CBT is a form of therapy that is frequently used clinically and has a strong evidence base in terms of its efficacy.
The underlying premise of CBT is that understanding and changing our thoughts, behaviour and body sensations can improve how we feel. Therefore, CBT focuses on THOUGHTS, BEHAVIOURS and BODILY SENSATIONS, which are linked together in a feedback loop with our EMOTIONS. If we change how we think, we change how we feel and how we behave and vice versa.
There is a myth that CBT only focuses on the here and now and whilst that can be useful in short term therapy, CBT often involves looking back into the past to help us understand the beliefs we have developed about ourselves, others and the world and the rules we hold about ourselves and others. These beliefs and rules impact upon the way we interpret events in the present – for example, if we have been repeatedly let down by friends in the past, when a friend is late for a meeting, we may interpret this as a sign that they don’t care about us.
Some of the work in CBT involves focusing on the common assumptions and biases that people make with their thoughts – called Cognitive Distortions. Some other examples include Jumping to Conclusions, Mind Reading, Catastrophising and Magnifying/ Minimising. Noticing and understanding these patterns can help us to prevent ourselves spiralling in terms of our emotions.
CBT also involves making changes to our behaviour – this can involve facing situations we normally avoid, dropping behaviours that are maintaining the difficulties or challenging ourselves by trying new things.
As well as looking at changing thoughts and behaviours, CBT involves finding ways to change how our body feels – perhaps using relaxation or mindfulness. Sometimes, understanding more about the changes in our bodies when we feel strong emotions can be really helpful.