This centres on the identification of "irrational" beliefs that can lead to illogical thinking processes and emotional disturbances. Although we can all think irrationally at times, if we constantly interpret events in a dysfunctional manner we may become anxious and depressed. Psychotherapists who work within the cognitive model helps clients to identify these "cognitive distortions" in order that they may change their reactions and behaviours. CBT is based on the assumption that it's not events themselves that upset us, but the meanings we give them. Our thoughts can block us seeing things that don't fit with what we believe are true. In other words, we continue to hold on to the same old thoughts and fail to learn anything new.
For example, a depressed woman may think, 'I can't face going into work today: I can't do it. Nothing will go right. I'll feel awful.' As a result of having these thoughts – and of believing them – she may well ring in sick. By behaving like this, she won't have the chance to find out that her prediction was wrong. She might have found some things she could do, and at least some things that were OK. But, instead, she stays at home, brooding about her failure to go in and ends up thinking: 'I've let everyone down. They will be angry with me. Why can't I do what everyone else does? I'm so weak and useless.' So, that woman probably ends up feeling worse, and has even more difficulty going in to work the next day. Thinking, behaving and feeling like this may start a downward spiral. This vicious circle can apply to many different kinds of problems.
CBT is often helpful in cases of anxiety, low self esteem, depression, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), trauma, panic and relationship issues. It is used effectively in the treatment of addictions and eating disorders. Although CBT sessions can last for many months, we find that combining the most effective CBT approaches with other therapies means that you require fewer sessions.
Any CBT sessions are quite structured, with plenty of client input. Staged goals will be set and you may be asked to keep a diary. You will be asked to carry out homework after each session (although this is something we encourage most of our clients to do).