CBT expert 

Professor David Clark explains how cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works and who could benefit from it.

Find out more about CBT

Transcript of CBT expert

My name is David Clark.

I'm the Professor of Psychology at King's College London.

If I was a patient

and I was suffering from a common mental health problem

such as depression or one of the anxiety disorders,

my GP might suggest that I could benefit from a course of psychological therapy,

particularly cognitive behaviour therapy.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is a short-term psychological therapy.

It usually involves seeing a therapist once a week

for between five and twenty sessions.

Also you're set a number of assignments to do between the therapy sessions,

which we often call homework.

The treatment is called cognitive behaviour therapy

because it focuses on your thinking patterns, or cognitions,

and also on your behaviour.

Scientific research has shown

that cognitive behaviour therapy is effective

for a wide range of mental health problems,

depression, all the different anxiety disorders

such as social anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress, health anxiety.

It also helps eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa,

and also people who find themselves having physical problems

which have some sort of psychological basis as well.

Well, CBT starts off by breaking down your problem into smaller components,

often trying to identify particular problematic thoughts and behaviours,

and then once it's been broken down in that way,

it often suggests a fairly straightforward way

in which you and your therapist can intervene to promote recovery

and also, hopefully, to learn some new techniques

which would mean you're less likely to experience that problem in the future.

There are two main techniques that are used in CBT.

The first is discussions with your therapist

of the evidence for and against negative beliefs.

And then the second is what we call behavioural experiments.

They're ways in which you test your beliefs

by changing your behaviour and seeing what happens.

CBT has a lot of characteristics which are similar to other talking therapies.

You see someone who is very interested in your problem,

who's warm and empathic

and takes a great interest in your difficulties

and breaks them down into components.

The additional point about cognitive behaviour therapy

is it's highly structured,

it tends to focus on the here and now

and practical ways of solving your problems

rather than spending a lot of time delving into the past,

although at times some of that can be helpful.

Cognitive behaviour therapy isn't a panacea,

it doesn't work for absolutely everyone,

and in those people that it is helpful

there's a range of responses you can get.

There's a significant group of people who have a complete recovery.

The problem they came in with for therapy has completely gone away.

There are other people who achieve very worthwhile benefit

that allows them to get back to work

and to do many things that the condition prevented them from doing,

but they still have some residual symptoms.

What we know from the research

is that it tends to reduce your risk of further problems

if things go wrong in your life.

So, for example, depression is a recurring problem

and people who have one episode

have quite an increased chance of having further episodes later in their life.

But cognitive therapy seems to reduce the chance of that happening

without completely abolishing it.

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