What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?
"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
- William Shakespeare
What does CBT mean?
CBT means becoming aware of the links between feelings, behaviours, thoughts, and body sensations. Research has shown that these four components of our experience affect one another. For example, when a friend forgets plans to have coffee, we may think, "He doesn't care about me." This thought may trigger feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. These feelings may lead to an ache in the stomach. Because we want to avoid this unpleasant experience in the future, we may pull away from our friends and avoid making plans with them.
We sometimes get stuck in negative mood states because these connections continue to bounce around and trigger one another. A negative thought leads to negative emotions, which lead to further negative thoughts, which make us feel tense, which reminds us of the last time we felt tense, which brings up further negative emotions. It can be profoundly difficult to pull oneself out of this loop; in fact, sometimes the harder we try, the worse we feel. The goal of CBT is to interrupt this process by having you practice thoughts and behaviours that are more likely to trigger pleasant emotions.
How can CBT help me?
Do you ever feel imprisoned by negative feelings, like there is no way out? By practicing CBT, you will learn that the things you do and think impact your emotions. With this knowledge and awareness, you can strategically work towards behaviours and thoughts that free you to feel emotions such as joy, confidence, and self worth.
Where did CBT come from?
CBT was pioneered by Dr. Aaron T. Beck at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960's. His theories arose on the heels of the cognitive revolution in psychology, a time when researchers were interested in ways to empirically test theories about human mental processes. Since then, CBT has been refined and adapted by both researchers and clinicians. There exists an enormous amount of research showing that CBT is an effective treatment for many mental health concerns.
Where can I go to learn more about CBT?
Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think. By Dennis Greenberger & Christine Padesky. The Guilford Press: New York (2015).
The Feeling Good Handbook. By David Burns. Plume: New York (1999).
How do CBT and mindfulness work together?
When CBT and mindfulness are integrated, it is called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Naturally, we all want to avoid negative feelings. However, when we attempt to avoid feeling bad, paradoxically, we often feel worse. Mindfulness encourages us to stop trying to escape from unpleasant sensations. In this way, you can change your relationship to difficult thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness exercises allow you stop habitual reactions to situations and, instead, learn new ways of responding. You will begin to see yourself as separate from your thoughts and moods, rather than defined and controlled by them.