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A Brief Introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Written by Samantha. M | Provisional Psychologist, PsychPhys™ 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating a range of mental health conditions (i.e., depression, anxiety, trauma) in children, adolescents and adults. CBT is based on the theory that distressing emotions and maladaptive behaviours are the result of negative patterns of thinking (Fenn & Byrne, 2013). CBT explores the link between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. CBT focuses on an individual’s current patterns of thinking or distorted perceptions that lead them to become anxious, depressed or distressed in the first place (Garber et al., 2016). Additionally, it helps individuals identify their distressing thoughts and evaluate how realistic the thoughts are and then learn to change their distorted thinking. 

CBT Techniques

Under the CBT intervention umbrella, there are a variety of different techniques that can be used during sessions including:

  • Cognitive restructuring: This involves identifying negative thought patterns and learning how to reframe those thoughts into positive and productive thoughts
  • Exposure Therapy: This involves carefully exposing the individual to social situations in small, controlled doses helping reduce their anxiety over time and providing guidance on how to cope with the emotions in the moment
  • Guided Discovery: This involves challenging your beliefs and broadening your thinking
  • Activity Scheduling and Behavioural Activation: This involves putting events or activities into a calendar to help you not avoid or put off due to feelings of anxiety. This can be helpful in establishing good habits and putting what you have learnt into practice 
  • Relaxation and Stress reduction: This involves learning techniques such as muscle relaxation, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises and imagery to help manage emotions
  • Role playing: This involves working through particular emotions and behaviours in situations you may find distressing. Role playing possible scenarios can help reduce fear and anxiety

Conditions that CBT may be able to help with:

An individual does not have to be diagnosed with a condition/disorder to benefit from CBT intervention. CBT can be beneficial for a variety of everyday problems such as learning to cope with stressful situations or events, conflict resolution, improving communication skills or dealing with particular phobias. CBT can also be beneficial in treating conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety and mood disorders 
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use Disorders