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Intro to CBT (Part 1)

This is the first of a series of blogs looking at CBT and how it works with various mental health disorders. This first blog will give a quick overview of CBT and why it is so popular. Next, I hope to delve further into CBT looking at how we work from a cognitive aspect and behavioural aspect.

CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has become one of the most popular forms of talk therapy in today’s world. If we take a look at England, once you present to your GP with any forms of mental distress you are streamlined into a CBT programme that suits your needs. Using CBT therapists and the latest research in CBT, people get the help they need. If you want to check it out further, have a look at “Improving access to psychological therapies”.

CBT in a nutshell

One thing I always do with clients in the first session is I will drop a pen and ask what I would think if I was – “Anxious”, “Depressed” and “Normal” around the dropping of the pen. Similarly exchange the pen for a “Car crash”, “family member passing away” or “failing an exam”. The goal here is to realise that we perceive events differently depending on how we think and how we feel about the situation. In a nutshell, CBT looks at how we perceive the world around us and ourselves. A person who suffers with Anxiety will be perceiving anxiety in the world around them. When I am talking about perception, I am talking about our thoughts and our emotions. When something happens, we will have a thought and then we will have an emotion from that thought.

So the progression looks something like this:

Event – Perception (Thoughts/emotions) – Behaviour

Our faulty interpretations of the world/ourselves lead us to perceive the world in this manner.

Why is it so popular?

CBT is one of the few theoretical frameworks that can be measured from a scientific point of view. It is common upon entering into CBT that you measure where you are now from a depression/anxiety/OCD etc point of view. These measures or instruments are tailored to CBT and the mental health issue. After 5/10/20 sessions the same instrument can be administered again and progress can be tracked.

With it being measureable from a scientific perspective, there has been a plethora of research carried out in CBT along with the cognitive aspects and the behavioural aspects. This has helped CBT develop to what it is today, how it grew from behaviourism to cognitive theory to CBT and how it will grow in the future with research being looked into on DBT, Acceptance commitment therapy and others which would fall under the umbrella of CBT.

Lastly CBT is popular because it can be short term and logical. Research has shown that CBT can be effective in as little as 5-10 sessions with a notable increase in mood and well-being. With CBT being so logical, it can be easy to understand and know where you are at in therapy and where you are going. This has also led to the growing market of manualized CBT which is CBT without a therapist and all the work you do yourself.

CBT has become the therapy of choice for the HSE, NHS and various other government health bodies for a reason. In the next blog, I hope to delve further into how CBT works with clients and what you can expect from sessions.

Patrick Fitzgerald


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