Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps clients recognize and understand automatic patterns of thoughts and feelings that can negatively influence their actions, moods, and lives. Oftentimes, our distorted thoughts can cause many of our mental and emotional difficulties. CBT therapists help clients understand how this occurs and teaches them strategies to shift their distorted thoughts, emotions and behaviours to more positive and healthy ones.

Women in cognitive behavioural therapy session

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How Can Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Help?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often used to treat a wide range of difficulties from mood disorders such as depression and anxiety to phobias, compulsions, addiction and many more.  It can be a short term therapeutic process to help the client deal with a very specific issue, but most cognitive behavioural therapy makes use of various CBT techniques in some shape or form no matter what type of therapy they may be using with clients. CBT is practical, solution-oriented and hands on.

Cognitive behavioural therapy works best when used eclectically with other types of therapy but when therapists practice CBT alone it is often a short-term process that lasts from 5 months – 10 months. Clients usually come in for weekly sessions that are about 50 mins in length.

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Types of Thought Distortions that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Address

Emotional Reasoning

When we have strong emotions about something sometimes it can feel as if they are true or prove something to be true even without any evidence. Because I feel so strongly about it, it must be true. Real evidence can even be discarded because it is not aligned with the feelings. I feel guilty about something so that guilt is valid or I feel fat so I am fat. Feeling overwhelmed about a situation means I can’t handle it.

Blaming

This is when we blame others for our feelings or we take responsibility for everything. It’s always our fault. When you hear someone say, “She made me feel …..” is an example of this. We are responsible for our emotional reactions to people and situations. No one has that power or control of us.

Jumping to Conclusions

We might make assumptions about people or situations. We might think we do how people feel or why they act in certain ways without any evidence or proof. Oftentimes we make jump to conclusions about how others feel about us. Or we might assume that a situation will have a certain outcome.

Shoulds

Many of us have a list of shoulds that we beat ourselves up about every single day. I should go for a run every morning at 5am. I should never eat sugar. I should … I should…Many of these shoulds are things we will never do nor do we want to do them. Many of things on this list aren’t even things we’ve come up with ourselves. These shoulds can cause anxiety, worry, depression and host of other emotional difficulties. This is a common in individuals suffering from anxiety and depression. We can also become quite upset when others break our list of shoulds.

Catastrophizing

Thinking the worst case scenario will happen without proof. This can sometimes look like what if statements. What if I lost my job. What if we break up.  What if I fail.

Personalization

Personalization is when we take things personally.  We believe what others do and say  are a personal reaction to ourselves.  We might also think that events that we aren’t personally responsible for are our faults.

Black and White Thinking

Seeing things in black and white or all or nothing type of thinking with no gray or middle ground ( that both situations and people very complicated).

Seeing a person as all good or all bad when the truth is people are complex (we are gray). Some parts are good some are bad. Some days we are good some days not so good. Etc. Another example is we are failures if we aren’t perfect.

Filtering

This is when we only see the negative aspects of a situations and we filter the positive. We might even amplify the negative.  This is when you get an A but are upset that it is not an A+ rather than being proud of yourself for getting the A.

Recommended Books:

Mind Over Mood Changing How you Feel by Changing the Way You Think Dennis Greenberger, Christine A. Padesky

Feeling Good The New Mood Therapy David D. Burns

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression William J Knaus,  Albert Ellis