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Welcome to the course

Find out what will be covered on this free, online course 'Understanding anxiety, depression and cognitive behavioural therapy'.
Hello and welcome to this online course about CBT, cognitive behaviour therapy. My name’s Shirley Reynolds. I’m Director of the Charlie Waller Institute at the University of Reading. My job as a clinical psychologist is to do research into treatments for anxiety and depression. One of those main treatments that we use is cognitive behaviour therapy. This course is for anybody who’d like to find out more about cognitive behaviour therapy. What it is, how it works, and how we use it to treat anxiety and depression.
Because anxiety and depression are so common many, many people were offered a course of CBT at some point in their lives, and we think you can get the most out of this if you know more about it. But it’s not really just for people who might get CBT, really anyone with an interest in mental health issues or mental health problems might find it interesting. It’s also important for me to explain that this is not a substitute for any kind of treatment that you might receive elsewhere. So if you feel that you would benefit from cognitive behaviour therapy, then my advice is really to go and talk to your own family doctor.
They’re usually the best person to be able to refer you to the right kind of therapist. Across the five sessions you’ll come across a number of different ways of learning about CBT, anxiety, and depression. We’re going to be meeting some clients and some therapists and they’ll talk to us about their experiences of having therapy and of doing therapy, and give us an idea about what it’s really like to have treatment, and what it’s like after treatment. There’s online resources for you to go and read further if you want to go off and read more about CBT or anxiety and depression.
And we’ve got online discussion forum for you to post your comments to see what other people think, and to kind of find out how other people are experiencing the course. But you will find your own way to use these resources and it’s important for you to just think about what works best for you to get the most out of the course. As this is week one, we’re going to start off with an introduction. CBT is based on the idea that we are constantly making sense of the world around us, that we’re active processors, that our brains are constantly firing and making sense of the world. And there’s a lot going on.
If you just think about where you are right now, if you listen you’ll hear all sorts of sounds. If you look a round they’ll be hundreds of different things you could focus on. All of this information is bombarding us all of the time, all of the time, and sometimes it’s really overwhelming. So the way we handle this in our brain is to take a lot of short cuts. These shortcuts are really helpful, they help us survive, they help us spot danger, they make us attend to the important things, but sometimes they also are misleading. And when they’re misleading that’s how we start slipping into difficulties that we associate with anxiety and depression.
In this session we’re going to cover three things. First, how do we make sense and understand the world about us? Secondly, how does that impact on our thoughts and feelings, and our emotions? And third, how does cognitive behaviour therapy help us understand that, and also to help us manage any difficult emotions.

Hello and welcome to this five-week course: ‘Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT’. This course has been written by psychologists based at the Charlie Waller Institute at the University of Reading.

This course has been approved for distance-learning continuing professional development by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

Over the next five weeks, we hope to increase your general understanding of two of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders, anxiety and depression. We’ll dispel common myths and stereotypes, and introduce you to an effective treatment for anxiety and depression called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or ‘CBT’.

Is this course for me?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in mental health, who would like to understand more about two of the most commonly presenting mental health difficulties: anxiety and depression.

  • You may have experienced anxiety and/or depression in the past or currently be having difficulties. You may have been referred for CBT treatment and want to know more about what this may involve.
  • You may have a relative, friend or colleague who has experienced anxiety and/or depression and as a consequence of this, you might like to understand more about these difficulties. Your relative, friend or colleague may have been offered a course of CBT and you may just want to know more about this treatment.
  • You may come into contact with people experiencing these difficulties in a professional capacity (eg as a General Practitioner, Practice Nurse or Health Visitor). You might want to understand these difficulties more fully. You may also refer patients for CBT and might want to find out more about what this treatment involves and how it works.

It is important to point out that this is an introductory course. In other words, it assumes that you’ve no existing knowledge around anxiety, depression or CBT. This means that it should be appropriate for a general audience, ranging from members of the general population (including those who have experienced anxiety and/or depression and those who have friends or relatives who have experienced these difficulties) through to healthcare staff who want to know more about mental health.

Information relating to Coronavirus

Although this course does not directly address anxiety or depression in relation to the current outbreak of Covid-19, many of the Steps will provide advice and guidance that will apply to how we might manage our worries and feelings during these times. We have also provided some specific guidance around taking care of ourselves, and our children, which can be found at the bottom of this Step under ‘Downloads’. Please also visit the Mind website for further information about managing your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scope of the course: what do we want you to get out of it?

After completing all five weeks, we’ll hope that you’ll have answers to the following questions:

  • What is depression? What are some of the key signs and symptoms and how is depression diagnosed? How is a depressive disorder different from simply feeling low or down?
  • What is anxiety? What are some of the key signs and symptoms and how is anxiety diagnosed? How is an anxiety disorder different from simply feeling anxious or worried?
  • What are the key components of a cognitive behavioural approach to anxiety or depression? How can CBT explain why these disorders persist?
  • How does CBT ‘work’? What kinds of techniques are used to address the difficulties faced in anxiety and depression? What does it feel like to have CBT? How useful can it be?

What does this course not cover?

It’s extremely important from the outset to be very clear about what this course isn’t.

  • Whilst it should be a useful source of information about anxiety, depression and CBT, it’s not intended to be a replacement or substitute for psychological treatment; we cannot comment on individual cases and you shouldn’t try to use the techniques described here without the support of a suitably qualified therapist.

The course focuses on anxiety and depression in adults; it doesn’t specifically address these difficulties in children and young people, although some information around resources for children and young people is included at the end of this first week.

It’s also important to highlight that other treatment approaches may be effective in the treatment of anxiety and/or depression, including a pharmacological approach and other forms of psychotherapy (such as counselling and interpersonal psychotherapy). However, the focus of this course is on how CBT can be used in the treatment of these difficulties.

If you’re currently experiencing anxiety and/or depression, you should seek professional help. In the UK, your first point of call would normally be your General Practitioner (or out of hours service) or local Accident and Emergency service (in an emergency, for example, if you’re feeling suicidal). The Samaritans is another source of help based in the UK and Republic of Ireland who can be contacted on freephone number 116 123 (UK) or via their contact page. It’s important to note that this is a UK and Ireland based charity. Since 2003, Samaritans has been working with Befrienders Worldwide, a network of 400 international centres in 39 countries set up to help people who need emotional support, to talk about problems in a confidential space.

Please note this course was first written in January 2016 and last updated in November 2021.

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Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT

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