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More about cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) in Edinburgh

What is involved in cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) is usually undertaken for an hour at a time on a weekly basis and generally lasts from six to twenty sessions, although the exact number of sessions is usually discussed at your initial meeting. In the first CBT session your therapist will give you the opportunity to talk openly about your difficulties. Later on, you will discuss specific areas you would like to change and agree on the best way to achieve these goals.

Part of each session usually involves reviewing homework tasks. Homework is an essential part of CBT as it allows clients to undertake behavioural experiments which might be difficult to carry out in the therapy room and enables clients to practise and apply the skills they learn in therapy to their everyday lives. In a sense, the client is taught to become their own therapist. This is advantageous as it often makes problems less likely to return.

What is the difference between CBT and other 'talking therapies'?

CBT, unlike counselling, tends to focus on solving current difficulties and setting goals to reduce symptoms in the 'here and now' rather than looking to the past for causes of distress. Treatment is usually centred around identifying, challenging and changing negative and unhelpful thoughts. This is achieved by asking clients to keep a 'dysfunctional thought record' for which they must gather evidence or come up with alternative explanations for these thoughts to see how this effects their view of them. If, for example, you thought 'no-one really likes themselves' you could test this belief by asking close friends and family members how they feel about themselves. You will probably find that most people do like themselves and by questioning the accuracy of this belief it may lead to a change in how you think, and in turn, how you feel and behave.

Does my past affect how I think today?

Early experiences can play a part in establishing our core beliefs, attitudes and assumptions which, if negative, can lead to destructive behaviour. However, having an insight into these can help us change our behaviour and the way we feel. For example, if you were criticised as a child and were rarely showed love, you might grow up with the core belief that you are unlovable and have negative thoughts such as 'If I am unlovable then everyone will leave me'. This may lead you to push people away and if they eventually get tired of this and leave it then strengthens the thought of 'I am unlovable'.

Do my thoughts reflect reality?

Just because we have a thought doesn't necessarily mean it is real and there are lots of times in everyday life when we make thinking errors. People often think they can read someone else's mind, but no-one can know for certain what another person is thinking. Just because someone keeps looking at the door during a conversation with you at a party doesn't mean to say they are bored with you. There could be a whole host of reasons why they are doing this – perhaps they are nervous or waiting for their date to arrive. Another common thinking error people make is catastrophising. This involves taking a small occurrence and turning it into a big disaster. For example, people often exaggerate their own imperfections, 'I made a mistake, I can never show myself here again'. CBT helps people question these assumptions, put things into perspective, consider the alternatives and weigh up the evidence in a logical way.

Is another therapy more appropriate for me?

CBT is the most widely used therapy and, as we have previously mentioned, has been shown to be helpful for many issues. However, there are other types of therapy you and your therapist could consider.

  • Interpersonal therapy – focuses on the effects of interpersonal relationships on mood
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy – similar to CBT but is influenced by Buddhism and mindfulness-based practices
  • Transactional analysis – helpful for couples therapy
  • Psychoanalytic therapy – another 'talking therapy' but differs in emphasising the benefits of a listener rather than setting goals
  • Group therapy – helpful for problems which require supportive relationships particularly if others are experiencing the same problems

To find out more about cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) at our Edinburgh centre or to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners, please contact us.