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CBT Explained

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is very impressive and able to help with lots of different mental health concerns, but what is it? Where did it come from and how can it help you? Below we explain CBT and give you a video preview of a basic CBT formulation. If you like you can download and print a copy of the CBT formulation below and follow along with the video.

What is CBT?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a type of psychotherapy that is commonly used to treat a range of mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, sleep problems and post-traumatic stress disorder among others. CBT can be thought of as an umbrella term for different types of interventions that work on a persons thought processes, behaviours and emotional responses.  

CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected, and that by changing the way we think and behave, we can improve our emotional well-being. This therapy is typically short-term and goal-oriented, with an emphasis on teaching clients practical skills to help them manage their symptoms and develop more effective coping strategies.

The aim of CBT is to reduce unwanted symptoms associated with mental health conditions and in most cases achieve recovery. The goal of CBT is for the client to become their own therapist, able to identify triggers and implement learned CBT techniques to improve their quality of life.

CBT is often thought of as the Gold Standard treatment for many mental health concerns (David, Cristea & Hoffman, 2018) .

Where has CBT come from?

So for this, we need to get a little more Sciencey!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has its roots in two distinct approaches: Cognitive Therapy and Behaviour therapy. The Cognitive Therapy aspect of CBT was developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck, who was working with depressed patients and found that their negative thoughts and beliefs contributed to their depression. Beck developed a structured and focused approach to treatment that involved identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs.

The Behaviour Therapy aspect of CBT has its roots in the 1950s and 1960s, when psychologists such as B.F. Skinner and Albert Bandura were exploring the relationship between behaviour and reinforcement. When a person does something and it makes them feel good, they learn to do it more. When a person does something and it makes them feel bad, they learn to avoid doing it.

The seperate approaches were merged in the 1970s by psychologists such as Donald Meichenbaum and David Barlow, who saw the potential for combining cognitive and behavioural techniques to treat mental health disorders. CBT became more widely recognised as an effective form of therapy in the 1980s and 1990s, and it has since become one of the most widely used and researched forms of psychotherapy.

This is all very useful information. Here’s why! If someone has anxiety about driving, then the negative thought might be that driving is “dangerous”. The behaviour might be to avoid driving altogether, because it makes them feel bad. However, each time they avoid the driving, they are reinforcing a negative link between driving and danger. Or simply put the brain has learned that driving is “dangerous” and makes them feel bad.

How can CBT help me?

So now you know what CBT is why don’t we have a brief look at how it might be able to help you.

CBT is a type of therapy that can be used to treat a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and other conditions. It works by helping you understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all interconnected, and how you can change those patterns to improve your mental health.

For example, let’s say you’re struggling with anxiety. CBT can help you identify the thoughts that are causing you to feel anxious, and then work with you to challenge those thoughts and replace them with more positive and realistic ones. This can help you feel less anxious and more in control of your thoughts and feelings.

Another example is if you’re struggling with low self-esteem or negative thoughts about yourself. CBT can help you identify those negative thoughts and challenge them with evidence that contradicts them. This can help you develop a more positive and realistic view of yourself, which can improve your self-esteem and overall mental health.

CBT is a practical and goal-oriented therapy that can be used to help you develop coping skills, problem-solving strategies, and new ways of thinking and behaving that can improve your mental health. It’s a collaborative process between you and your therapist, and you’ll be an active participant in setting goals and working towards them.

Overall, CBT can be a very effective therapy for improving mental health and helping people feel better about themselves and their lives. In the video below, we break this down further using an example of a brief CBT formulation, which is sometimes completed in the assessment session. Want to try it for yourself? Download the worksheet to the right of the video to follow along!

Basic CBT formulation

5 Aspects worksheet

Click on the top right of the worksheet to download and follow along with the brief CBT formulation. You may need to print it (worksheet taken from

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