Things to consider  

Research has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be as effective as medication in treating some mental health problems.

The treatment can help you manage problems such as anxiety and depression, and make them less likely to have a negative impact on your life.

There is always a risk that bad feelings you associate with your problem will return, but with your CBT skills it should be easier for you to control them. This is why it is important to continue practising your CBT skills even after you are feeling better and your sessions have finished. "Refresher" CBT courses are also available if you feel you need to go through skills you have learnt again.

Nevertheless, CBT may not be successful or suitable for everyone. Some advantages and disadvantages of the approach are listed below.

Advantages of CBT

  • Can be as effective as medication in treating some mental health disorders and may be helpful in cases where medication alone has not worked.
  • Can be completed in a relatively short period of time compared to other talking therapies.
  • The highly structured nature of CBT means it can be provided in different formats, including in groups, self-help books and computer programmes.
  • Skills you learn in CBT are useful, practical and helpful strategies that can be incorporated into everyday life to help you cope better with future stresses and difficulties, even after the treatment has finished.

Disadvantages of CBT

  • To benefit from CBT, you need to commit yourself to the process. A therapist can help and advise you, but cannot make your problems go away without your co-operation.
  • Attending regular CBT sessions and carrying out any extra work between sessions can take up a lot of your time.
  • Due to the structured nature of CBT, it may not be suitable for people with more complex mental health needs or learning difficulties.
  • As CBT can involve confronting your emotions and anxieties, you may experience initial periods where you are more anxious or emotionally uncomfortable.
  • Some critics argue that because CBT only addresses current problems and focuses on specific issues, it does not address the possible underlying causes of mental health conditions, such as an unhappy childhood.
  • CBT focuses on the individual’s capacity to change themselves (their thoughts, feelings and behaviours), and does not address wider problems in systems or families that often have a significant impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Page last reviewed: 04/07/2014

Next review due: 04/07/2016