• Charlotte Wallwork

CBT at Clarity Counselling Northern Beaches

At Clarity Counselling Northern Beaches, we use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as one of our counselling therapy strategies. CBT is an action-oriented approach that inspires optimism in our clients as we focus on the future in our sessions rather than spending too much time reflecting on the past.

Negative automatic thoughts (NATs)


Negative Automatic thoughts were first described by Beck, as a stream of thoughts that we can notice if we pay attention to them. These are automatic and often negative interpretations of what we think is happening to us. As a result, this often impacts our moods and feelings.

On average, we have between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts every day which, is continually helping us to interpret the world around us.Thoughts are electro-chemical impulses in our brain.  Thoughts are NOT statements of fact. So what this means is that just because you think and believe something is true, it doesn't mean that it is!

Automatic thoughts


Thoughts can be triggered through words, an image, a memory, a physical sensation, an imagined sound, or based on our intuition.


We tend to automatically believe our thoughts, without stopping to question the validity of what we are thinking.


"When another driver cuts me up, I might judge that he's a selfish, inconsiderate driver, but in fact, he might be taking his wife to hospital as she is about to give birth". In this example, the thoughts were not based on factual evidence, but instead on the persons automatic thought process generated from previous experiences.


Here are some examples of how our automatic thoughts can distort our feelings and emotions. I have broken them down into interfering thoughts which are the types of thoughts that are often irrational and compared the same scenario with a reasonable response.

Beck was the first person to realise and document the link between thoughts and feelings. He invented the term automatic thoughts to describe emotion-filled thoughts that we might have. Most people aren't always fully aware they are having these thoughts, and as a result, don't recognise their behavioral response as being irrational such as anger, upset or disengagement. Beck found that people could learn to identify these emotion fueled thoughts and adapt their behaviors which is how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) started.


Whats is CBT?

CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented counselling treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. At Clarity Counselling Northern Beaches we use techniques to

help you to change how you think ('Cognitive') and what you do ('Behavior'). You will learn skills that help you identify thoughts which may be irrational and then ways to help you consider alternative options before the thought cascades into unjustified behavior and emotions.


If successful, CBT can change how you think about yourself, the world and other people around you. We particularly focus on the 'here and now' problems and difficulties you may be facing instead of focusing on the past as this has been proven to achieve the best results.


CBT is based on the concept that the below five areas are interconnected and affect each other. During the sessions, we aim to stop negative cycles by breaking down things from each of the categories below and working out the key areas to focus on.


  1. situations

  2. thoughts

  3. emotions

  4. physical

  5. feelings

  6. actions


How you think determines how you feel and how you behave.

For example, your thoughts about a certain situation can often affect how you feel both physically and emotionally, as well as how you act in response.


When we have an emotional reaction to a situation, many of us don’t reflect on why we reacted in a certain way. This is what we work through during a counselling session as often an external person can help breakdown the interfering thought and help you to consider an alternative reasonable response.

How CBT is different

CBT differs from other counselling therapies because it uses a pragmatic approach through identifying specific problems and using a structured plan to solve them, rather than spending the time in the session talking freely about your life. The role of the counsellor is not to tell you what to do but to work with you to find solutions to your current difficulties.


Example of how we use CBT at Clarity Counselling

  • By questioning upsetting thoughts and helping you replace them with more helpful ones

  • Helping you to recognise when you're going to do something that will make you feel worse and instead doing something more helpful

  • By using the structure below, we get you to create goals and actions through reflection writing and homework exercises.

We use CBT to help you consider that the same situation has led to two very different results, depending on how you thought about the situation.


During the sessions, we will teach you techniques to use when you are distressed, to stop you jumping to conclusions which are unhelpful.

We use the STOPP skill to help you learn to notice, question and decide how to react to distressing thoughts. This technique focuses on stopping, breathing, observing, reviewing your perspective and then proceeding.


CBT will generally run over a number of sessions in order to track your progress.

Each session you will discuss with your counsellor how you've got on with putting the changes into practice and what it felt like.


Therapy is not a one size fits all approach so if something isn't working for you then we can look at alternative suggestions. During your sessions, we will check you are comfortable with the progress and make sure we're working at a pace you're comfortable with.



The Results

  • By making your problems more manageable, CBT can help you change your negative thought patterns and improve the way you feel.

  • CBT can help you get to a point where you can achieve this on your own and tackle problems without the help of a therapist.

  • We teach you new skills that you can apply to your everyday life.

  • To overcome anxiety, you need to confront it. This may lead you to feel more anxious for a short time but the long term results are worth it!

  • It's easy to talk about doing something, much harder to actually do it - this is why we have homework so you can practice what we have discussed in everyday scenarios.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not a quick fix, but overtime we can help you to break the vicious circle of altered thinking, feelings and behavior. At Clarity Counselling Northern Beaches we can provide you with the tools and encouragement but cannot 'do' it for you.


Contact us today to find out some more information and make a booking for you're first session.


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