What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a goal-oriented, problem-focused and structured approach to treating many psychological issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, relationship conflict, and psychosis. It is based on the idea that the way in which a person interprets events, situations and people influences their subsequent mood and behavior. These interpretations are based on certain beliefs, and if these beliefs are maladaptive or irrational, they will struggle with poor mood and behaviours that continue to exacerbate the issues. Our beliefs are maladaptive if they are based on certain assumptions and biases that are not true. Often people are not fully aware that they are operating on these assumptions and have never had the opportunity to challenge them.

How does CBT Work?

In CBT, we look at thoughts, feelings, physical experiences and behaviours as interconnected. If we can make some changes, starting with your thoughts and even your behaviours, you will experience improvements in your physical and emotional experiences.

In order to get there, clients are taught strategies and exercises to apply both within and outside of therapy that make them more aware of and challenge maladaptive beliefs, with the goal of developing more adaptive beliefs that improve their mood, behavior and overall well-being.

If you feel you have tried and been unsuccessful in changing some of your thoughts, you may wonder how can a therapist help. You may be concerned that you will be told that the way you think is wrong when you may not entirely agree. At Toronto Psychology Clinic, we don’t try to force you into adopting our belief system. In our approach to CBT, a belief is adaptive if it fits a clients’ personal value system which includes both personal and cultural values. In a CBT focused session, we use the collaborative, guided discovery method: your therapist walks you through a series of exercises meant to help you look at your thoughts from different perspectives so you see something you didn’t notice before. Think of it as being the person in the driver’s seat, with your therapist sitting alongside you, asking you to look in some directions you did not consider before and may want to steer towards. We facilitate and support you, but we will not steer the car for you. We believe real change happens when it comes from within the client.

CBT research has shown that 10-20 sessions can provide substantial benefit for clients. However, some people may require more.

A CBT approach includes:

  • Tracking your thoughts and feelings in response to situations during the week
  • Conducting exercises to weigh the evidence that supports or does not support a particular belief you have
  • Challenging underlying assumptions that may be maladaptive
  • Learning to define and understand an issue or event in more realistic ways
  • Understanding how past experiences influenced your thoughts and feelings
  • Trying new behaviours to see if that changes your thoughts and mood