If you’ve been diagnosed with mild or moderate depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could be a suitable treatment option for you.

CBT, a widely used form of therapy, focuses on changing your thought patterns to challenge negative feelings and behaviours.

What is CBT?

Specialist psychiatrist Dr Thabo Mogotlane uses CBT to help his patients at Mediclinic Legae. CBT is a structured and short-term "talking treatment” that combines cognitive (thinking) and behavioural techniques. Therapists work together with their patients to achieve a specific goal, which they determine together at the beginning of the treatment.

CBT is seen as a short-term therapy, usually involving six to 12 sessions, says Dr Mogotlane. “We want our patients to be equipped after therapy to be able to help themselves,” he explains. “We train them to identify their problem and to solve it.”

Psychodynamic analyst Dr Aaron Beck originally designed CBT in 1967 for patients with depression, explains Dr Mogotlane. “Dr Beck realised that thoughts impact your emotions and behaviour, so he proposed that individuals could change their behaviour by changing their thoughts.”

What can CBT treat?

CBT is now used by psychiatrists and psychologists to treat mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol problems, eating problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, and stress. Both adults and children can benefit from this therapeutic approach.

How it works

Cognitive techniques used in CBT, like cognitive restructuring, aim to help you alter your thoughts and how you see the world. “In this way, you can change your emotions and tap into your behaviour,” says Dr Mogotlane. “When you’re depressed, you usually view yourself negatively. When you start perceiving yourself positively, your feelings and behaviour start to change, and you become motivated to act and attempt new things.”

The behavioural techniques of CBT include systemic desensitisation, in which the therapist

helps the patient to overcome their fears, anxieties or phobias. It involves gradually exposing them to the things or situations they fear in a controlled and safe manner. Through this process, they can learn to manage and reduce their anxiety or fear response over time. Ultimately, this leads to reduced anxiety and improved overall wellbeing.

Confronting the present

CBT focuses on the current problem rather than delving into the past, unless the patient wants to discuss something specific in their past, says Dr Mogotlane. “As CBT therapists, we always bring our patients back to the present. Depressed people may have multiple negative thoughts and CBT teaches them to challenge these thoughts and turn them around. These thoughts may be rooted in cultural or religious core beliefs, which inform our perceptions.”

The value of CBT is that it provides hope to people with various mental disorders by helping them develop rational thinking patterns. However, it's important to remember that although CBT can be very effective, it might not be enough for some patients, who may also need medication alongside therapy to improve their condition.

To find a Mediclinic mental health professional near you, visit www.mediclinic.co.za

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.