How effective is CBT?

  • It is one of the most effective treatments for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem.
  • It is the most effective psychological treatment for moderate and severe depression.
  • It is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression.

Other treatments and how they compare

CBT is used in many conditions, so it isn't possible to list them all. These alternatives  can be applied to the most common problems - anxiety and depression.

  • CBT isn't for everyone. Another type of talking treatment may work better for you.
  • CBT works as well as anti-depressants for many forms of depression. It may be slightly better than anti-depressants in helping anxiety.
  • For severe depression, CBT should be used with anti-depressant medication. When you are very low, you may find it hard to change the way you think until the anti-depressants have started to make you feel better.
  • Tranquillisers should not be used as a long term treatment for anxiety. CBT is a better option.

Problems with CBT

  • CBT is not a quick fix. A therapist is like a personal trainer that advises and encourages - but cannot 'do' it for you.
  • If you are feeling low, it can be difficult to concentrate and get motivated.
  • To overcome anxiety, you need to confront it. This may lead you to feel more anxious for a short time.
  • A good therapist will pace your sessions. You decide what you do together, so you stay in control.

How long will it last?

A course may be from 6 weeks to 6 months. It will depend on the type of problem and how it is working for you. The availability of CBT varies between different geographic areas and there may be a waiting list for treatment.

What if the symptoms come back?

There is always a risk that the anxiety or depression will return. If they do, your CBT skills should make it easier for you to control them. It is important, then, to keep practising your CBT skills, even after you are feeling better. There is some research that suggests CBT may be better than anti-depressants at preventing depression coming back. If necessary, you can have a 'refresher' course.
What impact would CBT have on my life?
Depression and anxiety are often immobilising, and seriously affect your ability to work and enjoy life. CBT can help you to control the symptoms. It is unlikely to have a negative effect on your life, so find  the time you need to give you the freedom to do it.