Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for a range of issues including depression and anxiety problems. It focuses on how you think about yourself, others and the world around you. How we feel is affected by our thinking (cognitive) and in turn can affect how we act (behavioural). CBT helps you create a deeper understanding of how these things are connected, using a range of skills and techniques which are practiced between the sessions. 

What to expect from CBT

CBT has been shown to help with many different problems and aims to make sense of them by breaking them down into smaller and more manageable parts. From this, you can begin to see any connections and how they might be affecting you.
These parts can be interlinked and include:

  • Situation (the problem or a particular event)
  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Physical feelings
  • Actions

CBT involves helping you to understand how your thoughts and behaviours can have an impact on how you feel which may be contributing to your current difficulties. The aim of CBT is to develop ways of improving or making changes to your thinking or behaviour in order to improve your present state of mind. How you think about a problem can affect how you feel both physically and emotionally. There are helpful and unhelpful ways of thinking about and reacting to a situation (see the example below).


Imagine you are walking down the street and you see an old friend. You go to say hello, but they walk straight past you. How might you think?

You might think: ‘they don’t like me’ or
‘what did I do wrong?’ This may lead to low mood or anxious thoughts. This may then impact how you spend the rest of your day.

Alternatively, you might think: ‘they must have been in a world of their own’ or ‘they were probably busy and didn’t see me’. This would have very little impact on your mood and you will likely go about your day with little or no impact. You might even choose to give them a call later to see if they were okay.

  • The focus of CBT is on ‘here’ and ‘now’ symptoms rather than focusing on the causes of problems that may stem from the past. However, past events may be useful in helping to understand your ‘here’ and ‘now’ thinking.

What will I be doing during sessions?

Sessions are usually weekly and last for around 50-60 minutes. In the first few sessions your therapist will explain what CBT is and check whether it is the right treatment for you and that you feel comfortable with it. In the first session, you and your therapist will identify what your current difficulties are and what might be the best area to focus on and setting some goals.

CBT involves doing work between sessions. You will not be asked to do things you don’t want to do. Together you will decide on the pace of treatment and the tasks to complete. This might be:

  • Keeping a thought or activity diary
  • Focusing on making changes to a particular behaviour
  • Practicing a skill or technique that you worked on during the session

This will then form part of your work together during upcoming sessions. One of the benefits of CBT is that you can continue to develop and use the skills you learn during treatment after the sessions have finished. This will help prevent symptoms from returning in future.

Take a look at other types of therapy we provide