Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is designed to help you understand, manage and change your thoughts (cognitions) and actions (behaviour). This form of therapy has been shown to be very effective for a whole range of issues including depression or anxiety. When we are depressed or anxious, we tend to see the world differently, almost as if we are looking through different coloured glasses. Consequently, we have different thoughts, feelings and behaviour in response to our depressed mood. For example, imagine a dog sitting in front of you and me. You may have had good experiences with dogs in the past, and think to yourself "Dogs are great, they are playful and fun" (thought). You may then feel happy (emotion), and play with the dog (behaviour). I, on the other hand, may have had bad experiences with dogs, and think "Dogs are frightening and unpredictable" (thought), and feel fear (emotion), and run away from the dog (behaviour). So we are both having completely different thoughts, feelings and behaviour based on the exact same situation.

Understanding the impact of our earlier experiences is often important in understanding our thoughts, emotions and behaviour. This is because our 'core beliefs' (for example, our core beliefs about dogs) can impact our later experiences as an adult. Core beliefs are important, and we are not always fully aware of them and where they came from. Psychologists who use CBT are trained to assist you in identifying these core beliefs, and giving you strategies for challenging these thoughts and beliefs when they are triggered.

There are particular forms of CBT used to treat different psychological conditions. For example, exposure therapy is often used by Psychologists to assist people with a range of anxiety difficulties, including phobias and trauma. Relaxation techniques are taught as part of this therapy, with gradual exposure to the anxiety trigger with the Psychologist in a safe environment. Because avoidance and anxiety go together like best mates, the more you expose yourself to your anxiety, the more you feel able to 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. Anxiety can be a debilitating experience because people can end up isolating themselves because of avoidance, and feel depressed because they are not living life to the full. This is why anxiety and depression conditions often occur together because one can lead to another.

For more information on CBT, there are some good websites including Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au and The Black Dog Institute www.blackdoginstitute.org.au.