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Depression health centre

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

What is CBT?

CBT is short for cognitive behavioural therapy. It's a talking therapy that focuses on how your own thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviours and contribute to your condition, for example, depression. It teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems but is mainly used to treat anxiety and depression.

How does it work?

The aim is to help you change how you think ('cognitive') and what you do ('behaviour'). It helps you learn new ways to react to situations and it challenges often long held preconceptions - for example, 'I'm not good enough'.

It can help you make sense of problems that seem overwhelming by breaking them down into smaller, easier to solve parts.

What conditions does it treat?

CBT focuses on current problems, rather than past issues, and although it's mainly used to treat anxiety disorders and depression it is also used to treat:

People with OCD or phobias may have a form of CBT known as exposure therapy. Talking about their problems may not be enough and they instead may need to learn to face their fears in a methodical and structured way.

CBT is also sometimes used to help people with long-term health conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME). Although it can't treat the physical symptoms of these conditions it can help people cope with them.

Is it a long-term therapy?

The number of sessions you need depends on the condition you want help with. Often it will be between 5 and 20 weekly sessions lasting between 30 and 60 minutes each. Once the sessions finish your therapist will advise you on how to continue using the techniques you've learnt in your daily life.

What can I expect from a session?

Sessions from a qualified therapist are available in a wide range of settings including hospitals and clinics. It can be delivered in individual sessions or as part of a group.

Together you and your therapist will seek solutions to your current difficulties. The sessions will be structured to work out what negative thought patterns and behaviours you have and how you can change them. You'll be asked to practise this between sessions.

The aim of therapy is to teach you to apply to your daily life the skills you've learnt during treatment.

To reduce delays in people getting the help they need CBT is sometimes provided in the form of written or computer-based packages combined with telephone or face-to-face appointments.

It can also be delivered very successfully via phone or webcam.

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