“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll
What is CBT?
CBT is recommended by NICE guidelines as an effective treatment for helping people tackle problems such as anxiety and/or depression. The key idea behind CBT is that what youTHINK and DO affects the way you FEEL (emotionally and physically).
An important principle of CBT is that treatment involves dealing with the symptoms that you are struggling with in the “here and now”, rather than focusing on the cause of your problem. Although it can be interesting to understand how your anxiety/depression developed, just knowing why you have anxiety/depression is often not enough to help you manage it.
To do this your therapist will help you to understand a situation by looking at its separate parts which create a cycle. CBT encourages you to talk about:
- THOUGHTS: how you THINK about yourself, the world and other people
- BEHAVIOURS: how what you DO affects your thoughts and feelings
- PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS: how your body may react
- EMOTIONS: how your feelings may interact with these other areas
Sometimes, through no fault of our own, we get ‘stuck’ in vicious cycles. Often the things we might do to try and alleviate our symptoms in the short term, can inadvertently maintain how we feel in the long term, and the solution becomes the problem. CBT is an approach which is used to identify the unhelpful behaviours, thought patterns and reactions which form that vicious cycle. In understanding the patterns, we can then develop more helpful habits to alleviate symptoms and help us get “unstuck”.
CBT is not a magic cure, and it cannot stop you from thinking or feeling a certain way, but it can help you to change how you interact with your thoughts (‘cognitive’) and how you react in different situations (‘behaviour’) to alleviate unpleasant symptoms.
CBT with a CBT therapist
CBT as a therapy, is different to Guided Self Help which uses CBT strategies. CBT with a CBT therapist can offer a more in-depth approach to tackle a wider scope of mental health difficulties. CBT as an intervention is able to offer support for individuals struggling with long standing, mild to severe symptoms of; Depression, anxiety, panic (and panic attacks), specific phobia’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Sleeping difficulties, Trauma/PTSD, Body image or self-esteem issues.
Within sessions, you will work with your CBT therapist to develop specific, time-limited goals, to work towards in up to 10 x 50 minute sessions. CBT sessions are usually held on a face-to-face basis.
CBT is a collaborative therapy and needs active participation to be helpful, as a result, there is an emphasis on the importance of homework.
Why is homework so important?
Homework is a key component because from week to week, you will need to practice new skills, that you are learning in sessions, and apply them to your daily life. Unless you practice new strategies you will most likely find them less useful and forget to use them when you need them the most.
Learning new ways to manage anxiety, depression, stress etc. is a little like developing a new healthy habit. It may be difficult at first but if you continue to train yourself, eventually this new habit will become part of your regular activities and routines. The good news is, the more you practice the easier it gets – so the more you put into the work the more you will get out of it.