Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - A "lifesaver?"

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a lifesaver, or at least that's what a recent client described his experience of being in CBT to be. As an evidence-based therapy,  the results of CBT are measured and monitored with the client during therapy, but it's this type of honest, emotional feedback that really makes an impact on our work as therapists.


We describe CBT as a "takeaway" therapy because it is a series of strategies, tools and techniques that a client can learn and then use in their everyday lives, often preventing the original distress or problem from re-occurring.

"I had depression for over a year when I was referred to R by my GP. The work we did together over four months using CBT got me through a very tough time in my life. I had been feely hopeless and suicidal following the loss of my Mother and being made redundant. 

I found that the relationship with R and the structure of CBT with my anti-depressants worked really well. I can honestly say that it definitely pulled me back from a very dark place and has brought back some hope and goals for the future. It was a lifesaver for me."

CBT is a well researched talking therapy that is designed to help a person deal with emotional problems by changing the way they think, feel and behave.  It is based on the principle that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviours are all linked, and that negative thoughts and emotions can trap you in a vicious cycle during times of personal crisis or emotional distress.

CBT helps you deal with overwhelming problems by changing negative thinking into something more balanced, realistic and helpful. It uses a scientific, evidence-based approach to develop skills, tools and strategies that ultimately help you break out of the negative, destructive cycles of thinking, feelings and behaviours.

NICE, the NHS recommended independent research body recognises that CBT has been shown in multiple trials to be effective in treating a wide range of emotional and behavioural problems such as:

  • Social, health and eating disorders.
  • Depression and mood disorders.
  • Post-traumatic and stress disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How CBT works in practice

CBT is delivered weekly and generally lasts from 12-20 individual sessions, depending on the presenting problem. During sessions, you work with your therapist to understand the origins of the problem, in order to change the negative beliefs and rules we develop from difficult life experiences. 

Once the negative beliefs are understood, work begins on changing the negative thoughts and behaviours and consequences that these self-limiting beliefs have in our lives. For example, if you are constantly criticised as a child, you may well develop a belief that unless something is done perfectly, it's not acceptable, and you feel like a failure.

This in turn causes anxiety around our performance in relationships or at work,  where we over-compensate for how we feel about ourselves. Perhaps we work longer hours or try too hard to please people because we think that if we don't we will be criticised. Or, we might just avoid trying altogether to avoid failure.

In therapy, we would look at these thoughts and the negative cycles of anxious feelings and avoidant behaviours, working on more helpful thinking. These more balanced thoughts will enable you to feel less anxious and look at your behaviours and actions more realistically - helping you to feel better.

CBT is a reality check for your life

Research shows that although it's not always a "lifesaver," CBT can be just as effective as medication, and offers many advantages to clients:

  • CBT can be helpful where medication hasn't been effective.
  • It can be completed in a relatively short time in most cases.
  • CBT teaches you useful tools, strategies and methods to stay in control and manage difficult experiences even after treatment is over.

Finally, as therapists, we know that the relationship we develop with a client is crucial to CBT working effectively. Empathy, non-judgemental warmth and positive regard from the Therapist enable a relationship of trust to develop so that the techniques that CBT offers can be learned in a trusting, safe environment.

Choose your CBT therapist wisely by speaking to them first and asking about the way they work and what to expect in therapy. Remember, it might be a life-changer.

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

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Newent, Gloucestershire, GL18 1AN
Written by Rod Booth
Newent, Gloucestershire, GL18 1AN

Rod Booth is a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist specialising in Psychologies in the NHS. He also has over 20 years practice-based experience teaching, supervising and delivering CBT.

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