Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)?

CBT (or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a talking therapy which encourages people to examine the way they view the world. This helps them gain insight into how they might unintentionally be creating problems for themselves. By ‘reframing’ their interpretation of experiences, no matter how long ago, they can – in the here and now – change they way they think, and consequently feel, about their lives.

“At the heart of CBT lies the idea that our interpretations of our experiences are beliefs rather than facts, and as such may be correct or incorrect to varying degrees. When people hold unrealistic and negative beliefs about themselves or their experiences, an emotional upset will result.” (Cognitive- Behavioural Counselling in Action. Trower, Casey, Dryden.Sage 1988)

This is not a new idea and was in fact summed up by the philosopher Epicetus in the first century AD: ‘Men are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them’. However CBT has become increasingly popular in recent times because it is evidence-based and can be used for brief therapy, and once people learn the tools they can put them into practice in their everyday lives.

An example to illustrate how this works might be the weather (a topic dear to the heart of people living in Scotland!) Let’s say it’s autumn with winter approaching. Someone who loves warm weather and sunshine might think “Oh no its getting darker and colder and I don’t know how I’m going to afford my fuel bills this winter.” This may fill them with dread and lead to a low mood. Another person might think “Oh well I’d better look out my winter jacket so I can enjoy walks in the autumn colours, and get some wood chopped to light the the fire”. They’re going to feel a lot better about the changing season!

This sounds a simplistic example, but the therapist’s job is to help people go deeper to find the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that hold them back from enjoying their lives to the full. These ‘hot’ thoughts play in the background all the time without us noticing them, but by becoming aware of them we can challenge our patterns of negative automatic thinking and start to change them to something more helpful. So whether it’s more confidence in ourselves, more control of our lives, help with weight loss or addiction and other self-sabotaging behaviours, CBT can provide a useful method of working to change the way we think. We can’t undo past experiences but we can change the way we look at them and the meaning we make of them in the present.

Who delivers CBT?

Margherita Sacca- Briody, Dr. Holly Trengrouse and Dr. Liza Morton  Read more about them here.

What will happen during the sessions?

At the first session, a client will talk about what they are struggling with, and the therapist will help them to uncover underlying negative or unhelpful ideas, beliefs and thoughts which are contributing to the problem. Then the client can take home tools, such as thought records, (which are also available online) to work on. Once these ‘hot’ thoughts are identified, in subsequent sessions they will work together to change these ways of thinking, looking at the evidence of unrealistic beliefs and changing them to more positive ones using affirmations, for example. Then by practising this new, healthier way of thinking the client will slowly look at things differently and feel a lot better.

Normally this would take about 6 sessions with the client practising in their daily lives. Sessions last for an hour and should be weekly to start with, moving to fortnightly later if necessary.