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Cognitive behavioral therapy

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 22.02.2023 | 2 min read

Cognitive behavioral therapy (also known as CBT) is a type of talking therapy used to help treat a range of mental health conditions. It is based on the concept of helping a patient understand their thoughts and behaviors, aiming to assist the patient to identify negative thought and behavior patterns and cycles, making adjustments to those and learning healthy coping strategies for dealing with challenges and difficulties.

There are different ways to do CBT; it can be led by a therapist and done either 1:1 or in a group. CBT can be done without a therapist leading it, through book form (which walks you step by step through exercises), or online in the form of computerized CBT. It can also be conducted over the phone or via online video call. CBT is normally done in several weekly or fortnightly sessions, which can be between half an hour and an hour long. The minimum number of sessions tends to be around 4 but can be up to about 20 sessions.

What can CBT help with?

CBT is commonly used to help with depression and anxiety, but it can also be used to help with many other mental health illnesses. It can help with a wide range of problems that have a psychological component to them, such as some sleep problems, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, anger issues, and sexual dysfunction.

When should I see my doctor?

You should speak to your doctor if you feel CBT could help you with your current symptoms. After discussing your medical history, they can refer you if they feel that CBT is right for you.

It can be challenging to determine if you are getting better as you're going through CBT. Your doctor is a good person to be able to help give you some feedback and will sometimes use objective scoring systems or benchmarks to assess your progress. Some simple things to look for may be improvements in symptoms. Day-to-day tasks may be easier or easier more often than they were before.

What will the doctor do

Your doctor will discuss with you your current symptoms and past medical and mental health history and talk you through what CBT involves. The doctor will keep an eye on how you are doing and whether the CBT is helping; this may be via set questions that can be used to monitor your progress over time.


You may be fit for work if you are going through CBT treatment, depending on the severity of the mental illness and how it is affecting your day-to-day functioning. Your doctor can help you decide this.

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