Cognitive behavioural therapy was developed in the 1960s by Aaron Beck. Its main philosophy is that our thoughts and behaviour influence feelings; our mood is determined by the way we think about events and not the events themselves. CBT helps to recognise thinking errors such as ‘all-or-nothing thinking’ or ‘mind-reading’ and helps to construct alternative and more balanced thoughts.
CBT has also been used in the treatment of eating disorders, anger, stress and anxiety, sleep problems, sexual issues and substance misuse.The development and administration of CBT have been closely guided by research. Evidence now supports the effectiveness of CBT for many common mental disorders.
Clinical training in CBT involves both instruction and supervised clinical experience. Demand for CBT exceeds the supply of health care professionals who are trained and qualified to provide it. Current research is looking at ways to make treatment more accessible to those who need it.
Training as CBT Therapist
CBT therapists or practitioners working in the NHS are usually called high intensity therapists and can be based in a community mental health team, or a psychology or psychotherapy department in a hospital. They may also work from an outpatient clinic or a private hospital. Some CBT therapists work as individual private practitioners.
To work as a CBT therapist it is necessary to complete a three-year degree in a relevant subject (usually a degree in nursing, social work, occupational therapy, arts therapy or one of the psychological therapies, such as psychology or psychotherapy) and have relevant work experience, also a postgraduate qualification in CBT, which takes between one and two years.
A CBT therapist or practitioner works with people who have mental health problems and will help clients with difficulties such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic disorders.
Essential skills for the CBT practitioner: ability to think critically, reflectively and to evaluate.
There are different levels of the practice of CBT, which require very different skill levels on the part of the person talking to the client. Good communication skills are essential to convey CBT and other psychological formulations; thus an ability to engage with clients and form a collaborative working relationship with them. Furthermore a CBT worker should be able to identify and critically evaluate relevant research.
A competent therapist brings together knowledge, skills and attitudes - being able to draw on and apply knowledge is critical to effective therapy.
As a trainee, a starting salary would be between Band 6 starting at £26,041 and Band 7 starting at £31,072.
As a senior therapist, with a lot of experience, posts up to Band 8 earn between £39,632 and £81,618.
Those who work privately will charge £30 to £70 an hour.
Growing workforce – CBT
In its first three years CBT treated more than a million patients and trained 4,000 new practitioners to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Estimates suggest a growth in the CBT workforce up to 2020.
There may be opportunities to work in private sector hospitals, or to register as an independent practitioner and see patients privately. There is currently a national shortage of CBT workers.