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CBT – does it really work?

Many people are concerned about over-medicalisation and the use of pharmaceutical therapies such as antidepressants. This concern has coincided with a rise in the use of psychological therapies, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). However, do we know how strong the evidence for CBT actually is?  Is it really just talking, or would that even matter as long as it works? Is the evidence only strong for certain disorders and can it cause harm, even when used correctly?

The SMC invited in three top experts to give an honest appraisal of the evidence, to discuss how CBT fits into the wider picture and to explain the pros and cons of this therapy.

Journalists came along to the Science Media Centre to discuss issues such as:

  • What exactly is CBT and how does it work? Is it just talking?
  • Where do we have robust evidence of CBT working really well?
  • What about issues like placebos and double-blind RCTs – does it matter if we don’t have the same level of rigour as for drugs?
  • Are there concerns about CBT being overused or misused? Can it cause harm? How do we ensure practitioners have sufficient training in its use?
  • How cost-effective is CBT? Are we using it enough?
  • Can we see a future where psychological therapies replace pharmacological ones for many mental illnesses?



Prof. Rona Moss-Morris, Professor of Psychology as Applied to Medicine, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

Prof. Michael Sharpe, Professor of Psychological Medicine Research, University of Oxford

Prof. Dame Til Wykes, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

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