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What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a short-term talking therapy, usually consisting of a minimum of 12 sessions and a maximum of 20 sessions. It focuses on the ‘here and now’ aspect of your difficulties, targeting the symptoms associated with them, by identifying and working on your thinking (‘Cognitions’) and your actions or inactions (‘Behaviours’). Sessions are structured with the use of agendas, enabling you to get the most from your appointment time. CBT involves working collaboratively with a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist as a team to overcome your difficulties; you are the expert in your difficulties and they are the expert in CBT. Homework is a central component of CBT enabling you to get the most out of your learning and transfer this to life outside of therapy.

What problems does CBT help?

CBT is evidence-based which means multiple research trials have proven it’s effectiveness. For this reason it is recommended by NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – who advise the NHS on treatments) to treat a number of mental health difficulties.


CBT with Synergy Psychotherapy can help with:

  • Agoraphobia – avoidance of places/situations from which escape might be perceived to be difficult or feel embarrassing; or help may not be available in the event of having a panic attack.

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) – preoccupation with perceived physical flaw(s)/defect(s) accompanied with repetitive behaviours.

  • Depression – persistent low mood which impacts on daily living.

  • Dermatillomania - repetitive and excessive skin picking.

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – chronic, excessive and persistent, global worrying.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – use of repetitive and time-consuming behaviours, to reduce the anxiety caused by distressing thoughts.

  • Panic disorder – anxiety about having panic attacks (‘fear of fear’) and living life in a limited way to prevent further attacks.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (following a single event trauma) - feelings of a traumatic incident not being in the past along with easily and frequently triggered symptoms of reliving the traumatic event.

  • Social anxiety disorder – persistent anxiety about feeling embarrassed or making a fool of oneself in social situations.

  • Specific phobias - excessive fear of something specific which interferes with daily living for example situations (such as heights or driving), animals or insects, objects, blood, needles, vomit (this is not an exhaustive list).

  • Trichotillomania – repetitive and excessive hair pulling.

Problem suitability

     YES (probably) if....

  • You can relate to any of the difficulties listed above.

  • You're keen to learn more about your difficulties in order to overcome them. 

  • You feel stuck in unhelpful patterns of managing your difficulties and want to change them.

  • You want to actively address your difficulties in the here and now.

  • You're prepared to challenge yourself and make changes to feel better.

  • You haven't benefitted from emotional support like counselling. 

Is CBT for me?

     NO (probably not) if...

  • You're looking for advice, coping techniques, being told what to do or to just talk about your difficulties.

  • You want to talk through the past in depth and to focus on exploring the cause(s) of your difficulties.

  • You believe that medication alone is the only thing that will benefit you.

  • You don't want to work with a psychotherapist to learn more about your difficulties.

  • You're unable or don't want to complete work outside of the sessions. 

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Two different approaches


Over the last 15 years or so there has been an emergence and increase of ‘CBT-based techniques’ which are often advertised - or can be misunderstood - as being the same as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when they are not.


For example, Mind give a useful overview of what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy looks like and how CBT-based techniques can be accessed via self-help. However, these are two very different approaches (therapy and CBT-based techniques) but have been referred to as one and the same – as “CBT”.


Synergy Psychotherapy has worked with countless people who believe they have previously accessed CBT – as this is what they have been told – but when they describe what this has consisted of, it is not even close.

So what's the difference?


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

aims to help you to learn more about yourself

and your difficulties in order to overcome them.

CBT-based techniques

are taught with the intention of being practiced and applied

to manage your difficulties, i.e. your difficulties remain.


For example. If you experience panic attacks...

CBT-based techniques to help you manage these may include breathing exercises, relaxation or hyperventilation management e.g. breathing with a brown paper bag; these would help you to manage the panic attacks, hopefully with less impact on your daily living and causing you less distress.

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by learning more about what happens for you personally (i.e. what you think and how you respond) when you experience panic attacks you can start to make changes which will help you to overcome panic and significantly reduce further attacks or stop them altogether.


CBT-based techniques are not inferior to therapy but they are a bit like comparing apples and oranges; they’re both fruits but they’re very different. CBT-based techniques can be helpful for people with certain difficulties.


If you would like to consider if Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may be useful for you it is important to complete an assessment with a CBT therapist. A thorough assessment will take account of any previous treatments or therapies you have tried, what you found helpful or unhelpful about them and consider other factors including your expectations and goals for therapy to determine if CBT may be useful to you at this time. If you attend a Synergy Psychotherapy assessment and CBT-based techniques seem appropriate in lieu of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, then relevant resources will be suggested.



No one-size fits all

CBT isn’t for everyone! Whilst Synergy Psychotherapy provides and is passionate about CBT there is also a recognition it will not be the right approach for everyone, just as other therapeutic approaches are life-changing for some people but not a good fit for others.


If you would like to consider if CBT may be useful for you it is important to complete an assessment with a CBT therapist. A thorough assessment will take account of all relevant factors necessary to determine, jointly with you, whether or not CBT may be useful to you at this time. 

What if I've tried CBT before?

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Holding an Apple
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Where can I find out more about CBT?

On completion of an assessment with Synergy Psychotherapy, if CBT is felt to be helpful to you, you will be provided with further information, verbally and in writing, about the therapy to help you make a decision about if you wish to pursue sessions.


For further information about CBT you may find the following links helpful:

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)



Royal College of Psychiatrists 

Page last updated: 10/02/2024. All information correct at time of update but is liable to change; to ensure information is correct at time of use visit the organisation website or contact the organisation directly. Synergy Psychotherapy is not responsible for the content of any external sites; providing details of such sites should not be seen as endorsement.

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