Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment approach that has been applied effectively to a wide range of mental-health problems. It is the most supported psychological treatment with over 300 published studies. It is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for anxiety disorders and depression and it has other effective uses across many mental health problems.
CBT is based on the principle that psychological distress results from distortions and biases in the way an individual interprets events. These give rise to negative meanings and maintain and strengthen unhelpful beliefs. In addition the way an individual behaves can generate problems by interfering with effective problem solving, by disrupting self-regulation and by preventing exposure to corrective learning experiences. For example, avoidance of a feared object prevents a person discovering that the object presents no real danger and erroneous beliefs about harm remain unchanged and anxiety persists.
CBT contains a range of specific models and approaches to treating disorders. Treatment based on disorder-specific models, and many of these are now available, is preferred. Treatment for anxiety and depression typically lasts 12-14 sessions, and the therapist works with the client to examine and modify negative thoughts, biases and behaviours that underlie symptoms. Homework is a part of treatment and often consists of recording thoughts, changing patterns of behaviour, activity scheduling, and conducting ‘behavioural experiments to test distorted beliefs.