Guided Self Help using CBT Strategies

“Happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things.”
– Walt Disney

What is Guided Self Help?

Guided Self Help is a low intensity therapy which is recommended by NICE guidelines for a first step treatment option for many problems. It is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and delivered by Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWP’s).

What is CBT?

The CBT approach is an evidence based effective treatment for helping people tackle problems such as anxiety and/or depression. The key idea behind CBT is that what you THINK 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.

How do PWP’s use CBT?

As a talking therapy, Guided Self Help using CBT, is a valuable approach. Much like a coach, PWPs will guide you and help motivate you towards specific goals, using different interventions which are informed by CBT.

The main aim of Guided Self Help is to support you in learning how to make positive changes to your behaviour and thinking in order to feel better.

It offers various coping strategies in order to allow you to become your own therapist, to manage your mood effectively and prevent future setbacks. This will be tailored to your individual needs and directed towards your own personal goals.

Guided self help can offer support with a multitude of mild to moderate mental health difficulties, including: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, mild OCD, sleeping difficulties and general stress.

In addition to support with specific problems, PWP’s are able to provide you with additional information which may be useful, such as signposting to other valuable services.

Within sessions you will work with your PWP to develop specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited goals to work towards within 4 to 6 sessions which are approximately 35 minutes each.

Guided self help can be offered in different forms, both of which have benefits:

  • Telephone – This form of support is often quite popular when sessions need to fit in with busy life-styles. Its flexibility offers evidence based, convenient support without having to leave home or work.
  • Face-to-face –  Usually the more traditional form of support for individual talking therapies, where, just like telephone support, sessions last 35 minutes and appointments are held in one of our locations most accessible for you.

It is a collaborative therapy and needs active participation to be helpful, therefore, CBT does emphasise 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.