It can feel overwhelming when you start to look for a talk therapy specialist. This blog post hopes to highlight differences between cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling.

Can a cognitive analytic therapist help my stress levels?

Yes, they can. When working with clients who have chronic or ongoing stress, the cognitive model can highlight patterns of thinking causing unhelpful psychological symptoms sooner. It works by examining thoughts which are automatic and negative to show you which behaviour could be linked to them. Once established patterns are shown it is the role of the cognitive analytic therapist to set goals to address what you would like to change. When working together in regular sessions we can monitor and record what is helpful and unhelpful to build progress.

I would say that there is an expectancy to complete ongoing tasks at home, in the office or around relationships by recording information. The difference here between CBT and counselling is in being asked to do more tasks when you may feel you already have too much to do, or you may want someone to listen about your thoughts and beliefs with less analysis. While counselling prompts similar self-awareness focus, but does it through various methods that are less prescriptive. Some may say less demanding of your time away from sessions.


Can CBT help me understand stress better?

For some people, CBT for stress can be really helpful. By using techniques together we can discover which aspects of the mind and body connection are altered by what you are going through. It helps to discuss your thoughts and feelings around what is causing you to be overwhelmed by the possible imbalances in aspects of life. A task I regularly use as a CBT therapist is to break each day down into seconds, minutes and hours to observe what thoughts, feelings and behaviour feels unhelpful in your life. I have used this in my own life to look for patterns. Together we address those tasks you find challenging and hope to alter levels of awareness and resolve. I describe this to clients as taking necessary tools from a toolbox to tackle life with greater awareness.


How is counselling different?

I firmly believe that counselling gives more space for less focus on direct change. As an integrative counsellor we seek to understand the narrative to the feelings and emotions you experience each day. It helps people in counselling to talk more of how each event makes you feel.

You may be a person who cannot explain your feelings and want more space to do this. I have personally witnessed how shift work can really alter how I felt. On difficult days, the fatigue and unhealthy lifestyle prevented reaching out for support. As a male counsellor, it is important to let you know that counselling really does not have a right or wrong way of being in a session. Instead, it is an invitation to open up and say what has been happening for you in a safe, non-judgemental and confidential space.

Another difference is in the amount of sessions cognitive behavioural therapy uses for presenting issues. CBT is often done over 6 to 8 sessions. While a longer-term therapeutic relationship can help you gain greater clarity in all aspects of your life without the rush to fix what you feel is holding you back. There could more than one difficulty you are facing which needs greater space to look at.

Whereas, as a cognitive analytic therapist it is likely that we will address a singular problem. I would say, that the behaviours that come up when facing stress, health anxiety and eating disorders can highlight how you cope and defend yourself quite soon. We would look at coping strategies and defence mechanisms that could be unhelpful and unhealthy to learn how you can focus differently to appraise the threat you face. Each week we look to record one event and see where change can happen.

It could be that this feels like too much work to do to. In counselling, you can bring reoccurring difficulties whatever they may be to each session; or events which take place during the weekly session either face to face, in Gandy Street, in Exeter or using online therapy. This is very much about building trust and confidence in the therapeutic relationship.


A quick summary

Cognitive behavioural therapy offers more accountability when breaking down singular problems to tackle the difficulty with tasks to help create greater awareness of the stress. Whereas, counselling works on more than one presenting problem to really help you understand more about why you are feeling stressed in the here-and-now. As an integrative counsellor who uses both approaches, I can make the assessment to what would best suit your needs.

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