Monthly: January 2014

A Brief Explanation of CBT

Many people contact me to ask how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is different from other therapies they may have tried before, and how it can be relevant in providing useful change when other approaches such as mainstream counselling or psychotherapy have failed.

The first point I would like to make is that CBT is unique amongst talking therapies because it doesn’t fixate on what label term is given to a problem, nor does it rely on using a pre-determined set techniques to overcome problems. CBTs strength is it’s flexibility and ability to improvise.

The mindset from traditional talking therapies generally goes along the lines of what problem does the person have, and how does it make them feel. The CBT mindset is different – It’s focus is not what problem the person has, it’s what they are experiencing and what is the process behind the problem, and how do you experience the problem?

Let’s take anxiety as an example. According to the CBT philosophy of change, anxiety is a process – a “produced” problem so it is something that you “do” and “experience” rather than you “have”.

Approaches using traditional medicine work by using medication to moderate and suppress your states of mind, which in turn would normally produce a slight reduction in the anxiety and short term relief. These medicines are not designed for long term use, but to give enough of a respite so a psychological therapy can be used to help overcome the problem.

Because anxiety is not a stand alone emotion, rather than one which is produced, there is a driving factor which is creating it in the first place. Only by identifying the likely root cause, and changing our perceptions of it, can the process be stopped anxiety truly be overcome.

The way I work with anxiety using CBT is to address three main areas:

  • Your beliefs & perceptions – what is the problem? what is the worst case scenario? what is the best case scenario? How would you know if you were OK?
  • Your state of mind – finding out how you go into the state of anxiety, and what state would be more resourceful? What is the opposite state of mind to anxiety?
  • Your behaviours – finding what specific behaviours are created by anxiety, and what would you rather do instead

The three areas are listed above are in the order of importance / leverage. Your beliefs & perceptions around a given situation or context will in turn produce a given state of mind, which in turn produces a given range of behaviours.

Providing you with more resourceful beliefs & perceptions around the root cause driving anxiety will ultimately help control and eliminate it.
Because of the underlying mind set of CBT, there is no endless analysing of how you feel about a problem, and no need for intrusive digging for hidden meanings and insight that may lie in the past. Whilst awareness and insight can be useful, they seldom offer enough leverage to produce lasting change.

CBT also differs because it focuses very much on pushing you away from the problem, and pulling you towards the solution. So not only will I be working with changing your thinking patterns to change the problem, I will also dedicate a good deal of time working with your expectations and perceptions of what the solution is. So in the case of anxiety, how will you focus on calmness and relaxation and positive states of mind.

As with all therapies, CBT is a formal and taught model and philosophy of what actions can be beneficial to a clients well being. However it’s important to realise that despite being a popular theoretical approach, it is not complete by any means – I do use other methodologies to cover some of the blind spots that CBT has.

To summarise, CBT is a well structured model of therapy which uses a very different approach to other talking therapies, by focusing principally on the here and now actions and how the problem “works”, rather than focusing mainly how you feel and how you “have” the problem and what it meant in the past.

Please contact me if you have any questions, or to book your appointment today.