Overview: CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is a style of therapy that focuses on a person’s beliefs and how they think. Through attention to thoughts, perceptions, assumptions and beliefs, a person can gain some control over their emotions and behaviour. In this post, we talk about how to access CBT online (often for free). Reading time ~ 7 minutes.
What the hell is CBT?
CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is a widely researched model of psychological therapy that helps people understand and modify unpleasant emotional experiences by teaching them how their thinking influences their emotional experience. Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) are very similar.
Why would I want to do an online CBT course?
The main reason people do CBT is to find relief from unpleasant emotional experiences: chronic stress, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, procrastination, traumatic memories. It is arguably the therapy model with the most amount of scientific evidence in support of it. Learning CBT can help you identify and modify the kinds of unhelpful, irrational thinking traps that we all fall into. Doing so can then have positive impacts on your how you feel (emotions) and your behaviour.
Is an online course better than seeing a therapist?
Not necessarily. Some people have a preference for seeing a therapist. Some people prefer the online option. Both options have been shown to be helpful, when the person fully engages with the process. The benefits of online are that it is often cheaper (commonly free), can be accessed at any time of the day, and often provides a more comprehensive description of CBT than what you might get from a therapist (depending on their level of CBT expertise). And who is to say that you can’t do both. These online programs can be great complements to seeing a therapist (bulk billing online psychologists are growing in number).
Where can I do an online CBT course?
Excellent question. In Australia we are very lucky that there are many online CBT programs that can be completed for free, or low-cost. We’ve been keeping track of the various online places you can do a CBT course. You will find them in the section below called Online CBT Providers.
Will an online CBT course make me the rational robot overlord that I’ve always wanted to be?
Nope. But you’ll get a neat insight into just how wacky the human brain can be.
Are there other options?
There are many different models of therapy that you can look into. CBT is not your only option. Most counsellors, therapists, psychologists etc should be able to tell you what their therapy model is when asked. This list might help you get to know some of the different models. If you find a model of therapy that interests you, you may need to do some further research to find a therapist who uses that model.
Bah! the internet is so lame. Do you have any of those cool book things?
Yep – probably start with this one – Mind Over Mood or this one – Feeling Good. But there are tonnes of good books on CBT that can be found with a simple search for ‘CBT’ on Amazon.
Online CBT providers
For each of the providers, we have outlined the disorders/conditions for which they have programs, whether they are free/paid/both, and whether they are therapist assisted (meaning you get allocated a therapist who will check in on progress regularly.
Mindspot – Free online assessments and courses on wellbeing, mood, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Indigenous wellbeing, chronic pain and chronic conditions – https://mindspot.org.au/ – free, therapist assisted if desired
Mental Health Online – Online assessment and courses for generalised anxiety disorder, depression, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic disorder, panic disorder, mixed disorder – https://www.mentalhealthonline.org.au/Default.aspx – free, therapist assisted
This Way Up – Online assessment and courses for depression, generalised anxiety disorder, mixed depression and anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, post traumatic disorder, mindfulness based cognitive therapy, health anxiety, chronic pain, coping with stress, pregnancy and post-natal, intro to mindfulness, managing insomnia – https://thiswayup.org.au/ They even have a specific Student Wellbeing Course! – some free, some paid, not therapist assisted
Ontrack – Free online assessments and courses for depression, alcohol use, flood and storm recovery, families and friends, early psychosis and diabetes – https://www.ontrack.org.au/web/ontrack/home – free, not therapist assisted
myCompass – Interactive self-help service to promote resilience and well-being for people experiencing mild to moderate stress, anxiety and depression – https://www.mycompass.org.au/ – free, not therapist assisted
My Digital Health – Not strictly CBT but still free digital health programs for anxiety, depression, well-being, distress and suicidal thoughts, insomnia, mindfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, compassion building, self-monitoring, sleep, and benzodiazepine reduction – https://www.mydigitalhealth.org.au/ – free, not therapist assisted
Moodgym – An interactive self-help book which teaches skills to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety – https://moodgym.com.au/ – free, no therapist assisted
Ecouch – e-couch provides information about emotional problems – what causes them, how to prevent them and how to treat them. It includes exercises to help you understand yourself and others better. Even better, it provides you with a set of strategies that might help you to improve your life – https://ecouch.anu.edu.au – free, not therapist assisted
Centre for Clinical Interventions – These guys out of WA publish a range of self-help worksheets and workbooks on anxiety, assertiveness, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphia, depression, disordered eating, health anxiety, panic, perfectionism, procrastination, self-compassion, self-esteem, sleep, social anxiety, tolerating distress, worry and rumination. Not high tech, but good content – https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself – free, not therapist assisted
eCentreClinic – is a specialist research clinic and a not-for-profit initiative of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. They develop and evaluate state-of-the-art free online treatment courses for people with common mental health and chronic physical health conditions. You’ll need to visit their website to find out what programs are currently being offered – https://www.ecentreclinic.org/ – free, therapist assisted
For more digital mental health tools, visit Head to Health, a govt-funded website that helps people find the right digital mental health resource for their circumstances.
2 thoughts on “How to access CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) online”
The list of theory models linked to doesn’t have Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (A.C.T.).
I understand that there is a lot of research in to the benefits of C.B.T. and I don’t have any mental health training to say otherwise, but I’ve found C.B.T. very frustrating and A.C.T. a lot more helpful.
To illustrate the differences let me share a thought my grey matter often provides when I’m trying to write essays – “I’m too stupid, I can’t do this”
My understanding (and experience) of C.B.T. is that it would have me dispute the ‘bad thought’ by providing evidence contradicting the thought: “there are essays that I have done well in”, “my psychologist says I’m quite bright”, etc. However (and probably because I am quite bright), I then come up with evidence that supports the original thesis, which I then need to further dispute. I can waste a lot of time and energy this way and still not get my essay done.
A.C.T. has a bunch of strategies to remove the emotion from the thought. For example, the anxiety provoking, “I’m too stupid, I can’t do this” becomes a bit ridiculous when sung to the tune of the happy birthday song. However, my favourite strategy is the simple question: “is this thought helpful”. At which point it doesn’t matter if it is true or not, because it isn’t helpful and what would be helpful is the behaviour of working on my essay.
‘The Happiness Trap’ by Dr Russ Harris explains Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and provides a lot of frustrating exercises that you want to skip but are useful in hindsight. It also has stuff on finding your values and setting your goals accordingly which I’m still trying to work through but I think will be beneficial.
Like I said, I’m not trained or training in mental health services so please let me know if I’ve misunderstood anything.
Excellent points Alice.
The lack of links to ACT-based courses is not because of an aversion to ACT but simply that we haven’t seen such online programs developed yet that are widely available.
I hope down the track to be able to share some ACT-based online courses 🙂