3 myths about cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has gained immense popularity in recent years, becoming one of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy. However, its rise in popularity has also led to the spread of misinformation, which fosters a general misunderstanding of what the therapy entails.

Image

As an example, I was dismayed when a guest speaker on a mental health podcast boldly stated, “If you are dealing with trauma, stay as far away from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as possible because that is more of a patch solution and might make you feel good in the moment, but in the long term, having someone saying ‘try and think positive’ might not solve your deep trauma.” Hearing this, I couldn’t help but feel troubled and confused by this gross misconception of CBT and its effectiveness in treating trauma.

As I reflected on this, I realised this off-hand comment mirrored many of the myths that I battle within the community as a CBT therapist. These myths can be very harmful as they may deter people from seeking a treatment that is proven to be effective. In this article, I aim to shed light on three common myths that often crop up in conversations with clients and the wider community.


Myth 1: 'It's just positive thinking'

Many believe that CBT therapists simply advocate for positive thinking as a cure-all for psychological issues. However, this oversimplification couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, CBT focuses on identifying and reviewing thought patterns that contribute to distressing emotions and behaviours. Rather than promoting blind optimism, CBT equips clients with a range of tools to evaluate their thoughts objectively and gradually transform unhelpful thinking styles over time.

Myth 2: 'CBT ignores emotions'

Emotions are often the driving force that brings someone into treatment, and in reality, CBT is deeply interested in emotions. In CBT, we understand the interconnectedness of thoughts, behaviours, and emotions; emotions stem from our thoughts and influence our behaviour. CBT recognises that emotions arise as natural and involuntary reactions to situations or environments. Therefore, CBT doesn’t aim to directly change emotions; it teaches individuals how to manage these emotions more effectively by addressing their thoughts and behaviours.

Myth 3: 'CBT is only surface level'

While CBT is symptom-focused and effective at alleviating current difficulties, it’s by no means superficial. CBT therapists acknowledge the complexity of human beings and recognise that past experiences shape our current thoughts and behaviour patterns. If necessary, CBT therapists work collaboratively with clients to explore underlying issues and address root causes of distress.


In summary, CBT is a comprehensive and integrative form of therapy that utilises various techniques to improve well-being. It is proven to be effective at treating many mental health conditions and is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for treating anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While CBT might not be the right approach for everyone, I hope that this article will support you in making a more informed decision.

If you would like to explore CBT further, I invite you to visit my Counselling Directory profile and schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Image
Manchester M21 & Knutsford WA16
Image
Written by Jessica Neale, Accredited cognitive behavioural psychotherapist
Manchester M21 & Knutsford WA16

Jessica Neale | Accredited cognitive behavioural psychotherapist.

Show comments
Image

Find a therapist dealing with Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals