Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy: an overview
An introduction to mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is"a system of psychotherapy that attempts to reduce excessive emotional reactions and self-defeating behaviour by modifying the faulty or erroneous thinking and maladaptive beliefs that underlie these reactions".
Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy, or MCBT, integrates the practice of Mindfulness with the principles of CBT. Comprehensive information can be found on the MCBT website and the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice.
What is MCBT?
In brief, MCBT is based on the idea that in order to recognise and modify unhelpful thoughts. We have to understand and have some control over the processes in our mind which produce them; as Einstein said, “we cannot change a problem with the means that created it”.
While mindfulness is rooted in many spiritual disciplines, notably Buddhism, the mindfulness practice can be effectively learned and applied in its own right without involvement in any religion.
In CBT we are encouraging clients and patients to become aware of their thoughts, to concentrate on their thinking patterns so that they can begin to learn how to take control of the unhelpful thoughts and eventually introduce more helpful thoughts into their minds. But how can this happen if the mind is continually distracted? How can the monkey settle on one particular piece of fruit if he is being continually seduced away by other more juicy fruits?
Mindfulness practice proposes that we can take control over how our own mind works by actually practising looking at our thoughts with growing interest and acceptance; understanding how our mind works, how thoughts are created from each other, the predominance of certain thought trends or foci.
How can it help?
Ultimately, after regular practice, perhaps 20 minutes a day for a few months, it becomes possible to create more and more of a ‘choice’ about whether we want to follow a particular thought pattern or thought emphasis.
We learn to observe what is actually happening in our mind, to accept in a spirit of kindness towards ourselves that this is what is happening, this is the actual state of our mind, then begin to work positively with our distractions as we gain more and more choice and control over what happens in our minds.
For someone working in CBT, practising mindfulness will help them know their mind and how their unhelpful thoughts are actually being created. They will not only be able to change the unhelpful thoughts, but also change the very process that produces the thoughts in the first place. This is like a doctor who looks at someone‘s whole way of life in order to understand the root of why their knee is sore; rather than just treating the sore knee in isolation.
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About Barry Hill
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