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12 CBT Techniques for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Did you know that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health disorder each year? CBT is a talking therapy used to treat psychological issues such as anxiety and eating disorders. By focusing on the client’s thought processes, it helps them to connect with and control their emotions, improving their mental wellbeing. Are you pursuing a career in psychology? Do you struggle with depression and wish to find out more about CBT therapy? This list of CBT techniques will give you an insight into this popular treatment and why it is so effective.

Who is CBT for?

CBT is for absolutely anyone. Athletes use cognitive behavioural therapy exercises to enhance their performance and train their brain for success, while high-powered business professionals use CBT therapy to help them manage stress effectively. Anyone who wants to tap into their unconscious mind to better understand their emotions and behaviour can benefit from CBT. During a CBT therapy session, the client and therapist work together to identify the client’s goals and discover strategies for overcoming their obstacles. 

This list of CBT techniques includes key strategies that can be used to treat a range of mental health disorders, from mindfulness exercises to keeping a thought journal:


  1. Cognitive Reframing

Cognitive reframing allows the client to observe their situation from an alternative standpoint, from different points of views, helping them to reflect on significant events and moments in their life to see them from a new angle. By shifting the frame of view, the meaning of the situation changes, and clients can see their mental roadblocks from an outside perspective.


  1. Guided Discovery

Guided discovery is also known as an inductive approach. It is used to guide the client to reflect on how they process information and introduce an alternative way of thinking that is more productive. The aim of this systematic approach is to help the client realise how their method of thinking impacts their lives and how their thoughts are structured.


  1. Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a great way of treating anxiety. Its aim is to expose the client to the source of their anxiety, using a practical approach that helps them to overcome their fears and obstacles by facing them head-on. Rather than avoiding the problem, it forces them to confront it step-by-step, through a harmless, yet effective process.


  1. Journaling and Thought Recording

Cognitive journaling is a therapeutic and emotional outlet for clients who want to keep track of their emotions and get a clear understanding of their thought processes, helping them to analyse in written form the situation that led to their psychological issue, the source of their negative thinking, and the consequences of their thoughts through a psychological diary. This technique allows them to track their feelings and making sense of the bigger picture.


  1. Behavioural Activation

Behavioural action (an area of Clinical Behaviour Analysis) is one of the most popular CBT skills for treating depression. It focuses on the way that our behaviour affects us and how to put ourselves into scenarios that will uplift rather than negatively impact our mood, by getting clients to set long term goals that include rewarding activities. These feel-good activities could be volunteering or something as simple as going out of your way to help a friend.


  1. Relaxation & Mindfulness

Practising mindfulness exercises daily is proven to reduce stress and encourages us to live in the moment and let go of the things that we can’t change or have no control over. By practising simple breathing techniques and meditation, we can become more aware of our thoughts and detach from negative energy that can have long-lasting damaging effects on our immune system and mental wellbeing.


  1. Role-Playing

CBT role play involves acting out a real-life situation that causes psychological stress for the client. It could be about interview fear, in which case the therapist would act as the role of the interviewer, or it could address social anxiety, in which case, the client and therapist would play out different social situations to overcome their obstacles through improvisation.


  1. Successive Approximation

Sometimes referred to as ‘shaping’, successive approximation is all about dealing with difficult tasks and goals that the client finds overwhelming, and breaking them down into simple, manageable steps. It focuses on completing one task at a time, helping clients to gain back control and reduce feelings of inadequacy or anxiety. 


  1. ABC Functional Assessment

ABC functional analysis breaks down the client’s thought process and gets down to the root of their psychological issues by analysing what came before the behaviour (antecedents), the behaviour itself and the consequences of the behaviour. 

A – antecedents

B – behaviour

C – consequences


  1. Socratic Questioning

Taking inspiration from the great Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, Socratic questioning encourages clients to question their own thoughts through cognitive restructuring. The way it works is that the therapist asks probing and direct questions for the purpose of information-gathering to get to the root of the client’s psychological issues.


  1. Systematic Desensitisation

Based on classic conditioning, systematic desensitisation involves relaxation exercises, visualisation and controlled diaphragmatic breathing techniques that allow clients to reduce their fear and anxiety by slowly exposing themselves to stressful stimulus. It is often used to treat phobias such as arachnophobia, and clients can go at their own pace – there is no one right formula for everyone.


  1. Validity Testing

Validity testing is a clever technique that helps clients to realise the irrationality of their thoughts. In validity testing, the therapist will ask the client to list examples proving that their negative thoughts are true. Often, the client is creating an image of themselves in their head that doesn’t reflect reality, and validity testing exercises help them to see themselves from a fresh and practical perspective. 

As a short-term therapy, CBT is hugely effective. If you’re considering a career in CBT therapy, then an online course is the perfect stepping stone, and will equip you with the desired skills to become fully qualified in this field. If you yourself are struggling with a mental health disorder, realise you are not alone. Trust the experts, talk to a therapist, and take that first step towards a happier, healthier you. 

Good luck!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Course

April 7, 2020

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