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Online course

Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT

Improve your understanding of depression and anxiety and find out more about an effective and evidence-based treatment: CBT

Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT

Why join the course?

Feeling sad or anxious at some point during your life is very normal and can often be resolved with the help of friends or family. But occasionally, these feelings can develop into more long-lasting mental health difficulties, including anxiety and depression. Around a quarter of the population are directly affected each year by mental health difficulties where more specialist help and support is needed. This course offers an insight into two of the most commonly diagnosed mental health difficulties: anxiety and depression.

This five week course will improve your understanding and knowledge around depression and anxiety, dispel some common myths about these disorders, and introduce you to a leading, effective treatment for both disorders, called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or ‘CBT’ for short).

Understanding depression and anxiety

Getting to grips with depression and anxiety is a learning journey. In order to fully understand these difficulties we first need to understand how we process and make sense of the world around us, and how our emotional state may play an active role in this process. During the first week, we will explore this in more detail and there will be opportunities to consolidate your learning with a number of relevant practical activities.

We will then look at depression and anxiety in turn, and will consider: how these disorders differ from ‘normal’ emotional states, highlight associated signs and symptoms, and explore some of the factors which may be responsible for maintaining these difficulties using a cognitive behavioural framework.

The final two weeks will be devoted to illustrating how CBT can be used to treat depression and anxiety. Each week you’ll have the opportunity to engage in activities to help you apply the knowledge you gain on the course. There will be information to download, and interviews with experts and patients to help you understand more about these common disorders and one of the ways in which they can be successfully treated.

It is important to emphasise that this online course is not intended to be a self-help ‘treatment’ for anyone experiencing anxiety or depression, nor can the information within it be used to formally ‘diagnose’ yourself or anyone else displaying symptoms of anxiety or depression. If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, you should in the first instance consult your primary healthcare professional. If you are feeling low or suicidal, or simply need someone to talk to, you can contact the Samaritans - a 24 hour listening service on 08457 90 90 90 or . If you are taking this course from outside of the UK and Ireland, then you can contact Befrienders Worldwide ( who offer emotional support worldwide.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsHello, and welcome to this online course in understanding cognitive behaviour therapy, anxiety, and depression. My name is Shirley Reynolds. I'm Director of the Charlie Waller Institute here at the University of Reading. The course is really aimed for a very wide audience. So this includes people who might want to seek therapy for themselves, their family and friends, or professionals who are interested in learning a little bit more about CBT and how it works. It's important to say at this point, though, that this is not a substitute for professional therapy. Over the next five weeks, we're going to examine what cognitive behaviour therapy is, how it works, and most importantly, how it helps people with anxiety and depression.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsAnd we're also going to meet some therapists and their clients who are going to tell us about their experiences of CBT. We look forward to welcoming you.

When would you like to start?

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe the key signs and symptoms of depression and identify how a depressive disorder differs from simply feeling low or down
  • Describe how a depressive disorder is diagnosed and identify an appropriate assessment tool
  • Describe the key signs and symptoms of the most frequently occurring anxiety disorders and identify how anxiety disorders differ from simply feeling worried or nervous
  • Describe how anxiety disorders are diagnosed and identify an appropriate assessment tool
  • Identify the most common stereotypes surrounding anxiety and depression and evaluate them on the basis of current knowledge
  • Describe how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be delivered and identify the types of difficulties that it can help with
  • Summarise how what we know about perception (making sense of the world around us) can help us to understand the CBT approach better
  • Identify the key components of a Cognitive Behavioural approach to understanding anxiety and depression
  • Describe how specific kinds of behaviours and thought pattern can maintain difficulties in anxiety and depression and identify key CBT techniques which are used to address these in therapy

Who is the course for?

This beginner’s course is aimed at anyone with an interest in mental illness generally, and anxiety and depression in particular. This may include:

• those who are currently experiencing or have previously experienced emotional difficulties,

• family and friends of those who are experiencing emotional difficulties,

• primary (or other) healthcare professionals who have a frontline role in detecting mental health difficulties and offering appropriate support and guidance to those affected.

What do people say about this course?

"This course has shown evidence of the effectiveness of CBT and has been useful in explaining the difference between the methods used for the different disorders. The reason I started this course was to try to help myself understand why I feel the way I do when I am in the grip of anxiety or a low mood period. The course has improved the knowledge I already had and has provided hope for the future that things won't be so bad as I have methods and ways of helping myself to tackle the negative thoughts and facing fears. Thank You to the course organisers and contributors for all the knowledge, information and support given/shared throughout."

Karen Stapley

Who will you learn with?

Michelle Lee

I head up a number of educational outreach projects and am interested in spreading knowledge about evidence-based therapies for common mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

Shirley Reynolds

I'm a clinical psychologist. Most of my work has been research on depression and anxiety and how to improve treatments. We need to make effective treatment available to everyone @DrS_Reynolds

Who developed the course?

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

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Join this course


  • Access to this course for 7 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes


  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you're eligible
  • Download and print your Certificate of Achievement anytime
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