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What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, also referred to as CBT, is an evidence-based psychological treatment that is proven to be one of the most effective treatments for managing anxiety.

Quick Facts

  • CBT gives you a new way of understanding and thinking about your problem, and the tools to face issues you are struggling with right now.
  • CBT treatment is often short-term.
  • CBT can be done with a trained CBT therapist, in group settings, or on your own.

The Problem: Entering A Vicious Cycle

As human beings, we naturally give meaning to events that are happening around us. However, we often don’t realize that two people can give two very different meanings to the same event. It is the meanings we assign to the situation that affect how we feel and act, not the situation itself. These meanings are not always accurate, realistic, or helpful.

Unhelpful thoughts lead to unpleasant emotions and unhelpful behaviours (e.g., avoidance) that reinforce our negative thoughts and maintain the problem. In other words, our thoughts, feelings and behaviours can interact and influence each other to create a vicious cycle.

We all have negative thoughts every now and then, but if we consistently apply negative meanings to events, then we are likely to experience problems with anxiety and/or depression.

 

The Solution: CBT For Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help us break out of the vicious cycle and tackle our anxiety.

As the name suggests, CBT focuses on the way people think (“cognitive”) and act (“behavioural”). CBT suggests that our thoughts about a situation affect how we feel (emotionally and physically) and how we behave in that situation. By identifying these unhelpful thoughts initially through the principles of CBT, we are able to stop them in their tracks.

Evidence-based treatment can increase the chance that a problem is identified accurately and treated effectively. This can prevent the problem from being drawn out unnecessarily and decrease the chances of it coming back (i.e., relapse).

Research has shown that CBT is an effective treatment for a wide range of problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, chronic pain, disordered eating, low self-esteem, anger problems, addiction). In particular, CBT has been shown to be effective in the management of anxiety and depression, and is as (if not more) effective as treatment with medication alone. Research also shows that people experiencing anxiety and depression are less likely to relapse when treated with CBT: They tend to get better and stay better!

For more information, browse Anxiety Canada’s Cognitive Behavioural Therapy resource hub.