If your doctor has suggested CBT as a possible therapy for your condition, you’ll probably be stuck on a waiting list for many months with no sign of getting treatment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be working on it yourself in your own time. CBT can help with many conditions, from OCD to PTSD this type of therapy can help you get back on your feet emotionally and you don’t need a therapist to do it for you (although it helps). CBT is mostly done by self-motivation, but having a therapist to guide you can be a big help if the option is available to you!
According to BABCP (www.babcp.com) Cognitive Behavioural Therapies are a range of talking therapies based on the theory that thoughts, feelings, what we do and how our body feels are all connected. Therefore if we change one of these we can alter the others. When feeling stressed or worried we often fall into patterns of negative thinking which worsens how we feel overall. CBT can help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better.
What Conditions Can CBT Help?
- Anxiety Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- FND (Functional Neurological Disorder)
- Chronic Pain
This is a short list, and CBT probably helps with much more (I am in no way a professional and these are just my personal suggestions). There are many different techniques for successful CBT, so first I’ll break it down between cognitive and behavioural.
- Identifying your thought patterns
- Determining if your thoughts are accurate
- Learning how your thoughts affect your feelings and behaviours
- Replacing negative or biased thoughts with more positive ones
- Plan how to make the best use of your time
- Breaking down large and scary tasks in to smaller, less intimidating ones
- Face your fears slowly until they are no longer fears
- Seeing how your actions affect your thoughts and emotions
- Make sure you do things you enjoy and make you feel accomplished
A lot of these seem really simple, and they are, but a lot of work has to go in to them in order for them to take any affect on your overall state. You can’t just do it for one day and call it quits because it didn’t work. CBT takes a lot of hard work and dedication to making yourself better. Let’s look at things in a bit more detail.
Change Your Perspective
CBT focusses on turning the negative and unpleasant thoughts in to more positive ones. You can do this using a technique called cognitive restructuring. So whenever you feel anxious, depressed or have very negative thoughts think about what might be making you feel that way. Try to pinpoint any recurring negative thoughts or memories that are causing you distress and make a list of them. This will help you identify the issues and give you insight on how these thoughts trigger you and help you start your journey to making them positive.
This will take time, you won’t wake up one day and be better having done no work. If it doesn’t work the first time then keep trying until it does. A lot of CBT is persistence and motivation to get better. Reward the small victories just as much as the big ones. Progress isn’t linear and some weeks will be better than others, but any progress is good progress so focus on that instead of “this was a bad week”.
Balance Your Thoughts
A lot of mental health struggles involve irrational thoughts about things, for example if you’re too scared to be in crowds and normally avoid them then you probably won’t want to go to the concert that your favourite artist is putting on because you’ll just be thinking about the crowds. Take a step back, put things in to perspective and remember that controlled crowds aren’t the same as crowds on the streets. The belief that if you’re in a crowd something bad will happen reinforces your negative thoughts. Try to balance your thoughts and enjoy life instead of fearing it. Realistic thinking is more productive than irrational thinking.
One of the important things in CBT is identifying problems and setting goals to achieve. This not only gives you a sense of achievement, but also gives you more motivation to work on it all. CBT also focusses on the now rather than the past and helps you control your emotions rather than attempting to resolve past issues, keep that in mind.
Take A Breath
Calm breathing is a good technique that CBT therapists use. This teaches us to consciously slow down our breath and focus on the there and then. Counting is also often used to do the same thing. It can be easy in this world to get distracted and stressed by the small things, so sit down and take a breath or count to 10 and get back to the here and now.
Hopefully this has helped people to understand CBT better and practice it in every day life.