Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 1 day left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

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 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.

This article is from the free online

Understanding Anxiety, Depression and CBT

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now