What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) psychology?

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a relatively short-term treatment, goal-oriented approach that aims to reduce the symptoms of mental illness, increase self-awareness and improve emotional wellbeing. The key premise of CBT is that the way that we think about and interpret situations directly affects how we feel physically and emotionally and also what we do (and vice versa) and that sometimes the way we think about situations is biased or unbalanced.

For example, if you were speaking with a friend at a function and you noticed them look over your shoulder mid-way through the conversation, what sort of thoughts would run through your mind? Possible responses might include:

Thought: They think I’m boring Emotion: Hurt and embarrassed Physical sensation: Racing heart and sick in the stomach. Behaviour: You end the conversation prematurely by saying you need to go to the bathroom.

Thought: How rude of them! Emotion: Anger Physical sensation: Restless and hot Behaviour:  You abruptly finish the conversation without explanation and walk away.

Thought: They seem distracted. I hope they are okay Emotion: Concern Physical sensation: Nothing of note Behaviour: You observing your friend more closely to try to figure out if everything is okay with them.

Thought: I wonder if they’ve just seen someone that they know arrive? Emotion: Neutral  Physical sensation: Nothing of note Behaviour: You continue on with the conversation as usual.

Woman sitting in therapy receiving CBT psychology treatment

We each interpret situations like the one above in a unique way based on our past experiences, our assumptions, our mood that day and many other factors.

The aim of CBT is to help people to identify and change unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, patterns and coping styles. Sessions are designed to equip you with skills and techniques that you can use to help yourself both now and in the future.

The cognitive component of CBT refers to thought and beliefs. This component of CBT is based on the theory that unhelpful or distressing feelings and behaviours are triggered by faulty, distorted, biased or unhelpful thinking patterns. Often (but not always) these beliefs relate to key experiences that you had as a child or teenager. Effective techniques for shifting unhelpful thinking patterns include thought monitoring, thought challenging and exploration of the meaning and validity of core beliefs.

The behavioural component of CBT is based on the idea that behaviour is learned and can therefore be changed. Behavioural change techniques include relaxation, exposure therapy, behavioural experiments and activity scheduling.

Is there evidence to show that CBT techniques work?

There is a significant body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of CBT for a wide variety of mental health issues including:

  • Depression
  • Generalised anxiety
  • Social anxiety
  • Obsessions and compulsions
  • Eating disorders and body image issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Stress and burnout

Each of our Melbourne based psychologists are CBT professionals with extensive training and experience using CBT for a variety of mental health and wellbeing issues.

We use CBT for a variety of mental health and wellbeing issues.

Each of our Melbourne-based CBT psychologists have extensive training and experience.