CBT helping overcome mental health problems as nearly 2 million appointments take place in 2021

Press release
08 April 2022

New data analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows a record number of annual appointments for those accessing cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) across England.  

There were more CBT appointments taken than any previous year on record, as findings showed 1,961,096 appointments registered overall for the calendar year 2021.  

CBT has been shown to help with many different mental health conditions including: 

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety, panic and phobias 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Bipolar disorder, and  
  • Psychosis. 

CBT helps people to learn more helpful ways of thinking and reacting in everyday situations. Unlike some other talking therapies, CBT focuses on current challenges rather than on past experiences. The treatment is aimed at improving someone’s state of mind by teaching them to spot the links between thoughts, actions and feelings.  

Sarah Markham, a researcher in Southeast England, embarked on a CBT programme following a suicide attempt. This happened in the aftermath of two years spent in an abusive relationship.   

“While I was getting out of the relationship, CBT allowed me to check my own mood levels and the assumptions I had about people, particularly my more negative assumptions. I was finally able to answer, ‘why am I feeling this way?’  

 “CBT allows me to understand how thoughts and feelings can influence one another through its grounded and intuitive model. I found it to be a common-sense approach that’s remarkably effective. It’s not stopped being helpful for me and I still use it all the time.” 

Those receiving CBT treatment during December 2021 had an average of 6.8 sessions. A course of CBT usually lasts for between six weeks and six months, with weekly or fortnightly sessions running between 30 and 60 minutes. When CBT is successful it can help people to feel more in control of their lives. Dr Paul Blenkiron, consultant psychiatrist and author of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ updated patient information resource on CBT, said: 

“There is a high demand for cognitive behavioural therapy in the aftermath of the pandemic. With all the uncertainties that continue in the world, effective talking treatments like CBT are more important than ever. They can be used alongside other treatments and help people learn new skills to keep themselves feeling well.”  

CBT is available on the NHS. GPs may be able to make referrals to treatment for people facing mental health challenges or people that have been diagnosed with a mental illness that might benefit from CBT. Self-referrals can also be done, without a GP referral, through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme (IAPT). 

Read the College’s updated CBT information resource and find out more about accessing CBT.

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