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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Mental and Behavioral Disorders COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY


CBT can help you to change how you think about yourself, world, people and situations

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

When does CBT help?

CBT can help in mental health conditions like anxiety, aggression, depression, panic disorders, phobias (excess fear of being in dark, being alone, being surrounded by people, of heights etc), stress disorders, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, pain syndromes, obsessive compulsive disorder and psychosis.

How does CBT work?

CBT works by breaking down the difficult situation (problem or event) into smaller parts, so that you can make sense of its effects like thoughts, emotions, physical symptoms and your actions. Reacting to difficult situations may be productive or counter-productive, depending on your thoughts about it.

For example:

Situation: After an argument, you feel stressed and go out for shopping. In the mall, your friend is shopping in same mall and seems to ignores you.





He ignored me and does not like me.

He seems pre-occupied; I wonder if there's something wrong?


Feel low and rejected.

Feel concern for your friend.

Physical symptoms:

Stomach cramps, headache, crying.

No physical symptoms but feel comfortable.


Avoid or block him.

Get in touch with him to make sure they're OK.


It is obvious from this example that our symptoms and actions in a situation depend on how we think and feel about the situation. This can become like a "vicious circle" and it can worsen the mental health. New situations may form as a result of your misunderstanding and worsen the bad feeling. So the five factor model of CBT includes environment, emotions, thoughts, behaviour and physical symptoms. CBT helps you to get clear understanding of the situation and mind, and help you overcome this. It also helps you to do it yourself, when needed and figure out your own ways to tackle with adverse situations. 

What does CBT involve?

The sessions can be done individually or with small groups by therapist. Nowadays, CBT apps have also become available on mobile. Fear Fighter mental health apps are for people with phobias or panic attacks. Beating the Blues is online help for people with mild to moderate depression.

 For individual therapy, weekly or biweekly sessions with therapist lasting 30-60 minutes are required. Few sessions are needed to make proper assessment and develop trust with each other. Depending on requirement, it can last for weeks or months.

In each session, therapist will help you breakdown the situation into parts and work with you to overcome the related feelings and thoughts. He will also help you to figure out if they are helpful or helpful (unrealistic) for you. The therapist will work with you to change or overcome unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. It may seem easy but it can be difficult process and may require regular sessions and lots of patience.

How effective is CBT?

It is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety or depression. CBT can be used in many conditions that cause mental health issues, producing effects equivalent to antidepressants. It is frequently used as add-on to anti-depressants for severe depression. In anxiety, tranquillisers should not be used long term due to addictive potential and CBT is a better option. CBT is not a quick fix and regular therapy maybe needed for 6 weeks to 6 months. New situations may form and cause the person to become anxious or depressed again. If they do recur, you can use CBT by yourself to make it easier.

How can I get CBT?

Ask a doctor if they can refer you to a trained CBT therapist, for example, a psychologist, nurse, social worker or psychiatrist. You can also try 'self-help' using an online programme, book, mobile app or computerised CBT alongwith individual CBT.