What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Short-term therapy with long-term results

Cognitive behavioral therapy is now the most popular and widely used form of “talk-treatment” or counseling in the world, used for every type of problem. It is a tool for change that focuses on thinking and thought processes. These in turn lead to feelings and actions. It is quite simple, it is like learning a new language, however it does take practice, which is not easy unless you are in a helpful environment, like a Rehab.

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What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

CBT is known as a psychological intervention that include many helpful written assignments, similar to school work but the subject is you.

CBT therapists call your thoughts Self-talk

Below is the A-B-C tool of CBT that Psychologists use to look at your thinking

Activating Event




Effective New Philosophy

Trigger Self-talk What…. Changed attitude Affirmations & Actions
What happened?    




Write down all your thoughts?





E.g. Drinking?

Can you change your thinking?



New way forward

Clients can change the way they think about any issue and reprogram themselves with new helpful and healthy thoughts and beliefs. Below is an example of an addicts possible beliefs system.

  • I can’t live without it
  • I deserve it
  • I am weak
  • I need it
  • It helps me
  • I can’t say no
  • Everyone does it

Other examples of distorted thinking are;

  • A gambler might need money yet by gambling he is highly likely to lose financially.
  • An alcoholic may trigger episodes of depression by drinking to improve mood.
  • A sex addict may be unable to experience real intimacy because of an obsession with the sex act

Impaired or distorted thinking

CBT therapists have classified different types of distorted thinking that most humans engage in from time to time. It is unhealthy when its rigid and irrational, or emotional thinking that does not stand up to reality testing;

  • Black or white thinking – can induce anger
  • Emotional reasoning – feelings are not facts
  • Catastrophising – can induce anxiety
  • Futurising – produces lack focus
  • I cant-stand-it-it is – lack of confidence

The originator of this form of therapy was the psychologist Albert Ellis and his Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy REBT, later the psychiatrist Aaron Beck developed what is now called Cognitive behavior therapy CBT and used to treat almost every disorder thinkable.



What do the letters ABCDE stand for in CBT?

A = Activating events or triggers

Basically speaking most human beings will have two primary goals, to survive and to be happy. Events can activate negative thoughts, feelings and behavior that threaten these goals.

E.g. not all people will develop the same thinking and reactions around the same events. Why? Because we all have deferent thresholds, which are mainly based on our biological make-up, culture, life experiences, levels of education and so on. Therefore, knowing your A’s will help you to know where your threshold lies, and what pushes your buttons.

Events activate our core beliefs about ourselves, and also our supporting or reinforcing beliefs about the world and other people.

B = Core beliefs & self talk

Beliefs are about what you consciously and unconsciously believe about daily events in your life and your subjective interpretation according to your view point, they manifest as assumptions, automatic thoughts (hotwired) and rigid personal life-rules.

E.g. you may have lost your job or a relationship, and in order to make sense of this event you may interpret it as an act against you. Now you are left with the choice between believing that your interpretation is true or untrue, e.g. “because you are bad or the others are bad” this leads to consequences for you, reinforcing your old negative belief system or getting angry, acting out, drinking and so on.

Remember our belief system is laid down during our early development and sits mainly in the unconscious; our conscious adult mind filters it out (the denial system) unless we do this work and look for it. Basically, when it comes to beliefs, we need to know if our beliefs are;

Rational = usually flexible realistic, undemanding and objective,

Irrational = rigid, unrealistic demanding and subjective.

We find our beliefs by listening to, and working through layers of our thoughts (self talk)

C = Consequence (emotional & behaviour)

As stated earlier, the way we “feel and act” after experiencing a difficult activating event will be heavily dependent on our personal interpretation and our beliefs about our interpretations.

In CBT we see two kind of negative emotions: One we call healthy negative emotions;

Sadness, concern, healthy anger, regret, disappointment, and concern about relationship. Whereas the following emotions are regarded as unhealthy negative emotions: Depression, anxiety, unhealthy anger, shame, hurt, jealousy, envy.

Also if our fight or flight defense mechanism is triggered by an activating event and then our negative thinking about the event makes it worse, we tend to lose control in the short term.

D = Disputing old beliefs and self talk

At this stage you will start to identify what your core beliefs are and now you need to test them to see if they are rational, healthy and up-to-date.

One way is to dispute your layers of negative self talk by matching it to types of distorted thinking, catastrophizing, black and white thinking, self-downing (see the list)

Another way is Socratic questioning; being your own detective looking for the facts and evidence.

  1. ”Empirical” disputing, where you ask yourself questions such as;

– Where is the evidence that shows that my beliefs are true?

  1. ”Logical” disputing, where you ask yourself questions such as:

– Is it logical to turn my desires into demands?

  1. ”Pragmatic” disputing, where you ask yourself questions such as;

– Have my beliefs helped me so far?

E = new Effective philosophy

This kind of therapy is not a quick fix, in order to feel the therapy’s full rewards you will have to work on yourself by using this tool daily.

Self fulfilling prophecy: basically we go on manifesting what we believe and this works positively also. So when you know you negative core beliefs create an affirmation to counter it. We tend to limit ourselves with our own beliefs in life.

Additionally we take actions, paradoxical behaviours, we don’t just try and stop doing negative things we force ourselves into new positive behaviours by practicing what we call exposure therapy, facing our fears.

”People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them” (Epictetus, 55 AC to 135 AC)

At Hope we use CBT in combintion with 12 Step therapy, mindfulness & exercise. Find out more about our combined treatment plan or contact us here.


What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?