What is CBT?

CBT is a psychological treatment that is often recommended for a broad range of clinical problems, particularly depression and anxiety disorders1, which are very common in our community2.  CBT is typically recommended for the treatment of depression and anxiety because of its strong evidence base, meaning that there is extensive research demonstrating its effectiveness in treating these types of problems.

There are many variations, applications and expansions of CBT since it began in the 1960’s.  What is central across all forms of CBT is the idea that how we think affects how we feel and often how we behave, with unhelpful thinking leading to emotional problems and difficulties in our ability to function in daily life.  The CBT philosophy is that how we see (i.e., perceive) ourselves, others, the world around us, and our future, determines how we experience life.

With this in mind, to ease emotional suffering CBT focuses on finding ways to adjust unhelpful thinking patterns, in turn improving how we feel and function in our lives, and therefore improving our quality of life. CBT mostly focuses on the ‘here and now’, addressing current thinking and behaviour patterns that keep emotional problems going.  CBT is intended to be empowering, because of its focus on teaching people skills and strategies to better manage their emotions and lead more satisfying lives.  CBT, when practiced well, should be a curious, creative and collaborative process, working with the individual to discover what works for them in changing how they see themselves, their own thoughts and feelings, other people and life in general.

CBT is provided by clinical psychologists, psychologists and other mental health practitioners appropriately trained in this type of therapy.




1 CBT is a recommended treatment for depression and anxiety in Beyondblue’s Clinical Practice Guidelines (i.e., A Guide to What Works for Depression & A Guide to What Works for Anxiety).  These Guidelines are endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and can be accessed from www.beyondblue.org.au/health-professionals/clinical-practice-guidelines
2 According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing of 2007 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), just under half of all adult Australians had experienced a mental illness at some point during their life. One in four had experienced an anxiety disorder and almost one in five had experienced depression.