Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or depressed, you might be referred for CBT by a health professional, or you might self-refer.
It’s considered as the ‘Gold Standard’ talk therapy, because it’s effectiveness has been demonstrated in numerous research studies.

CBT offers personalised support to each individual in line with difficulties they are facing. CBT alone is thought to be 50-75% effective for overcoming depression and anxiety after 5 – 15 modules. Rather than medication, CBT could be considered as getting to the ‘root cause’ of anxiety and low mood.

Our thoughts shape our reality

CBT focuses on how our thoughts influence our emotions, and even physical sensations within our bodies.
It encourages us to think about our thought patterns and how they influence our expectations, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.

Sometimes our negative thought patterns have become habits

The techniques learned in CBT allow us to recognise our negative thought patterns and re-frame them. Doing this strengthens the neural pathways in our brain which lead to more positive thoughts. When we re-train our brain like this, we reduce anxiety and depression.

Anna’s Experience

“After being under mental health services since the age of 13, I’d tried years of medication, counselling and groups. I’d been hospitalised short term and long term, but nothing seemed to help me in long term recovery.

Although the talking therapies were beneficial in being a safe place to offload, none of them had a proper, solid structure. I found them too focused on talking about past trauma, and the sessions usually only lasted a few weeks. Afterwards, I was always left feeling just as lost and vulnerable.

A friend diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder had been referred for DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, a version of CBT), as well as mindfulness group therapy, and was finding it really helpful.

I was skeptical after so much therapy getting me nowhere, and the waiting lists can be long. After my GP referral got lost (that’s overloaded and underfunded NHS services for you), I self-referred for CBT. I was offered a 3 month, high intensity 1-to-1 course, and then a follow on group mindfulness course.”

“Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses can lock our thoughts repetitively into the negative; to sad or traumatic events in the past or worrying about the future, affecting our experience in the present and even convincing us that things will never get better.”

“When you’re mentally unwell, it’s so easy to get lost and not see things objectively. I used to joke with my therapist that the ‘C’ in CBT stands for ‘common sense’.

For some, hearing that CBT is mindfulness-based can put them off if they’ve got preconceptions of meditation, or haven’t had good experiences with it. However, the idea behind CBT is to help you practice rewiring negative neural pathways in your brain and become your own therapist in a way. This requires practicing returning the mind to the present and being aware of thoughts.”

“We all know that practice makes perfect, and with a mental illness, you have years of practicing negative self-talk and thoughts, as well as unhelpful coping mechanisms and behaviours.”

“CBT focuses on repetition to un-do these, so you can turn to coping strategies that aren’t damaging, tolerate distress better and how to tune in to the physical manifestations of thoughts in the body. You don’t have to talk about traumatic or difficult events in your past.

You can access a lot of the worksheets for free online, but when you’re struggling with mental health, it can be difficult to work through these alone. I really benefited from the structure of compulsory weekly meetings with the therapist to go over the daily ‘homework’.

Online treatment and self-directed CBT also has a high success rate, which is good news, especially in Covid-19 times. The sessions introduce techniques and strategies and in-between, you work at practicing them and figure out the ones that are best for you.”

“Afterwards you’re left armed with a toolbox to take on the difficulties life will inevitably throw you.”

“You can access many guided meditations and body scans for free online. Spend some time finding ones you like, and remember it’s consistent practice that eventually yields results.”

“Regular practice of grounding mind and body back into the here and now, trains our minds to get better at returning to the present, as we tend to wander off frequently without even realising.”

“As always, remember there is no magic bullet and unfortunately recovery takes time, consistent effort and usually a combination of several methods. I would recommend to keep trying, even if, like me, you have tried everything and been under mental health services for a long time and nothing has helped.”

Anna on one of her climbs

“Even if CBT hasn’t helped in the past, it could be worth trying again in a different way. I didn’t notice changes until I’d been practicing a year or so. I finished the courses in 2016, and I’ve not been under mental health services or on medication since, and I continue to practice daily.

“The concept and the tasks initially seemed vague and pointless, but eventually became the only thing that helped me start recovery from severe mental illness. It completely changed and quite possibly saved my life!”

Thanks for reading!

Useful links:

Self-refer through
Click on referrals and it will take you to fill in a form on IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services.

Many of the CBT worksheets are on is an excellent site with lots of useful info.
Also, check out

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