AACBT Masterclass: Emerging Psychological Treatments for Psychosis

Dr Ryan Balzan

South Australia 28 November 2016

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AACBT Masterclass: The Complexities of Youth. Research and Clinical Advances in Working with Self Harming Teens

Dr Penelope Haskin, Ivan Salmin, Dr Barry Jones

Western Australia 15 October 2016

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AACBT Pub Discussion: A Principled Negotiation Cognitive Behavioural Approach to Relationships Therapy

Dr Michael Free

Queensland 20 September 2016

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AACBT Pub Discussion: Always an Imposter? Transgender Issues in Therapy

Anette Renneflott

Queensland 26 July 2016

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AACBT Self-Care in the Helping Professions

Dr Rebecca Rainbow

Queensland 30 August 2016

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AACBT Seminar: CBT for Psychosis: Same Same But Different!

Dr Yael Perry

New South Wales 9 November 2016

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AACBT Seminar: Managing the Unique Challenges of Perinatal Depression

Dr Vered Gordon

New South Wales 8 August 2016

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AACBT Seminar: Using Memory Training in Clinical Practice: The Emerging Field of Memory Therapeutics

Dr Aliza Werner-Seidler

New South Wales 21 September 2016

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AACBT Workshop: Insomnia in Adults: What Therapists Need to Know

Dr Melissa Ree

Western Australia 12 August 2016

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AACBT Workshop: The Art of Cognitive Therapy: Bringing Textbook and Manual into Effective Practice

Dr Chris Basten

New South Wales 28 October 2016

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What is CBT?

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a relatively short term, focused approach to the treatment of many types of emotional, behavioural and psychiatric problems. The application of CBT varies according to the problem being addressed, but is essentially a collaborative and individualised program that helps individuals to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and learn or relearn healthier skills and habits. CBT has been practised widely for more than 30 years. It has been researched extensively, and has demonstrated effectiveness with a variety of emotional psychological and psychiatric difficulties. It is also continually evolving, and third wave CBT therapies such as Mindfulness Based Cogntiive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Committment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Schema Therapy and others are increasingly being used for a variety of emotional, behavioural and psychiatric problems.

The benefits of CBT

  1. CBT has been extensively investigated in rigorous clinical trials and has empirical support.
  2. CBT is structured, goal oriented, and focuses on immediate difficulties as well as long term strategies and requires active involvement by the client.
  3. CBT is flexible, individualised, and can be adapted to a wide range of individuals and a variety of settings.

Does CBT work?

CBT is one of the most established and researched psychological therapies for emotional, psychological and psychiatric dysfunction. For some problems, such as anxiety and depression, CBT is as effective as medication and can also enhance the effects of medication. The results of CBT are long-term, and you can keep using what you have learned in therapy to approach other problems in your life.

In particular, CBT has demonstrated effectiveness with individuals experiencing the following problems:

  • Generalised anxiety
  • Panic
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Brain Injury
  • Somatic Disorders
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Couples/marital problems
  • Social Anxiety
  • Anger and Stress Management
  • Child Anxiety Disorders and Child Depression 
  • Child behaviour problems

CBT is particularly useful in treating the problems listed above where you request a practical method of treatment for a specific problem rather than “wanting to understand yourself better”; are able to consider psychological causes of problems; and are able to be actively involved in the therapy process and will practice skills between sessions.

CBT has been extensively investigated in rigorous clinical trials and has empirical support. Broadly, CBT has evidenced the following outcomes:

  • CBT is compatible with a range other treatments that you might receive such as medication or supportive counselling.
  • Because the individual is actively involved in their treatment they are more likely to stick with it.
  • Because CBT is flexible and individualised, it can be adapted to a wide range of individuals and a variety of settings.
  • The client can keep using what they have learned in therapy to approach other problems in life.

What can I expect from CBT?

In a broad sense, as its name suggests, CBT involves both 'cognitive therapy' and 'behaviour therapy'.  Cognitive therapy focuses on an individual's pattern of thinking while behaviour therapy looks at associated actions.  When combined skillfully, these two approaches provide a very powerful method to help overcome a wide range of emotional and behavioural problems in children, adolescents and adults.  Depending on the problem, CBT may involve a mix of both therapeutic modalities, so some issues are better treated with more behavioural methods and some with more cognitive methods.  One of the strengths of CBT is that it aims not just to help people overcome the symptoms that they are currently experiencing, but it also aims to teach the person new skills and strategies that they can apply to future problems.  It focuses on the 'here and now' whilst developing an understanding of past styles of thinking and behaviour that have developed over time.

CBT examines all elements that maintain a problem, including our thoughts (cognitions), feelings, behaviour and the environment. It is a structured therapy, which involves a partnership between you and your therapist. You are fully involved in planning your treatment and the therapist will always let you know what is happening. Usually you will have a thorough assessment in the first session or two. Each session will involve discussion, explanation and practice of skills and techniques. Often you will be required to practice those techniques in between sessions.

What can I expect at my first session?

In the first session, your cognitive behaviour therapist should:

  • Undertake a thorough assessment - you will be asked about past experiences and treatment to better understand the nature of the difficulties for which treatment is being sought.
  • Give you an opportunity to tell them anything you think is relevant to your issue.
  •  Explain the basis of cognitive behaviour therapy and how it works
  • Explain what you can expect from therapy
  • Give you an idea of how long you will need to see them - the number of sessions varies with the type of difficulties being treated.
  • Discuss the treatment plan with you including goals and ways to monitor progress.

What can I expect in future sessions?

CBT is a well-planned therapy focused on outcomes. There are a range of techniques and styles in CBT, but regardless of their approach, each session your therapist should:

  • Give you an opportunity to tell them what has happened since you last saw them
  • Explain what will happen during that session
  • Measure and keep you informed about your progress
  • Give you time to practise any new skills and ask any questions during the session

What can I expect in between sessions?

CBT is an active therapy - sometimes described as a 'doing therapy' rather than a 'talking therapy'.  So, individuals will be expected to be active participants in their own therapy.  This means that you can expect to be fully involved in your sessions and to develop with your therapist some tasks to practice in between sessions.  Sometimes these tasks are called 'homework'.

How long does therapy take? 

A typical CBT program could last anywhere between 5 and 20 weeks depending on the problem, the client and the therapist. In some cases, you can expect to see an improvement in just a few weeks; however, it might take longer if your problem is very entrenched.

Who can provide CBT? 

CBT sounds like quite a simple therapy, but it takes a skilful therapist to be effective. A competent cognitive behaviour therapist will have had substantial training and experience in the area. Most professionals using CBT (i.e. Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Mental Health Nurses etc) should be registered with their relevant professional registration board, which oversees professional training and competence. AACBT provides a national accreditation system for CBT practitioners.

Things that should never happen with your therapist.

Your cognitive behaviour therapist should never

  • Enter into a sexual relationship with you - whether you initiate it or they initiate it
  • Enter into any other improper dual relationship
  • Divulge information about you unless:

a)      you specifically authorise in writing the release of information; or

b)      the release of information is to protect you or others from harm; or

c)      the release of information is required by law.

  • Exploit you, for example by asking favours of you
  • Force or try to coerce you to engage in a particular type of treatment, such as group therapy.

A qualified therapist would be expected to practice the code of ethics applicable to their profession.  Be sure to contact relevant regulatory bodies if you are concerned about the practice of a therapist.

 Finding a CBT Therapist

The Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is the national association for practitioners of CBT.

The Accredited Practitioner List provides a list of members who are Accredited in CBT and can assist with referrals. You may also check with your local GP.


Address: 15 Haig Avenue
Georges Hall NSW 2198
E: info@aacbt.org