Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)


The CBT model is based on 2 main ideas.

The way you feel is largely influenced by:

  1. Your thoughts, beliefs and interpretations (Cognitions);
  2. The things that you do, and the way that you respond to your thoughts and feelings, and the situations in which they occur (Behaviours).


By looking at the role of our thoughts, beliefs and interpretations in our problems, it can help to make sense of why we feel the way we feel and respond in the way we do. In CBT we look at how it is the way we interpret or view a situation rather than the situation itself that causes the feeling.

We may look at the situation or event as the cause of how we feel or our distress, this link can be illustrated in this way:

Screenshot 2024-03-03 103154

However, If it were true that the situation directly causes the feeling then everyone would react in the same way to the same situation. So in CBT we look at how the situation is being viewed or appraised and what effect this has on how the person then feels. These appraisals/cognitions are automatic and learnt, shaped by our previous experiences and learning, and often we are not even aware that we are looking at the situation through this cognitive lens. This sequence is illustrated below:

CBT model 2

To look at examples of this – Click here

​It is not just the way we think about or interpret situations that is important, but also the way we think about and interpret our internal or psychological world (our thoughts, images, memories, feelings, sensations, urges). If we view or believe that what we are thinking is wrong, bad, threatening, or a sign of weakness, then this will affect how we feel about having these thoughts and consequently how we respond to them, e.g., try to block them out, distract from them or get rid of them.​

In panic disorder, examples of interpretations of physical sensations include:

Heart palpitations = “I’m having a heart attack”

Feeling dizzy / light-headed = “I’m going to pass out”



Our behaviour (what we do), plays a central role in our problems in a number of ways. The way we respond in the situation will strongly affect our thoughts and feelings, and can often have unintended consequences, e.g., reinforcing anxiety, fears, unhelpful beliefs. Equally changing our behaviour can be an effective breaking a cycle we are stuck in and allowing for new experiences and learning that changes the way we interpret experiences and feel about them.

CBT model

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

In CBT, there is a focus on recognising any problematic or unhelpful patterns of thinking or behaviour that you are getting stuck in and that are not working as you would hope. Having identified a problematic pattern we can see how it makes sense given your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and history, and we can then work on developing and applying the skills to help break the patterns and to start building more helpful patterns of thinking and behaviour that are in line with your goals and values.

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