Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Unit

Information for Patients

CBT focuses on the problems of most importance to you.

  • Sessions are held weekly. Before each session, you and your therapist will decide on the agenda for that hour, based on the problems you have identified. 
  • The basic CBT model involves exploring the link between your thoughts, feelings and actions in specific situations which cause you problems. You will be encouraged to consider new ways of thinking and to try new behaviours in those situations. 
  • An essential part of CBT is “homework” or practice exercises between sessions. Research indicates that individuals who complete their homework get better results. Homework may include recording thoughts in a thought record, testing beliefs with behavioural exercises, practicing new skills like assertiveness or anger management, or facing what you fear in a gradual manner. 
  • Therapy is time-limited with the exact number of sessions decided between you and your therapist (most clients undergo between 12-20 sessions).
  • All interventions are based on the latest research available for the problems you wish to address. 

How do I get CBT treatment at the MUHC CBT Unit?

To be considered for treatment at the MUHC CBT Unit, you must have a referral form filled out by a medical doctor involved in your care (e.g. family doctor, psychiatrist, medical specialist).  This is to ensure that CBT can be helpful for your problem and to ensure that medical issues that may be contributing to your problem are being taken care of. This form can be obtained by email, fax or regular mail (see Contact section).

You are eligible for treatment in the MUHC CBT Unit if:

  • You are 18 years of age  or over
  • You are interested in psychological treatment for your problems
  • You have a problem known to be helped by CBT. These problems include those related to anxiety, depression, psychosis (paranoia or hallucinations), or impulse control. 

Since the MUHC CBT Unit offers only time-limited CBT, you should have a general practitioner or psychiatrist who will resume your general care after therapy is over. If you suffer from disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, you should already have a psychiatrist, physician, treating team or case manager in place to manage your medications and other aspects of your treatment during CBT. Many of our CBT therapists are psychiatrists and psychiatry residents: while they may advise your doctors about medication choices at times, the actual focus of treatment in the MUHC CBT Unit is CBT. If you are already on medication, you will be encouraged to remain on the same dose of medication for the course of the treatment, to see more clearly the effects of CBT on your difficulties.

What happens after my referral form is sent in?

Within three weeks of sending your form in, our administrative coordinator will call you to ask you a few questions about the problem for which you want CBT, and tell you what to expect.  After a delay, which varies depending on demand, (often about 3-6 months), you will be given an appointment for a specialized cognitive behavioural assessment. In this 2-hour period, you will be asked to complete some questionnaires about your specific difficulties, as well as questionnaires about general symptoms. You will then undergo an interview with a mental health professional about your difficulties, in which you will be given a taste of what CBT is all about. You will be asked to give a specific example of your problem, and you will be asked what your thoughts, feelings and actions were in that particular situation. By the end of the assessment, you will be given treatment recommendations for your problem. If CBT can be of help to you, it will be suggested to you, and you will decide if this approach best suits you. A consultation letter will be sent back to your physician.

Your therapist may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist-in-training, learning CBT under close supervision. Therapists in training are all mental health professionals doing postgraduate studies in accredited university programs (such as McGill University, Concordia University, Université du Québec à Montréal). All sessions with training therapists are videotaped for supervision and quality assurance purposes.  (These tapes are kept strictly confidential, and erased after each session.)

The end of therapy will be decided in collaboration with your therapist. You will be asked for your feedback and to fill out the same questionnaires again to indicate your progress. You will have access to these results for your own learning. Your therapist may schedule a booster session after the end of therapy to help you maintain the gains you achieved in therapy.