What is CBT?

CBT is a way that a trained therapist can help people who have a wide range of psychological conditions, ranging from severe mental illness to mild feelings and thoughts that interfere with normal living.

CBT is called a “talking therapy”, because when you are a patient in a session with your CBT therapist, you spend most of the time talking together. But in CBT you are usually given specific tasks to perform between therapy sessions too. For example, a common task between sessions is to write down significant thoughts that you have every day.

The word “cognitive” means that CBT is concerned with your thoughts, and the word “behavioural” means that CBT is concerned with the things that you do. CBT is based on the way that your thoughts and behaviour influence each other.

The American psychiatrist A.T. Beck developed the basis for CBT in the 1950s to treat depression, although it was not until the 1980s that it became widely known. Since then it has been used throughout the world, and recognised as an important and powerful form of therapy.

Some of the ideas underlying CBT have been known for centuries. They can be traced back at least to ancient Greece:

People are disturbed, not by things that happen, but by
the beliefs they hold about things that happen.

Flavius Arrianus, 135 AD
from the teachings of Epictetus
at Nicopolis in Epirus, Greece