Over the past decade, the visibility of mental health has skyrocketed, with greater awareness than ever before. That’s great news for those who struggle with their mental wellbeing, as there are now dozens of treatments and therapies readily available – chief among which is CBT.

CBT has emerged as one of the most prevalent therapies for mental health conditions, with treatment available through the NHS and from private practitioners. But what is CBT? How does it work? And what does it take to become a CBT therapist?

Here, we’re taking an in-depth look at CBT, giving you everything you need to know about one of the UK’s most effective mental health therapies.

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What is CBT?

CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy, is a talking therapy focused on altering your mindset. Its aim is to confront negative thoughts and behaviour patterns by teaching you practical coping strategies.

These techniques improve your state of mind and give you the power to take control of your illness to get your life back on track. While it’s commonly used to treat anxiety or depression, CBT benefits other physical and mental conditions, too.

CBT is a combination of two therapies: cognitive and behavioural, which examine your thoughts and actions. Together, they provide an optimal solution for people suffering from mental health problems. And patients who stay with the programme are often rewarded with improved mental health and coping mechanisms.

young man in CBT

What Mental Health Conditions Can CBT Help Treat?

While some disorders, such as depression, are widely discussed and have obvious characteristics. CBT has proven to be an effective way to deal with a range of mental health problems. Some of them you will have heard of, others you might not have even considered disorders. Also, this list is not exhaustible.

  1. Anger Disorders Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
  2. Panic and Anxiety Disorders e.g., Hypochondria
  3. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  6. Phobias e.g., Agoraphobia (fear of public spaces)
  7. Schizophrenia
  8. Psychosis
  9. Sexual and Relationship Problems
  10. Eating Disorders (Anorexia and Bulimia)
  11. Sleep Problems (Insomnia)
  12. Alcohol and Drug Abuse

CBT has also been known to alleviate physical conditions such as arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, CBT cannot cure physical ailments.

How Does CBT Work?

CBT is a talking therapy, so it’s usually delivered via a one-on-one or group appointment with an accredited CBT therapist. That said, there are other means of delivering CBT treatment; take a look at the four main modes of delivery below:

  • Private Therapy: Work individually with your own personal therapist to solve your problems
  • Group Therapy: Talk through issues with people in the same situation. E.g., Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Online Therapy: Work through an online self-help plan to improve your state of mind
  • Home Therapy: There are self-help books, online services, and phone and email counselling

Five prominent areas CBT tackles are situations, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions. By actively targeting each area, therapists can set attainable goals that slowly improve a patient’s ability to cope, even after treatment has finished.

CBT session taking notes

What Are the Main Types of CBT Treatment?

Exposure Therapy

 It’s possible to condition yourself to fear situations, thus leading to negative and avoidant behaviour. Exposure therapy aims to break this mindset by exposing you to the things you fear in a safe setting.

Various studies have documented CBT’s efficiency to treat disorders like OCD, PTSD and Phobias. Exposure slowly builds tolerance to things you fear to improve your lifestyle.

CBT Sessions

 Sessions are designed to identify problems negatively impacting your life. Then it’s a case of planning each accordingly. You’ll partake in one-to-ones, exercises and techniques inside and outside the office to help you overcome these issues. Based on the severity of your condition, sessions run from 5-20 weeks, at 30-60 minutes at a time. Sessions are bespoke, so fit how you want to improve your lifestyle.

Computerised CBT 

There are options to work through your problems at home with professional software packages. These self-help programmes will give you everything you need to manage your problems. However, you’ll have the option to speak with a therapist on occasion to monitor your progress. One great programme currently offered by the NHS is Beating the Blues, which helps treat people with mild depression.

How Do I Get CBT treatment?

If you’re feeling like you can’t cope, seek help. Generally, there are two avenues: the NHS or a private therapist.

Firstly, it’s strongly recommended that you visit your GP before jumping to any conclusions or paying cash to therapists offering CBT services. A doctor can talk you through those initial steps to identify what’s right for you. Whether that’s through an NHS IAPT programme or, if you prefer, a privately recognised association with fully accredited therapists.

counsellor talking to woman

IAPT Programme

If you opt to wait and receive treatment through the NHS, you can partake in an IAPT programme, which is available in some areas of England.

Other options for therapy through the NHS might include:

  • GP Surgery – Plenty of surgeries offer therapy and counselling on the NHS. Remember, don’t hold back. Docs usually call for people who need help most.
  • Community Mental Health Teams – They support people living in the community with mild to moderate mental health problems. Maintained by health professionals from all backgrounds. An option for people who’d rather share in an environment with people with similar conditions.

If you opt for private therapy, you can expect immediate treatment. However, private therapy isn’t cheap and can cost anywhere between £40-100 a session. Also, it’s vital that the serving practitioner has the right qualifications and credentials to support your needs. Visit credible associations with accredited CBT therapists and talk to your GP who will likely be in touch with therapists offering services.

The internet is a hub of so-called therapists. So below, we’ll list three associations known for hosting accredited CBT practitioners:

  • The British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) – An organisation for people dedicated to the practice and theory of behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy. There’s also a register of all CBT therapists in the UK.
  • The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) – An organisation that can help you find a safe and effective counsellor or psychotherapist for all your mental health needs. They even have a therapist directory.
  • The British Psychological Society (BPS) – An organisation dedicated to the advancement of psychology. Check out their directory of chartered psychologists for potential CBT support.

woman talking to male counsellor

What Are the Pros and Cons of CBT?

While CBT has helped many people lead better lives, it’s not suitable for everyone. Before jumping into therapy sessions, check out these pros and cons. Self-diagnosis is another form of negative behaviour, after all.

The Pros of CBT

  • Bespoke treatments – Plan sessions around your lifestyle and problems, e.g., one-on-one treatments can tackle key issues and offer practical exercises to break negative cycles.
  • Alleviates multiple problems – From depression to anxiety, anger and eating disorders. CBT can help you conquer bad habits and thoughts through dedicated, systematic training.
  • Complete sessions in short time frame – Sessions are only 30-60 minutes long for approx. 5 – 20 weeks. That’s less than a year to gain the strategies to take control of your life.
  • Various forms of delivery – One-on-one sessions, group sessions or work with online self-help software. The right therapist can work in a setting of your choice: home, outdoors, at a clinic.
  • Teaches you practical strategies – You’ll gain access to critical techniques and exercises to use every day or when you need to manage mental problems you encounter throughout your life.
  • Effective where medication isn’t – Some drugs, like anti-depressants, don’t always offer the best results. CBT is a safe alternative that finds solutions for problems you’re facing right now.
  • Think positively by training your mind – Say goodbye to negative thoughts with strategies that build your confidence and positive state of mind.

The Cons of CBT

  • Reliance to function – Sometimes, people can only function when they’re using CBT strategies. Therefore, this can become a negative behaviour pattern.
  • Requires commitment – It takes time, motivation and commitment. You can’t change your mind overnight, and people with complex issues may struggle to maintain pace.
  • Doesn’t eliminate problems – CBT is known to be solution-focused for helping people cope with problems rather than identifying solutions for eliminating their problems.
  • Additional work and exercises – It takes more than attending sessions to get better. You must practice exercises daily something patients may potentially neglect.
  • Confronting your anxieties – People must relive traumatic experiences to conquer them. Not an easy task. This can lead to rejecting the treatment or further mental deterioration.
  • CBT focuses on current issues, not underlying problems – Many critics believe CBT is only interested -n current issues rather than underlying problems that will remain with the patient even after treatment.
  • Complex problems harder to fix – Serious conditions hardly benefit from the limited number of sessions and need treatment over time. For complex issues, CBT may be the wrong option.

woman talking to her counsellor

Learn More About CBT

CBT is vast! If the subject area is something that piques your interest, then why not delve deep into the crevices of the human psyche with our Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Level 3 qualification?

Discover the self, what it means to be conflicted and the implications this has on a person’s health. If you’re interested in studying mental health, Oxbridge can help you to gain the skills and the qualifications to help people manage their problems.

We hope this guide has helped you think differently about CBT, what it does and how it can help those with mental health problems. If you’d like to learn more about studying with Oxbridge, visit the homepage or call us on 0121 630 3000.