What is CBT?

CBT | therapy worth talking about

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What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy. It helps you understand that your thoughts, feelings, actions, and body sensations are all connected. By changing one, you can change the others.

When we feel sad or worried, we sometimes think and act in ways that make us feel worse. CBT helps us notice and change these unhelpful thoughts and actions so we can feel better.

CBT is a team effort. You and your therapist work together to set goals and find solutions.

In our animation, Jo Brand takes a minute to explain CBT.

What can CBT help with?

CBT can help many people with different problems. It's recommended by health experts in the UK, EU, and North America

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) provides independent, evidence-based guidance for the NHS on the most effective, proven treatments. CBT is recommended in NICE guidelines for many different problems, and can help for:

  • Anxiety disorders (including panic attacks)
  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychosis and Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)

CBT is also useful for managing symptoms of:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Chronic pain

Children, adults, and older adults can all benefit from CBT. It can be done alone or with medication prescribed by a doctor.

Our personal stories and podcast Let’s Talk About CBT both include real-life accounts of therapy for different problems. 

How CBT is delivered 

CBT can be done one-on-one with a therapist or in a group. The number of sessions depends on the problem but usually ranges from five to twenty sessions, each lasting about an hour.

CBT focuses on your current thoughts and actions, but sometimes it also explores past events that affect you now. Together with your therapist, you set goals and decide what to work on in each session.

Between sessions, you might have tasks to practice what you've learned. As therapy ends, you'll plan how to keep using CBT techniques in daily life.

CBT can be done in many places like schools, doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, or online. Online CBT can include phone, video, or face-to-face check-ins to track progress and solve any problems.

Self-help CBT

There are many self-help books and websites about CBT. They work best with support from a therapist, especially if you're feeling low.

Finding a therapist

CBT is available through the NHS. You can talk to your GP, self-refer in some areas, or find a private therapist. It's important to check if your therapist is accredited with the BABCP to ensure they meet high standards of training and experience.

For more details and to find an accredited CBT therapist, visit www.cbtregisteruk.com.


You can download a pdf version of the information on this page by clicking your chosen language.

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