Counselling gives the opportunity to explore your feelings, thoughts and behaviours and find effective ways to manage. There are many different approaches to counselling including person-centred, systematic and CBT.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy where people explore and understand how their thoughts, emotions and behaviours can all influence one another and sustain an unhelpful cycle. CBT counsellors then work with clients to set achievable goals such as learning coping skills for managing different issues.

Stress, low mood and anxiety can affect many people at different times in their lives. We might feel low due to loss or anxious about attending a job interview. Although we often cannot change life experiences, we can change how we respond to these experiences and we can learn how to effectively manage them.

We speak to Breathes qualified counsellor Dawid who specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy.


How would you describe CBT?

Sometimes unhelpful thoughts can be so powerful they are difficult to ignore and control. They may feel so overwhelming and distressing they can influence how we behave and even how we feel physically, having a further negative impact on our mood. This can create and then maintain what we call a vicious cycle.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that explores:

  • How you think about yourself, other people and your future
  • How the way you think and feel affects the way you act
  • How what you do affects your feelings and thoughts

In CBT we work together to recognise and challenge some unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours which may be causing you difficulties. We also look at identifying unchangeable aspects in your life so we are more focused on developing acceptance here.

CBT can then be used to work on techniques and finding new ways of managing. In time this can change the way you feel and behave in certain situations. The ultimate aim is for the client to be their own therapist.


What happens in CBT sessions

During the first session, I like to work together visually and use big sheets of paper to explore negative patterns of thoughts, emotions, feelings and actions. We may start by drawing some of the cycles a person is tuck in. This helps both of us understand some of the unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and how they are linked to how that person is feeling.

For example, we may draw a diagram representing how an anxious thought makes us avoid certain situations and then how this maintains and furthers anxious thoughts and feelings.

In CBT we would focus mostly on what is going on in your life right now, but sometimes we might also look at your past, and think about how your past experiences impact the way you see the world.

In the first or second session, we also discuss short term and long term goals the client would like to achieve. For example, a short term goal could be taking a shower and the long term goal could be returning to work after a long absence of leave.

In CBT you learn to question a self-critical or upsetting thought and replace it with a more helpful (and more realistic) one. You also recognise if you are about to do something that will make you feel worse and instead do something more helpful. At the end of each session, we may agree on some exercises to work on. All of these are small steps to the long term goal. At the beginning of your next session, we may start by going over the conclusions from your previous session, and discussing what progress you’ve made with any work we have agreed to do.


How does negative thinking start?

Negative thinking patterns can start anytime. For example, if you didn’t receive much attention or praise from your parents or teachers at school, you may have thought “I’m useless, I’m not good enough”.

Over time you might come to believe these assumptions until as an adult these negative thoughts become automatic. This way of thinking might then affect how you feel at work, university or in your general life. However, thoughts aren’t necessarily facts.

How effective is CBT?

There is a lot of research showing the effectiveness of CBT for many common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic, stress, phobias and OCD. CBT draws on well-tested techniques and a focused approach that encourages consistent practice.

By working together, CBT provides tools and strategies the client needs to effectively manage going forward and not feeling stuck. Repeated and focused practice is essential to CBT.


Are you interested in CBT?

Email where one of the team will be happy to help.


Not quite ready to start counselling?

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