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What form does treatment take?

CBT differs from other therapies because sessions have a structure, rather than the person talking freely about whatever comes to mind. At the beginning of the therapy, the client meets the therapist to describe specific problems and to set goals they want to work towards. The problems may be troublesome symptoms, such as sleeping badly, not being able to socialise with friends, or difficulty concentrating on reading or work. Or they could be life problems, such as being unhappy at work, having trouble dealing with an adolescent child, or being in an unhappy marriage.

These problems and goals then become the basis for planning the content of sessions and discussing how to deal with them. Typically, at the beginning of a session, the client and therapist will jointly decide on the main topics they want to work on that week. They will also allow time for discussing the conclusions from the previous session. And they will look at the progress made with the 'homework' the client set for him- or herself last time. At the end of the session, they will plan another assignment to do outside the sessions.

What kind of people benefit?

People who describe having particular problems are often the most suitable for CBT, because it works through having a specific focus and goals. It may be less suitable for someone who feels vaguely unhappy or unfulfilled, but who doesn't have troubling symptoms or a particular aspect of their life they want to work on.
It's likely to be more helpful for anyone who can relate to CBT's ideas, its problem-solving approach and the need for practical self-assignments. People tend to prefer CBT if they want a more practical treatment, where gaining insight isn't the main aim.

CBT can be an effective therapy for a number of problems:

• anger management
• anxiety and panic attacks
• child and adolescent problems
• chronic fatigue syndrome
• chronic pain
• depression
• drug or alcohol problems
• eating problems
• general health problems
• habits, such as facial tics
• mood swings
• obsessive-compulsive disorder
• phobias
• post-traumatic stress disorder
• sexual and relationship problems
• sleep problems

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