Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

How it works

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a relatively new therapy that brings together the cognitive and behavioural approaches of psychology. It teaches a patient to understand their problems and how they affect their thoughts and behaviour, in the hope that this will help to resolve them.

What it could help

Anxiety, insomnia, depression, lack of control, lack of confidence, eating disorders.

Evidence base

Large amount of evidence exists for the effects of CBT. A review of studies into CBT and anxiety disorders showed that it is more effective than other therapies such as relaxation techniques and counselling, whilst another found CBT to be as effective as drug therapy for depression, and more effective when it came to prevention of relapse.

Symptoms such as fatigue, depression and anxiety all appear more reduced when compared with other psychological therapies. However a lot of the research covers small groups and cannot be directly compared, making it difficult to draw significant conclusions for the effects of CBT.

What to expect

The number of sessions with a qualified therapist varies depending on your needs, and the first session would include a medical history to assess your health and suitability for CBT.  Weekly sessions typically last 50 minutes for one-to-one counselling and most patients will require up to 20 sessions over a period of six weeks to six months. The therapist will discuss your problems with you and break them down into more manageable chunks which you can learn to think about and react to differently.


CBT is a relatively slow process as you learn to adapt the way you think about problems and plan solutions. This may mean you have to confront painful feelings and experiences, or feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. Your therapist will be trained to help you deal with this.

Find out more

Find a therapist

Your GP can refer you to someone trained in CBT, such as a psychologist, nurse, social worker or psychiatrist. The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies can also help you find a CBT therapist privately. There are also a number of online resources if you would like to try CBT and to complement CBT sessions with a trained professional.


NHS CBT therapy is free, as are a lot of online resources on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website and links on the BACP website (see above). The cost of private therapy sessions varies depending on your therapist and how much you need, but is usually £40 to £100 per session.

How does cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) work? – VIDEO

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