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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
What is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based psychological treatment that aims to change one's thoughts and behaviours.

Suitable for

It is endorsed by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and American Psychological Association (APA) to be effective in treating various psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as helpful for people with bulimia and psychosis.

Treatment objective

CBT aims to help you manage your problems by changing how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour), as well as incorporate problem solving approaches.

How it works

CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts affect our feelings, behaviours and physiological responses. For instance, while waiting for a friend who was late and unable to be reached by phone, a person who started to think “What if he has an accident?” would feel anxious (emotion), have heart palpitations and sweating (physiological responses) and make repeated phone calls (behaviour). However, thinking that your friend could be trapped in traffic and couldn’t hear the cell phone ringing was unlikely to result in these kinds of reactions.

In other words, the same situation can lead to two very different reactions, depending on how you think about it. People are not affected by things, but by the views they take on them.

Figure 1: Relationship between thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiological responses

Figure 1: Relationship between thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiological responses

The above figure illustrates how thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physiological responses are inter-related with each other, and change of any parts can break the vicious cycle of negative interactions. 


What is likely to happen in CBT?
  1. Initial assessment

    In the first session, the therapist will undertake an assessment and help you to develop a shared understanding of your presenting problems. This involves identifying and understanding your problems in terms of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and how these affect your daily living.

  2. Focus on handling "present" problems

    CBT is a time-limited and relatively short-term psychotherapy which focuses on the present. While it recognises how events in your past have shaped the way you currently think and behave, it does not dwell on your past and childhood experiences.

  3. Work together with therapist

    The therapist will work together with you to set goals and treatment plan to manage your problems. CBT is a collaborative process, in which it emphasises not only the therapist’s contribution but also your active participation. The therapist takes an educational role who teaches new skills, and you will be given homework to practice what you have learnt in the sessions, such as keeping a diary to monitor your thoughts or trying out new ways of coping between sessions.


Who offers CBT?

CBT is usually provided by clinical psychologists who have related training and experiences in providing this type of intervention, though psychiatrists or other mental health professionals may also be able to offer CBT.




Reference source(s): Website of the Institute of Mental Health Castle Peak Hospital