Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


In this leaflet, we review cognitive behavioural therapy, explain what it is, what research evidence exists to support its use in ME/CFS, and consider the potential benefits (and controversies) of this talking therapy.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a psychological (‘talking’) treatment that is mainly used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions. So it is normally administered in a mental health setting. CBT is also sometimes used as part of the management of physical illnesses where it aims to improve quality of life and day-to-day functioning.

Cognitive therapy is designed to challenge, modify or remove what are regarded as unhelpful or negative thoughts and beliefs about an illness. Behaviour therapy is designed to change the way you behave in response to these unhelpful thoughts.

What is the ME Association's position on CBT?

The MEA does not accept the conclusion that ME/CFS is largely or wholly maintained by unhelpful beliefs and behaviours. Consequently, we would not endorse any form of behaviour treatment that is purely based on this idea. We do, however, accept that a psychological approach that accepts the presence of an underlying physical illness, and so aims to improve practical coping strategies relating to physical and mental health can sometimes be helpful – provided it is carried out with mutual agreement of the therapist and patient.

Telephone Helpline

The ME Association telephone helpline – ME Connect – is available every day of the year, during the hours of 10am-12noon, 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm. Please phone: 0344 576 5326 if you have any questions or would simply like to talk to someone who is there to listen.

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