Fairhaven Counselling - Serving Fylde and Lancashire


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT is a form of talking therapy which looks at the way in which our thoughts and beliefs about events both present and past affect our behaviour and our feelings. It also looks at how the things we think we have learned through experiences (e.g. I was once bitten by a dog so dogs are dangerous) can negatively affect us e.g. feeling afraid of dogs so going on long detours to avoid them, and helps people gently unlearn those behaviours and free them of their fears and unwanted behaviours.

CBT methods can be used to treat many different mental health problems and can be very effective at enabling people to take control of their anxiety, depression, stress, negative thinking patterns, phobias, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress and many other problems.

A simple example of how our thoughts about a particular situation or event can affect us is below:

Situation A: An invitation to a friend’s wedding drops though the door

Thoughts 1: Oh that’s wonderful, I’m so happy for them. They always put on a good bash, it’ll be great. I am really looking forward to seeing them again, it’s been ages…

Feelings: Happy, excited,

Behaviour: smiling, relaxed but alert

Thoughts 2: I feel really lucky to have been invited…etc


Or it might instead go like this…


Situation B: An invitation to a friend’s wedding drops though the door

Thoughts 1: Oh no, not another wedding. Why is it always everyone else getting happily married why did they bother inviting me anyway, it’s been ages since we saw each other…?

Feelings: sad, anxious, tired, lonely

Behaviour: body tenses, posture slumps, heart-rate increases, tearful

Thoughts 2: I won't be able to cope if I go… I won't know anyone and I am going to feel rubbish if I go, just sitting there on my own… etc

This is what is known as a vicious cycle – in other words the sequence of thoughts creates feelings which affect behaviour which increases thoughts etc. and the person can get stuck in this cycle.

In situation A, the person will no doubt attend the wedding in a positive frame of mind and is likely to find themselves having fun with lots of people to socialise with. In situation B, if the person can even bring themselves to go, the negative frame of mind they have established is likely to make socialising a difficult experience – at that point, their experience of the wedding will in fact become as they predicted and will reinforce further negative thinking and behaviours in the future. 

CBT works with the person experiencing situation B to understand the origins of the negative thoughts, help them find alternative more helpful ways of thinking, and also if appropriate support the person in trying out new behaviours and recording the results so that this can provide new positive evidence to support new ways of thinking.