Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (or cognitive behaviour therapy, CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to influence dysfunctional emotions, behaviours and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. CBT can be seen as an umbrella term for a number of psychological techniques that share a theoretical basis in behaviouristic learning theory and cognitive psychology.

CBT treatments have received empirical support for efficient treatment of a variety of clinical and non-clinical problems, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders. It is often brief and time-limited. It is used in individual therapy as well as group settings, and the techniques are also commonly adapted for self-help applications. Some CBT therapies are more oriented towards predominately cognitive interventions while some are more behaviourally oriented. In recent years cognitive behavioural approaches have become prevalent in correctional settings. These programs are designed to teach criminal offenders cognitive skills that will reduce criminal behaviours. It has become commonplace, if not pervasive, to find cognitive behavioural program strategies in use in prisons and jails in many countries. In cognitive oriented therapies, the objective is typically to identify and monitor thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviours that are related and accompanied to debilitating negative emotions and to identify those which are dysfunctional, inaccurate, or simply unhelpful. This is done in an effort to replace or transcend them with more realistic and useful ones.

CBT was primarily developed through a merging of behaviour therapy with cognitive therapy. While rooted in rather different theories, these two traditions found common ground in focusing on the “here and now” and symptom removal. Many CBT treatment programs for specific disorders have been developed and evaluated for efficacy and effectiveness; the health-care trend of evidence-based treatment, where specific treatments for specific symptom-based diagnoses are recommended, has favoured CBT over other approaches such as psychodynamic treatments. In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends CBT as the treatment of choice for a number of mental health difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, bulimia nervosa and clinical depression.