Deven Seetanah, 24/7 Health Support Team at AXA Health

Stuck in a mental rut? Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help

Mental Health

27 July 2023

Persistent negative or self-critical thoughts can be overwhelming and can aggravate a problem that you’re already struggling to deal with, such as anxiety or depression. That voice in your head telling you “you’re not good enough”, “you’ll make a fool of yourself”, “this is all your own fault” holds you back from taking actions that challenge these irrational thoughts. You’re so convinced things will go wrong that you don’t even attempt them – and this perceived ‘bottling out’ reinforces your sense of failure.

Breaking the cycle of negative thinking

One way is by using a ‘talking’ therapy known as CBT1. It works by helping you break down an overwhelming problem into smaller parts, which makes it easier to understand how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are connected and how they affect each other.

Psychological or talking therapies like CBT, counselling2 and family therapy have become much more widely used in recent years to treat a growing number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sleep problems, and relationship and family problems. Talking therapies3 are used both as a stand-alone treatment and, for those with a more severe psychological disorder, as a supplement to another form of treatment, such as medication.

The success of talking therapies in treating conditions such as anxiety and depression has been demonstrated in scientific studies, and demand within the NHS has grown significantly4.

How does CBT work?

CBT is a practical, ‘solution-based’ treatment that helps you to identify irrational thoughts, assumptions and beliefs and learn how to replace them with more reasonable ones. The treatment is highly structured and focuses on specific problems and goals. It therefore works best for people who can identify the main problem they want help with. The overall aim is for the individual to attribute improvement in their problems to their own efforts, in collaboration with the psychotherapist

CBT tends to be of shorter duration than some other talking therapies. You will usually have a session with a therapist once a week or once every 2 weeks with the course of treatment usually lasting for between 6 and 20 sessions, with each session lasting 30 to 60 minutes.1 It should not be seen as a quick fix, however. To be successful, it requires a lot of motivation, commitment, and work. You’ll be expected to participate actively both during and in between sessions, practising techniques you’ve learned and working on set tasks at home.

Getting started with CBT

The first step is to discuss the problem that’s concerning you with your GP, who can refer you for CBT, if appropriate. Some CBT practitioners work on a self-employed basis or through private clinics – you can search for an accredited psychotherapist on the BABCP’s website5. You may be able to self-refer, although some practitioners will require a referral from your GP or another health professional.

Useful resources

How to find a counsellor or therapist - AXA Health 


  1. CBT – NHS
  2. Counselling - NHS
  3. Talking therapies – NHS
  4. Talking therapies statistics – NHS Digital 
  5. BABCP – British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 

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