4 Myths about CBT

MYTH 1:  The ultimate goal of CBT is to shift negative thoughts to positive ones.

CBT does focus on challenging negative thinking patterns and for this reason many people believe  clients are simply invited to think positively about their problems. CBT actually encourages people to take a realistic look at their lives and explore more flexible, helpful ways of thinking. If a client has negative thoughts about a situation, they may well be right. Their job may  be very difficult or they may have a challenging health condition. CBT helps people identify, accept and embrace both pleasant and unpleasant thoughts and feelings and try to find alternative, more helpful ways of coping with life’s demands.

MYTH 2: CBT isn’t interested in deeper causes. It’s all “surface stuff.”

A common misconception about CBT is that it isn’t interested in deeper rooted problems. However, while many clients will improve by working solely with how they think about current events, CBT therapists will often work directly with client’s long term negative beliefs (rather than just their present negative automatic thoughts) and part of this inevitably involves childhood historical events in order to understand where these beliefs have come form. 

MYTH 3: CBT is a rigid, mechanical approach designed to simply retrain the brain.

While CBT has many tools in it’s tool box, people’s individuality is not ignored. In addition to the mainstream version of CBT originally developed by Ellis &Beck in the 1950′ and 60’s, CBT now includes a range of approaches developed to treat different types of psychological, emotional and behavioural problems. Some of these include:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
  • Compassion Focused Therapy
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
  • Schema Therapy

MYTH 4: CBT is ‘quick in, quick out’.

While some problems may be treated in as few as 6 sessions, CBT is not particularly ‘quick in quick out’. The outcome research for CBT typically assumes 12 to 15 sessions on a weekly of fortnightly basis. This can represent the better part of a years work and is typically longer than many forms of counselling.  Therefore, CBT is more accurately described as a medium term psychotherapeutic modality.

In summary CBT teaches clients how to convert personal insight into tangible improvements in dealing with distress, solving problems, improving relationships and changing behaviour. It is orientated to helping people to manage problems and live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.



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