Three common myths about CBT debunked

Although approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue, there is still a significant amount of social taboo associated with therapy. This fear of talking through emotions prevents a lot of people from seeking professional help. 

Organisations such as The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the mental health charity Mind, both consider CBT as the chosen treatment of choice for a majority of mental health issues.

However, even with such prolific industry recommendations, many people still find it hard to accept the concept of CBT. Some may be sceptical about its approach, while others are simply not ready to have their intimate thoughts and behaviours reviewed and discussed.

As leading CBT practitioners, we wanted to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding CBT practices. Below are some of the most common misconceptions we aim to counteract every day.

Myth one: CBT only teaches positive thinking

One common misconception about CBT is that it only encourages people to think positively about their situation or specific problem they regularly encounter. This then often leads to another common misconception that CBT neglects to address patients genuine negative thoughts or events in their lives.

The reality

Thinking positively has equal pitfalls to thinking negatively, the aim is to think realistically. The reason why CBT is highly recommended by mental health professionals is because it takes a balanced approach to thinking. This means paying attention to both negative and positive information. Yes, CBT will encourage you to challenge negative and unhelpful thoughts but it also helps you to seek fact-based information and evidence to evaluate your emotions and reactions. The glass is neither half full or half empty, it is both.

For example, you may make a small mistake at work, which then sets you off on a negative thinking pattern. “My boss is going to be so mad” “Everyone will know I’m not qualified enough to do my job” “I’m going to get fired”, may just be some of the intrusive thoughts you have surrounding this small mistake. There may be zero evidence to support these thoughts, but you instantly subscribe to the most severe and negative thinking patterns. Instead of teaching you only to have positive thoughts, even when you do make mistakes, CBT will instead teach you why these types of extreme thoughts are unhelpful and perhaps even disproportional to the original issue.  Equally, focussing on hypothetical things we are not doing prevents us seeing our opportunities where we realistically all need to develop.

CBT teaches us that our reactions to an event or situation are generally influenced by how we already felt and equips you with the tools to deal with challenging situations in a healthy manner.


Myth Two: CBT doesn’t acknowledge the importance of patient and therapist rapport

As CBT can be completed over a relatively short amount of time, depending on the condition, one criticism is that it does not allow or acknowledge the importance of patient and therapist rapport.

The reality

Every good CBT practitioner will collaboratively approach each session with their patient. They will fully understand why developing and nurturing a trusting relationship is the key to unlocking their patient’s issues. CBT works only when the patient and therapist are in unison when it comes to the overall goals and objectives.

Often described as guided discovery, therapists will use this process to help you understand and reflect on the way you process information and use this insight to open up alternative thinking patterns.


Myth Three: CBT ignores the past

Another common misconception about CBT is that it merely takes a reductionist approach when considering contributing factors to mental health.

The reality 

CBT generally aims to address potential issues in your current life that are preventing you from maintaining healthy thought processes. However, this is not to say that CBT practices disregard your past entirely. Every good therapist appreciates that your past experiences have helped contribute to who you are today and neglecting to address that during your sessions will not help to build the rapport with your therapist.

In addition to addressing your current thought processes, CBT also looks at your early encounters to get a deeper understanding of how your specific problem developed. All of our problems are associated with previous learning experiences, that were probably useful at the time.  CBT therapists and patients need to understand the context that these old (and sometimes archaic) patterns of thinking and behaving developed if we are to find new and helpful and flexible ways of approaching life.

With psychotherapy and counselling being unregulated professions anyone can effectively advertise CBT services with virtually no experience. With this in mind, it is understandable why so many people have a reserved approach to CBT.

This is why we believe it is essential for anyone considering CBT, to look for BABCP accredited therapists.

The BABCP is the British Association of Behavioural Cognitive Psychotherapists and is the lead organisation for the theory, practice and development of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in the UK. We are proud to state that all of our therapists are BABCP accredited.

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