Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT for short is a type of psychotherapy that helps you change negative thought patterns and/or behaviours, it has been proven effective in helping treat a wide range of mental and emotional health issues. CBT helps you challenge any negative thoughts or behaviours and practise self-help techniques which are designed to help you gain a healthier and more positive mindset.
I have mentioned before that I had CBT and it was the therapy that changed me for the better, after being in and out of counselling a few times prior to having CBT, I honestly thought I was broken beyond repair because no one seemed to be able to help me. I had my mental breakdown back in May 2017 which led me to accept the fact that I needed help and I actually wanted to get help this time. I booked in for an appointment with my GP and I knew I would be going back to counselling which I wasn’t thrilled about as I had lost faith in the whole system so I just thought, if it hasn’t benefitted me in the past then surely it will just be the same now right?
CBT is different from your usual type of counselling as it can help change the way you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour) and these changes can result in you feeling better. CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on the here and now, which is why it is useful for those who have suffered past traumas as it helps us understand how our pasts have influenced our present lives. It’s a therapy that focuses on improving your mental well-being right now.
So for example, someone with depression might have trouble waking up and getting out of bed in the morning. Their first thoughts when they wake up could be thoughts such as ‘There is no point’ or ‘I am a failure’. Thoughts like this can then lead us to feeling down and/or tired which fuels the depression. Thoughts like this can also trigger behaviours such as staying in bed, pulling the quilt over our heads and avoiding the outside world. All of this increases their negative thoughts which throws them deeper into the hole of depression. It’s a vicious cycle.
Now lets take someone with anxiety. Their thoughts might be ‘Something terrible is going to happen’ or ‘I am in danger’. Thoughts similar to this can lead to feelings of increased anxiety, fear or any physical sensations of anxiety (racing heart, sweating, dizziness etc). This can also trigger behaviours such as fleeing, avoidance or trying to cope as though everything was normal.
CBT helps you break down these types of vicious cycles so you are able to see clearly where improvements need to be made. It is often described as guided self-help as it aims to get you to a point where you can ‘do it yourself’ and work out your own way of tackling your problems.
CBT was honestly the best thing that ever happened to me. My mental, emotional and physical health has never been better. Looking back now I don’t think I truly made the most of my sessions but I’ve learnt a lot from it which still helps me now. I sometimes considering going back for CBT. A while ago I was having a conversation with my friend E about our therapy experiences and thoughts. I mentioned that I wished I had opened up more about some subjects, she replied to me,
‘It’s all about what you can handle opening up about at the time and stuff. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, I don’t think. Maybe at some point you could go back and speak about it, but it’s completely your call but don’t think just bc you’ve finished it once that there’s anything wrong with going back in the future’.
Word for word and it’s all true. One of the benefits of counselling is once you’ve finished your sessions you’re always growing. You’re always learning more and more about yourself. Once I had finished I thought I wouldn’t need therapy again but it’s not until the last year or so I have been considering going back for more as I know I didn’t open up fully and I even knew that at the time.
Don’t think that just because you’ve finished therapy once you can’t go back for more because you can. One of the most important components of maintaining your mental health is not putting pressure on yourself. It’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes we need a bit more guidance every now and again.
Sending my love,
Tomorrows article for Mental Health May will be What Is PTSD?