What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) And How Does It Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on our thought patterns, and how our thinking can affect our behaviour, and how we feel overall. The aim of CBT is to teach you new ways of thinking in order to help you change a certain behaviour, or to find a more positive perspective on a particular issue. According to CBT, changing how we think about and approach a challenge can help us deal with it more effectively, thereby improving our own situations.


CBT was originally conceived of as a way to treat depression. The logic behind this was quite simple: if you think negative, you feel negative. When the therapy was first tested, it was hoped that it could be used to treat depression by helping people focus on the positive aspects of their lives. Years later, it is now widely accepted that CBT can be just as if not more effective than medication in treating depression, and can have much more long-term effects. This is due to the fact that reframing out thought processes is essentially a skill we learn, and every time we apply it to a situation, we become more skilled at it.

The results of CBT in treating depression have been so positive that it is now used to treat a wide range of conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, anger issues, substance abuse, eating disorders, and much more. Both in theory and in practice, CBT can be applied to any maladaptive behavior that is triggered by or in response to our thought processes.

Eating disorders are a good example of a problem that runs rampant throughout western civilisation, but can benefit greatly from CBT. Countless studies have linked the rise in Anorexia Nervosa directly to Western culture and media, where images of unrealistic beauty standards are highlighted in a near-constant basis. This leads more and more people towards the maladaptive behaviour of allowing themselves to go hungry, rather than risking any weight gain.

CBT can help with conditions like this by helping the patient to see these images in a very different way. By walking a patient through the real numbers of how many people actually look like the models we see, the negative health effects of techniques used to achieve those looks (unhealthy diets, smoking, plastic surgery), the use of professional makeup artists alongside digital manipulation, a therapist can begin to help a patient reframe their thinking. The goal is that by the end of the therapy, a patient who sees these images will not begin to think about their own physical flaws, but will instead think about the amount of work and trickery that goes into creating these unrealistic images.

Just how quickly a patient will feel the benefits of CBT will depend heavily on their own case, and how often the sessions take place. That being said, CBT is generally considered to be a shorter form of therapy compared to other branches of psychotherapy, with most patients seeing benefits after a few weeks, and completing their therapy in under 6 months. While people can be reluctant to seek therapy for many reasons, CBT requires a relatively short time investment, but yields benefits that can be felt for the rest of our lives. If you think you can benefit from CBT, get in touch with us today.

Julie Farrar