The World Health Organization has recently declared the need for action on mental health as a matter of urgent concern.
1 in 3 Canadians reportedly struggle with their mental health (Angus Reid Institute, 2022) and Statistics Canada says 1 in 3 Canadians will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime.
This is not to paint a disturbing picture, rather to help us come to terms with our reality in 2023.
Considering the ubiquity of mental health issues and its impartial affliction on people regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity, it has never been more important, to understand the various types of therapies available as respite for those suffering.
Among the various options a heavily researched one is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
If you have come across the term Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or have had it suggested to you then this post is just for you.
We’ll unravel this commonly used form of psychotherapy and how it can be beneficial for you.
What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a form of psychotherapy which has been proven to be very effective in the treatment of illness such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder etc.
It is a tried and tested method used by the most experienced psychologists and counsellors. In some cases, it has been shown to be more effective than psychiatric medications. CBT as an approach, has undergone several modifications, it is backed by science to significantly improve quality of life.
CBT is not exclusive to those who have a diagnosis of mental health disorders. The strategies developed by its founder Aaron Beck, are applicable to anyone who is invested in personal growth.
What are the principles of CBT?
Thoughts. Feelings. Actions.
The interconnectedness of these 3 foundational factors is what CBT is all about.
The theory is that our actions- be it positive or negative are governed by our thoughts and our emotions.
Let’s create a scenario. You are home after a long day and your children are causing a ruckus. Your kids are loud, they always have been. That’s not unusual at all.
Action : You shout at your kids and ask them to keep their voices down.
Background: You had a rough day, your colleague decided not to show up and you had to take on her workload as well. You are exhausted.
After effect: You feel guilt, shame, and disconnection from your kids.
Given the same scenario, let’s consider an alternate action.
Action: You see your kids enjoying a silly game, you decide to join them. You all have a great time.
Background: Earlier in the day you got a promotion.
After effect: You feel joy, love, and connection with your kids.
CBT explains that these actions are automatic on both these days. It’s hard to see the similarity in context unless you really sit down and ponder over the day’s proceedings.
This is an example of one action, made once a day. We all make hundreds of decisions and take numerous actions every day.
How many of these actions make you feel positive emotions like joy, creativity, excitement? And how many of these actions make you feel guilt, resentment, shame, and sadness?
When we are unaware of our actions or how they make us feel, ultimately a threshold is crossed. This invisible and automatic pattern continues day after day, month after month and year after year, until one fine day, this pile of unprocessed emotion engulfs your present, and you cannot, for the love of anything sacred, feel good about yourself anymore.
The American Psychological Association lists 3 core concept of CBT:
- Psychological issues could be a result of unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Psychological issues could be a result of learned behaviour patterns
- With improved coping mechanisms, those living with these issues can find relief and reduce distress.
The premise of CBT is twofold.
- You want to be aware of your own patterns so that you can better control your thoughts, emotions, and actions. You want to avoid the snowballing of negative thoughts and emotions. You want to steer clear of the negative compound effect of invisible patterns.
- You are then taught coping mechanisms to break these patterns and build new and thoughtful ones.
CBT is preferred to other methods of treatment because it produces results in fewer sessions, and it is carried out in a structured way. It may be hard to imagine thoughts/emotions can be structured but that is the genius of CBT.
How does CBT work?
CBT sessions are typically offered 1 on 1 with the therapist. You will be asked to talk about your distress, your situation and how you feel. While this might seem intimidating at first, don’t worry. Your therapist is trained to put you at ease and provide a comfortable, trusting, and absolutely confidential environment.
In general, there are 4 steps identified in the CBT process. You can anticipate that your therapist will walk you through these steps.
- Identification of distressing situations or phases in life. For example, if you’re going through a divorce or grieving the loss of a loved one. Sometimes the situation might have occurred in the distant past, your therapist will help you locate the primary source of your distress.
- Awareness about your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about this situation. Your therapist will work with you to uncover the meaning that you have given to these difficult circumstances. In other words, what is the story you have told yourself about that incident? For example, maybe you are grieving a pet that has passed. You may be feeling guilty about not taking care of it well enough. You may even believe that it’s not worth loving anything or anyone ever again since they all leave you. These beliefs when surfaced can be extremely painful to endure but your therapist will support you as you make these revelations.
- Identify negative thinking: Once you are aware of this pattern, with the help of your therapist and signs from your body you will be encouraged to determine if these thoughts contribute to your well-being.
- Modify negative thinking. Your therapist will help you replace or modify unhelpful thoughts with more helpful ones with the goal of making this a habit
You can expect to be given homework, journal prompts, and other activities to apply what was learned in the therapy session.
While CBT can seem emotionally distressing, evidence suggests all the effort pays off if you are patient and consistent with the plan. In about 5-20 sessions you can expect to see a marked improvement in your symptoms and ability to cope with what life may throw at you.
At Revere, we have our expert social worker who is a CBT practitioner. You’re in good hands!
Book an appointment now.
If you have any questions about your symptoms or treatment, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are offering a free 10-minute consultation call with our expert clinicians. Call us at (604) 566-5108
Share this article with friends or colleagues who are struggling with their mental health. They could benefit from the Clinical counseling services at Revere Physiotherapy.