All About CBT for IBS, How it Works and What’s Involved

cbt for ibs inner workings of the mind

CBT for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

CBT for IBS is a highly effective way of overcoming the symptoms and emotional distress caused by this condition.

IBS, is relatively widespread and it is estimated that 20% of people will suffer from it at one time or another.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was developed by Aaron Beck in the 1960’s who recognised that people’s inner-thoughts were often more significant than the things that they said out loud during therapy sessions.

He called these inner-thoughts cognition and argued that the way that people think about their experiences links directly to the emotions that they feel.

In other words our emotional experiences are the outcomes of what we think and believe rather than being caused by external events.

These ideas form the central concept of CBT which states that:

The way people think determines the way that they feel.

In the case of IBS the emotions that we feel are the direct result of what we think or believe our experiences mean.

Common symptoms of IBS

Common IBS Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms associated with IBS and you may experience and one, or several, of the symptoms at the same time.

Typical symptoms include:-

  • Abdominal pain or cramping: Pain or cramping in the lower abdomen that is often relieved by a bowel movement.
  • Bloating and gas: Feeling bloated and experiencing excessive gas, which can be relieved by passing gas or having a bowel movement.
  • Diarrhoea or constipation: IBS can cause both diarrhea and constipation, or alternate between the two.
  • Changes in bowel movements: Changes in the frequency, consistency, and appearance of bowel movements.
  • Mucus in the stool: Mucus may be present in the stool.
  • Urgency: Feeling an urgent need to have a bowel movement.
  • Incomplete evacuation: Feeling like there is more stool to pass even after having a bowel movement.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or fatigued due to the impact of IBS on sleep and daily functioning.
  • Anxiety or depression: IBS can cause anxiety or depression due to the impact on daily life and social activities.

You may have some or all of these symptoms as they vary between different people.

Furthermore, many IBS symptoms are similar to those caused by underlying biological problems.

We recommend that you consult your GP to rule out any other reasons for you symptoms before undertaking any psychological therapy.


How does CBT for IBS work?

Normally a programme of CBT for IBS takes place over a period of 10 to 20 weeks with an hour long session once per week.

Firstly, because the way you think about your day-to-day experiences is determined by your core beliefs, the early sessions of CBT for IBS involve exploring and measuring these beliefs.

Secondly, once you are able to uncover your core beliefs, your thoughts about certain experiences will make more sense.

Thirdly, by understanding how you have made sense of your experiences in the past you can then begin to make changes to your thoughts and beliefs in order to create new, and more useful, emotional outcomes.

CBT for IBS builds upon the 5 core CBT principles developed by Aaron Beck and are used extensively in our CORE Programme.

CORE CBT for IBS programme on Mac

How many sessions of CBT will I need?

Whilst this is a difficult question to be precise about, most people will be able to overcome their Irittable Bowel Syndrome in around 10 – 20 sessions.

However, because CBT for IBS is always tailored to your own individual needs and circumstances, getting the outcome that you want may sometimes require more sessions.

If you have been suffering IBS problems for many years then in all likelihood, you can reasonably expect to take a bit longer to get where you want to be.

Our CBT for IBS programme is based on 12 sessions delivered over 12 weeks and uses an online learning platform for you to develop greater self-awareness and knowledge in the days between sessions.

Free initial consultations for cbt for IBS

Arrange your FREE initial consultation here.

If you’d like to find out more about CBT for IBS or recovering from any of your mental health problems then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular issues and the different types of mental health counselling we offer (including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT) without you having to commit to any counselling going forward.

The consultation lasts around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet with either Paul or Joan and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.

Paul Lee BSc. MSc. Psych.

Psychologist Paul Lee in Clinic

You can contact Paul by e-mail on:

Tel: 07434 776125

Not Ready to Commit to Therapy Quite Yet?

Then why not see if you can solve your IBS problems using our comprehensive, Online Self-Help CBT course.


Written especially for people who prefer not to engage with a therapist before doing everything they can to overcome their problems.

Mirroring our in-house course of CBT, it contains everything that you need to know to tackle mental health challenges for only £149.

Counselling Locations

We offer CBT for IBS problems for people living in:

  • Wombourne
  • Wolverhampton
  • West Midlands
  • Shropshire
  • South Staffordshire
  • Telford
  • Shrewsbury

You can also access our services around the World using online therapy with Paul.