Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that has been shown to be very effective in helping people recover from both depression and anxiety.

Most of us believe that events, situations and the behaviour of others directly cause us to feel emotions like anxiety, sadness or anger. If this were true then everybody in a particular situation would react the same way, but this isn’t what happens.

Why do people react to the same situation in different ways?

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An interesting example of this was when the pilot, Chelsey Sullenberger, had to perform an emergency landing on the Hudson River. 155 people were on that flight that day. Fortunately due to his quick thinking and expertise nobody was seriously injured.

When people were interviewed afterwards the reactions to the same event were very different.

  • It’s not safe to fly, I am never going to fly again
  • I am so grateful for the quick thinking and expertise of our captain and crew
  • That was a close call, I am going to make sure I make the most of my life from now on
  • It was scary but it was a cool adventure
  • I’m so happy I survived
  • I’m just relieved that it’s over and everyone is ok
  • Even though it was scary, the crew made me feel like everything was going to be fine

This is a good example of how people can have the same experience but feel very differently about it. Our emotional response is influenced by what a situation means to us and the significance we place on it. The diagram below outlines the process

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Simply put the way we feel is affected by the way we think. Our thoughts or feelings often affect what we do when something happens and this can then become part the problem.

Negative thoughts

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Someone experiencing really negative thoughts about themselves such as ‘I’m a failure, No one likes me' may feel upset, sad or ashamed.

As a result of these thoughts and feelings, they may stop going out as much and spend more time on their own. This in turn will cause them to feel even worse about themselves, which leads to more negative thoughts such as ‘I’ll always feel like this’ and so they get caught in a cycle where things feel worse and worse.

More on thoughts

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The way we have learned to think and interpret things is often related to our childhood, family history, previous experiences, beliefs and much more. This is just our brain's way of trying to make sense of a complex world.

Most of our thoughts are automatic and occur below the level of consciousness. Through no fault of our own we can develop harsh or negative ways of thinking about ourselves, our future, other people or the world in general. These thoughts are often negative, specific to a situation and emotionally distressing. Over time they can become habitual and cause a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression..

Due to the automatic nature of these thoughts they tend to go unnoticed so we can't judge whether they are true. We just take them as fact which can then worsen our mood even further..

How does CBT work?


Dr Aaron T Beck was the founder of CBT and set out to create a therapy that was simple, practical and effective. He wanted to make people 'The hero of their own lives’  by identifying and breaking these vicious cycles.

Extensive worldwide research found that CBT helped many people learn ways of feeling more confident and happier in themselves. They became able to deal with problems more effectively and enjoyed a better quality of life in general.

CBT aims to fight anxiety and depression on a number of different fronts

  1. It helps you to learn tools for understanding how your thoughts, mood and behaviour are connected.
  2. It teaches you how to identify vicious patterns that may keep your difficulties going.
  3. You then learn how to evaluate repetitive, overly harsh and negative ways of thinking.
  4. It explores the unhelpful behaviours that maintain your depression and anxiety and it allows you to identify more helpful ways of responding to problematic situations.
  5. CBT can help you to learn strategies that can manage the uncomfortable physical sensations caused by anxiety and depression.

Learning a new skill

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Learning any new skill such as riding a bike, trying a new recipe or playing a musical instrument can be feel difficult and awkward at first. It can feel frustrating to make mistakes and it is normal to experience thoughts like 'I can’t do it' or ‘I should just give up’. It is the same when learning new ways to manage thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Remember that just with any skill you learned in the past it takes time and repetition before it becomes second nature. Be kind to yourself during practice.

How can I help?

I have a range of practical and effective tools that let you make sense of the confusion you may be feeling. This will help us explore strategies to alleviate your distress.

These simple and easy-to-learn strategies will be tailored to your specific problems and needs.

Practiced everyday they will lead to lasting and meaningful change.

solving the puzzle

Leaving you free to enjoy life more fully.

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