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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

What Is It?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to help you to change the way that you think, feel and behave. It is used as a treatment for various mental health and physical problems.

i. Cognitive therapy

Our cognitive processes are our thoughts, which include our ideas, mental images, beliefs and attitudes. Cognitive therapy is based on the principle that certain ways of thinking can trigger, or fuel, certain health problems. For example, anxiety, depression, phobias, and physical problems. Therapy helps you to understand your current thought patterns., in particular, to identify any harmful, unhelpful, and false ideas or thoughts which you have that can trigger your health problem, or make it worse. The aim is then to change your ways of thinking to avoid these ideas, and to help your thought patterns to be more realistic and helpful.

ii. Behavioural therapy

Behavioural Therapy aims to change any behaviours that are harmful or not helpful. Various techniques are used. For example, a common unhelpful behaviour is to avoid situations that can make you anxious. In some people with phobias, the avoidance can become extreme and affect day-to-day life. In this situation, a type of behavioural therapy called exposure therapy may be used. This is where you are gradually exposed more and more to feared situations. Therapy teaches you how to control anxiety and to cope when you face up to the feared situations. For example, by using deep breathing and other techniques.

iii. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a mixture of cognitive and behavioural therapies. They are often combined because how we behave often reflects how we think about certain things or situations. The emphasis on cognitive or behavioural aspects of therapy can vary, depending on the condition being treated. For example, there is often more emphasis on behavioural therapy when treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - where repetitive compulsive actions are a main problem. In contrast, the emphasis may be on cognitive therapy when treating depression.


Research has shown that CBT can be as effective as medicine in treating many types of depression and other mental health disorders.

CBT is very instructive. When you understand how to counsel yourself rationally, you will have confidence that you will continue to do well. For this reason, cognitive-behavioral therapists teach their clients rational self-counseling skills.

CBT is uses fewer sessions. The average number of sessions that people spend in cognitive-behavioral therapy, across the various approaches to CBT and problems, is 16. Some people require more sessions.

CBT emphasises getting better, rather than feeling better. By correcting problematic underlying assumptions, CBT creates long-term results, since the cause of the problem is corrected.

CBT is cross-cultural. It is based on universal laws of human behavior. It also focuses on the client's goals, rather than attempting to impose the therapist's goals on the client.

CBT is structured. The structured nature of therapy sessions very much reduces the possibility that sessions will become "chat sessions" in which not much is accomplished therapeutically.

CBT can be researched. Because there are clearly defined goals and clearly defined techniques, CBT can be examined with scientific research. 

CBT is adaptive. The fundamental principle of CBT is that thoughts (cognitions) cause our feelings and behaviours.

The highly structured nature of CBT means it can be provided in different formats, including in groups, self-help books and computer programs.

Skills you learn in CBT are useful, practical and helpful strategies that can be incorporated into everyday life to help you cope better with future stresses and difficulties.


  • Certain anxiety disorders, including phobias, panic attacks and panic disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • OCD
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Anger
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sexual and relationship problems
  • Habits such as facial tics
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Some sleep problems
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)
  • Chronic (persistent) pain

As a rule, the more specific the problem, the more likely CBT may help. This is because it is a practical therapy which focuses on particular problems and aims to overcome them. CBT is sometimes used alone, and sometimes used in addition to medication, depending on the type and severity of the condition being treated.

What To Expect?

CBT can be offered in individual sessions with a therapist or as part of a group. CBT is mainly concerned with how you think and act now, instead of looking at and getting help with difficulties in your past.

You and I, as your therapist, will discuss your specific difficulties and set targets for you to achieve your goals. CBT is not a quick fix. It involves hard work during and between sessions. I will not tell you what to do. Instead, I will help you decide what difficulties you want to work on in order to help you improve your situation. I will be able to advise you on how to continue using CBT techniques in your daily life after your treatment ends.

The first session of therapy will usually include time for you and I to develop a shared understanding of your problems. This is usually to identify how your thoughts, ideas, feelings, attitudes, and behaviours affect your day-to-day life.

You should then agree to a treatment plan and targets to achieve your goal, and the number of sessions likely to be needed. Each session lasts about 50-60 minutes. Typically, a session of therapy is done once a week or fortnightly. Most courses of CBT last for several weeks. It is common to have 10-15 sessions, but a course of CBT can be longer or shorter, depending on the nature and severity of the condition. In some situations CBT sessions can be done by telephone.

You have to take an active part, and are given homework between sessions. For example, if you have social phobia, early in the course of therapy you may be asked to keep a diary of your thoughts which occur when you become anxious before a social event. Later on you may be given homework of trying out ways of coping, which you have learned during therapy.

For any further queries please send a message below, email or call Candice on 075 0787 7426.

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