltd.  P. 1

  4. For a full overview see Hundt, N.E, Mignogna, J, Underhill, C, & Cully J.A (2013) “The Relationship Between Use of CBT Skills and Depression Treatment Outcome: A Theoretical and Methodological Review of the Literature”.  Behavioural Therapy.  Volume 44.  P.12-26.

  5. DiMauro. J, Domingues. J, Fernandez. G, & Tolin.D.F (2013). “Long-term effectiveness of CBT for anxiety disorders in an adult outpatient clinic sample: A follow-up study”  Behaviour Research and Therapy.  Volume 51, Issue 2.  P.82-86.

  6. Barlow, D. H. (1990). Long-term outcome for patients with panic disorder treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 51(Suppl A), 17–23.

  7. Waite. P, McManus. F, Shafran. R (2012).  “Cognitive behaviour therapy for low self-esteem: A preliminary randomized controlled trial in a primary care setting.”  Vol 43.  P.1049-1057.

  8. Radziwon1.C.D  & Lackner1. J.M (2017). “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for IBS: How Useful, How Often, and How Does It Work?”.  Current Gastroenterol Reports Volume19. P. 49.

  9. Cloitre.M (2009).  “Effective Psychotherapies for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review and Critique”.  CNS Spectrums.  Vol 14.  Issue 1. P.32

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