Historically psychotherapy started with Freud and psychoanalysis, the “talking cure” which relies heavily on insight and the therapist’s interpretation. The second wave of behavioural therapy emphasised behaviour. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) focuses on both thoughts (cognition) and behaviours, and how they contribute to problematic symptoms.

Unhelpful thinking patterns that contribute to psychological pain include negative automatic thoughts, unhelpful core beliefs, and negative self talk. CBT aims at changing these unhelpful thinking patterns (e.g. “Why bother, it never works out for me”) and strengthening positive thinking patterns. One of the keys in CBT is gathering accurate information (evidence) and counteracting distortions of reality in order to make adaptive decisions.

The second key to CBT is behavioural experiments, where you will be encouraged to take on new behaviour. This allows you to revise old assumptions and rules which have held you back in life (e.g. “I should always put other people’s needs firsts”).

CBT has been widely researched in countless clinical trials. There are various evidence based CBT applications in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression and trauma. Most university-trained psychologists practice CBT. However, trauma-focused CBT is a specialist protocol which involves prolonged exposure to trauma memories and stimulus. Not all psychologists are trained in this specialist protocol and it is very different to EMDR, which focuses on rewiring trauma memories.