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CBT – How does it work?

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

CBT is a branch of psychotherapy based on well-established research. The core idea of CBT is that a person’s behaviour patterns and emotional reactions are strongly influenced by the thoughts they have about that situation. In other words, how we think and interpret an event affects how we feel and act. The Royal College of Psychiatrists explains the process of CBT like this:

‘CBT can help you to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. This makes it easier to see how they are connected and how they affect you. The 5 parts are:

  • Presenting situation:a problem, event or difficult situation. From this can follow:
  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Physical feelings
  • Actions

Each of these areas can affect the others, so how you think about a problem can affect how you feel physically and emotionally. Based on this premise, there are therefore helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to situations, depending on how you think about it.

An example:

You’ve had a bad day and feel fed up, so go out for a walk. As you stroll down the road, someone you know walks by and apparently ignores you. Below is a potential thought and behaviour process resulting from this situation:


Unhelpful Helpful
Thoughts: He/she ignored me – they don’t like me He/she looks a bit wrapped up in themselves – I wonder if there’s something wrong?
Low, sad and rejected Concerned for the other person, positive
Physical: Stomach cramps, low energy None – feel comfortable
Action: Go home and avoid them Get in touch to make sure they’re OK


The same situation therefore has led to two very different results, depending on how you thought about the situation.’

How does CBT help me address unhelpful thought processes?

CBT techniques are aimed at helping you to:

  • Identify and reduce the negative beliefs and thoughts
  • Challenge and modify behaviours stemming from negative thinking
  • Identify daily triggers related to your problem
  • Develop improved coping strategies
  • Gain a balanced and nurturing perspective on situations

Keep reading our blog for more information on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other effective techniques used here at Fresh Mind Therapy. If you would like to know more about how CBT sessions work for specific symptoms, click here to look at our ‘Issues Treated’ page.