Learning a new skill - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Tracy Foster, Dip.Couns (MBACP)
4th September, 20140 Comments
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – do you want to learn a new skill?
Are you experiencing some of these common mental health disorders: Anxiety, depression, feelings of low self-worth, low self-esteem, eating disorders, phobias, social anxiety, personality disorders, obsessive compulsions that are leaving you feeling down and unable to manage emotions and feelings effectively?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a skill which helps you understand your thinking in a new way. As the title suggests, cognitive is your “thinking” and behavioural is how you “act” on those emotions/feelings that are affecting you. Along with this are the physical symptoms you experience – for example “anxiety” symptoms – sweaty palms, increased heartbeat, digestive problems amongst others, which in themselves increase our anxiety and can be very unpleasant.
Our thinking can be very much in our sub-conscious so we can be totally unaware of the triggers that cause these thoughts. As soon as we face a situation, issue or event we automatically apply our own personal thought, meaning, image or memory to it. This in turn makes us feel a certain way and behave accordingly setting off our physiological symptoms. Of course, the cycle isn’t quite as clear cut as that. We may wake up in the morning full of anxiety and wonder why - but our thoughts have already been triggered, so we end up in a horrible cycle of negative thinking and so the vicious cycle is maintained and reinforces our current negative belief system.
Our thoughts and meanings are not always helpful, realistic or accurate but we believe them to be true.
CBT is an evidence-based psychological treatment to help you understand and manage your problems better. It works by helping you in the “here and now/present”, taking into account the way you have made sense of “your world” as a child and the thoughts and meanings you applied to specific experiences. We then believe these thoughts to be true and never question the validity of them.
Gaining an understanding of where our thinking comes from gives us the opportunity to amend our thoughts to a more balanced perspective and try out new behaviours (coping mechanisms). Our coping mechanisms themselves can be equally as unhelpful as our thinking. For example, if we have keep having a bad day at work and go home and drink a few beers or bottle of wine, this may temporarily relieve our distress but the problem still remains. We start to drink a few more because the first few don’t work anymore ….. and the problem remains, therefore increasing our reliance on alcohol, and low and behold we have another problem to add.
As CBT is a new learning skill then homework is a must – practising new ways of thinking and acting are paramount to successfully amending maladaptive thinking habits.
CBT will also help you recognise the “triggers” that set off your unhelpful thinking, therefore before slipping back into old ways of behaving, you will have access to a whole new toolbox to keep you on track until it becomes easier and easier – so practice is important! It’s like riding a bike – and nearly all of us started off with stabilisers to help us.
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