What does cognitive behavioural therapy involve?
Cognitive behavoural therapy posits that how you think affects how you feel, and that your emotions influence your behaviour. Therefore if you think realistic, helpful thoughts you will feel and function better.
The example below — for someone who fears having a panic attack on a train — highlights the interaction between thoughts, physical symptoms and behaviour.
“Im going to have a panic attack”. I always panic on trains”.
“I’ll sweat and shake, everyone will see I’m anxious and think I’m weird”
You start to sweat and shake
“I feel so sick, I must look terribly anxious, I’ll pass out if this keeps up”
You sweat even more profusely and feel even more dizzy
“I can’t stay on the train. I’ve got to get off at the next stop”
You get off the train and as you exit the carriage your symptoms decrease
“I’m weird and stupid. Other people have no trouble travelling on trains”
A cognitive behavioural psychologist will ask what situations are anxiety provoking for you. The anxiety therapist will also elicit what you think and do in these situations.
The psychologist will help you to:
- identify your unhelpful thoughts and beliefs
- evaluate the evidence for and against your thoughts and beliefs
- create more realistic statements you can say to yourself when anticipating or confronting feared situations as these will decrease the degree of anxiety you experience
- devise a plan for gradually exposing yourself to your situations.
The CBT psychologist will also help you to identify your problematic behaviours and give you strategies to help you cope with your physical symptoms. Your CBT psychologist may recommend books and handouts be read and completed as part of treatment.
Cognitive behavioural therapy encompasses:
- Cognitive therapy
- Exposure therapy (both imaginal and ‘real life’ situations)
- Relaxation training
- Slow breathing