What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT is a talking and doing therapy. There are three main elements to CBT.
The Therapeutic Relationship
You will find that when you come to a CBT therapist you experience a warm and compassionate relationship which gives you the confidence to look at what is difficult in your life and work out what you need to do to change things. Your therapist will help you to feel safe and comfortable enough to explore those parts of yourself that you do not like to dwell on. It is a bit like taking a torch into an old garden shed. You are not sure what you will find when you look in the corners but if you have somebody there with you it is OK to shine the light and check it out. You might find some stuff you don't need any more, some useful things but rarely are there actual monsters. Together you can sort out what you want to hold on to and what you want to get rid of.
The cognitive bit of CBT is all about looking at the ways we think about our problems and our lives. We all have different thinking patterns especially when we are stressed. For example sometimes we see the world in black and white or we make mountains out of molehills. We also often have thoughts spinning around in our heads which make us feel anxious or upset such as "everyone will stare at me" or "I will look stupid" or "I won't think of anything to say" if I am anxious about walking into a room full of people. We call these negative automatic thoughts. In therapy we can examine where those thoughts came from and whether they are true to not.
We can then move on to the behavioural work and learn relaxation techniques which help you to deal with the anxiety in the moment and then create experiments to see if those thoughts are really true. If they are we can work on ways to change what is going on and if they are not true we can see what is actually happening in the real world. For example if your thought when you walk into a room full of people is that everyone will stare at me, let's check it out. We will create an experiment and maybe count the number of people who are actually looking at you when you walk in to a room.
However, if that sounds daunting, you are the one in charge, so you are the one who decides if and when you are ready to do these experiments. Sometimes your therapist will do them and you can see how other people react. It can even be quite fun.
The aim of therapy is that you become your own therapist. So you will aquire the skills, flexibility, and compassion to cope with setbacks in life whenever and however they crop up.