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What are Cognitive Behavioural informed therapies?

They are active, problem-solving approaches to psychological problems. They are based on the idea that our feelings, thoughts and actions are all interconnected and are related to the context we live in. Therefore, making changes in any one of these areas can have an impact on the remaining areas.

Cognitive behavioural informed therapies focus on our cognitions (thoughts and styles of thinking) and behaviours (what we do). We have all learnt ways of responding to difficult situations which may have been very helpful in the past or in certain contexts. However, sometimes these responses can be unhelpful in dealing with certain problems. It seems that changing what we do or how we manage our thoughts, can break self-defeating cycles and help us to feel better.

How do these therapies work?

Sometimes the way we have learnt to interpret our experiences can be unhelpful or biased in some way. We can also get into unhelpful thinking styles, like worrying excessively about the future (what if…) or ruminating about the past (if only…). CBT informed therapies can help to identify these thinking styles and find ways of managing them differently.

Usually the strategies we use to cope with difficult experiences are helpful in some way, particularly in the short-term. However, sometimes the same approaches can be also be unhelpful or maintain the problem in the long-term. For example, avoiding a feared situation may successfully avoid anxiety in the short-term. However, it may also mean that we never learn to cope with the feared situation and therefore lead increasingly restricted lives to avoid it. CBT informed therapies help to identify these vicious cycles and test out alternative coping strategies.

What happens during appointments?

Therapy begins by reviewing specific, recent examples of difficult situations, to assess what thoughts, feelings and sensations came up and what the client did to try and cope. This detailed assessment enables the client and the therapist to develop a shared understanding what the problem is and why it continues to be a problem. This shared understanding is typically written down, in a diagram, called a formulation.

The formulation helps to identify specific goals and alternative ways of managing thoughts or responding to difficult experiences. It is then up to the client to test out the alternative strategies and see what works for him/her. Therapy sessions therefore become consultations to work out the most helpful ways of managing the problem in the following weeks, months and years.

What would I have to do?

During therapy, clients are expected to take an active role, both within sessions and between sessions. Within sessions, clients are expected to work collaboratively with the therapist to develop the formulation, generate ideas and set goals.

Clients are also expected to complete agreed tasks in between sessions. These tasks may include taking steps towards achieving goals, trying out new strategies or monitoring thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical sensations in specific situations. Tasks would always be agreed collaboratively within sessions, however completing these tasks is usually necessary for these therapies to be successful.

What problems do CBT informed therapies address?

Extensive research has found these therapies to be particularly effective for the following presenting problems:

  • Depression
  • Generalised Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Social Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

CBT informed therapies can also be useful for the following issues:

  • Exam Anxiety
  • Procrastination
  • Anger Management
  • Sleep Problems
  • Problem Solving

I’ve had counselling before, how would these therapies be different?

Often people who have had counselling in the past are used to talking freely throughout the session, about a range of issues. CBT informed therapies are usually more structured and involve agreeing an agenda at the beginning of the session and focusing on one specific problem at a time.

Completing tasks in between sessions, for example working towards your goals or trying out alternative strategies for managing your difficulties, is often a feature.

Longer term Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is usually available via your GP. Some areas have services which you can access yourself without a GP referral:

Tower Hamlets - if you have a GP in the borough of Tower Hamlets you can self refer to Tower Hamlets Talking Therapies who offer CBT

Newham - if you have a GP in the borough of Newham you can self refer to Newham Talking Therapies who offer CBT 

Find a private CBT therapist on the official accredited CBT therapist list at British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)

There is also a range of self-help resources which can provide information, advice, telephone helplines, email support and support networks. For further information see the self help section of our website.

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