Exploring Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

When it comes to the treatment of serious mental illness, there are many forms of therapy available. Some have extensive research and are backed by scientific evidence. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is widely practiced and one of the most effective treatment options for mental illness.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy centred on skill building around noticing and shifting unhelpful thoughts and behaviors in order to promote health and well-being. It is a system of therapy that helps people to better understand the interconnected nature of our thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and physical sensations.  

Sessions of CBT are generally short (i.e., 50 minutes) and structured. They focus heavily on learning exercises and skills that the individual can take home and use in their lives “in the real world”. Often, individuals will engage in anywhere from 6 to 12 sessions of CBT to hone the skills of CBT. 

Watch this 4 minute video from Dr Zindel Segal of CAMH to learn more about how CBT works.

Most CBT practices include some form of awareness building. That could mean becoming more aware of your helpful or unhelpful thoughts, becoming more mindful of your actions (e.g., when you may be avoiding certain situations), and learning how your emotions may impact your thinking and acting. Through collaboratively developed homework practices, clients bring their learning to life to enhance their well-being. 

Some common CBT strategies include journaling, challenging unhelpful thoughts, increasing healthy behaviors, using skills such as mindfulness and breathing techniques to help face fears. Anxiety Canada has a full list of different CBT strategies to explore. 

How Much Does CBT Cost?

CBT is provided by a wide range of qualified practitioners such as psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers and counsellors. To find the right provider for your needs, it is important to understand the roles played by these different professionals. While general practitioners (also known as family doctors) and psychiatrists are able to prescribe drug therapies, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers and counsellors cannot legally prescribe medications.  While most Ontario psychiatrists and family health practitioners are now familiar with CBT, they do not receive extensive training in psychotherapy or CBT, and not all physicians practice this mode of therapy with their patients. However, if your doctor does offer CBT the cost is covered by our provincial health care plan, OHIP. 

The next option is private therapy which can be very costly – individual sessions can cost anywhere from $75-250 per hour! Many employee insurance plans provide some amount of coverage for therapeutic services, so it is important to inquire about this if you or a loved one have access to these plans. Many providers work collaboratively with clients to determine what the best course of treatment is for them in the context of their specific financial situation. Further, many regulated practitioners are encouraged to provide services on a sliding scale, or to provide pro bono services for those in need. Finally, you might also consider asking the practitioner if they are working with student therapists who will charge less while they are under the supervision of a qualified therapist. 

With the increased evidence surrounding the efficacy of CBT, there are other options emerging to increase accessibility of this treatment option. 

In March 2020, Ontario announced plans to offer free, online CBT to those experiencing depression and anxiety.  The Ontario government has set aside $20 million to fund their Roadmap to Wellness, a program by which Ontarians will be able to receive mental health services over the internet, phone, and in-person. 

Another free service offered to Ontarians is CMHA’s Bounce Back. Bounce Back is a program for Ontarians aged 15 and older who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Participants are able to enroll in a self-directed, CBT informed program where they choose from 22 workbooks that cover topics such as low mood and depression, worry and stress, sleep, physical health and wellness, and management of important relationships. Participants engage in up to 6 coaching sessions with their assigned coach who helps them to plan and use the skills they learn to make changes in targeted areas of their lives.  

How to Find a Qualified CBT Practitioner

To find a qualified practitioner of CBT in Ontario, CAMH has provided this resource sheet of practitioners and their contact information.

You can also use the “Find a Certified Therapist” function on The Canadian Association for Cognitive Behavioural Therapies website.  

Interested in Learning More?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is beneficial for a variety of severe mental illnesses. It is one of the treatment modalities that will be available at Eli’s Place, a rural residential treatment centre for emerging adults living with mental illness. Learn more about us and how you can help us open the doors of Eli’s Place.  

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