Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.
In CBT, problems are broken down into five main areas:
- physical feelings
CBT is based on the concept of these five areas being interconnected and affecting each other. For example, your thoughts about a certain situation can often affect how you feel both physically and emotionally, as well as how you act in response.
How CBT is different
CBT differs from many other psychotherapies because it's:
- pragmatic – it helps identify specific problems and tries to solve them
- highly structured – rather than talking freely about your life, you and your therapist discuss specific problems and set goals for you to achieve
- focused on current problems – it's mainly concerned with how you think and act now rather than attempting to resolve past issues
- collaborative – your therapist won't tell you what to do; they'll work with you to find solutions to your current difficulties
Stopping negative thought cycles
There are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to a situation, often determined by how you think about them.
For example, if your marriage has ended in divorce, you might think you've failed and that you're not capable of having another meaningful relationship.
This could lead to you feeling hopeless, lonely, depressed and tired, so you stop going out and meeting new people. You become trapped in a negative cycle, sitting at home alone and feeling bad about yourself.
But rather than accepting this way of thinking you could accept that many marriages end, learn from your mistakes and move on, and feel optimistic about the future.
This optimism could result in you becoming more socially active and you may start evening classes and develop a new circle of friends.
This is a simplified example, but it illustrates how certain thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions can trap you in a negative cycle and even create new situations that make you feel worse about yourself.
CBT aims to stop negative cycles such as these by breaking down things that make you feel bad, anxious or scared. By making your problems more manageable, CBT can help you change your negative thought patterns and improve the way you feel.
CBT can help you get to a point where you can achieve this on your own and tackle problems without the help of a therapist.