Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a form of evidence-based psychotherapy that emphasises the importance of ‘thinking’ in how we feel and what we do. Simply put, the cognitive – the thinking part of our experience – very much affects the behavioural – the action part of our experience. Indeed there is a causal relationship between our thinking and our feelings and behaviours. It is possible, in a practical and constructive way, to change the way we think in order to feel and behave more comfortably and acceptably, even if the situation has not changed.
CBT has an educational focus. CBT therapists focus on teaching self-counselling skills. When people understand what the thought processes are that are leading to their current situation, they are in a better position to effectively control them. Understanding how and why they are behaving a certain way means they can begin to effect change and progressively have an impact on their own growth and psychological health.
How Does it Work?
People who are depressed, anxious, or struggling with a variety of life issues may have thinking patterns that are distorted. CBT promotes understanding of how a person’s reactions play a part in how they experience and deal with life. This understanding can be used to develop new ways of coping. It can strengthen self-esteem and ways of dealing with feelings such as despair, shame or helplessness. CBT helps people identify where their thoughts and actions may be self-defeating, and then to replace these with more self-determining thoughts and responses. CBT encourages people to explore and test ways of improving their quality of life by becoming more responsible for their own mental and physical health, learning to improve relationships, manage stress, and develop personal skills.
While CBT is a relatively new form of therapy, early philosophers such as Socrates and Epictetus first documented principles on which it is based, centuries ago. Epictetus said “It is not the things of this world that hurt us but what we think about them.” In other words, we can have a powerful effect on our own lives by learning to understand and control our thinking patterns.
The application of mindfulness concepts in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy started in 1970 when Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn, to teach patients with chronic medical conditions how to live fuller, healthier more adaptive lives and to cope with stress, pain and illness. Mindfulness is defined as moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness. For those of us who meditate, this definition sounds familiar, and indeed a theme that is found throughout many of the Eastern philosophies.
The practice of mindfulness begins with considering the following:
Anxiety, tension, and stress arise from worrying about the future. Similarly, guilt, regret, resentment, sadness, and bitterness arise from focusing on the past.
Mindfulness strategies combined with CBT provide a powerful therapeutic tool that enables us to reside fully in the present and to live our lives in a satisfying and growthful way.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an effective form of treatment for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and panic disorders, agoraphobia, eating disorders, and personality disorders.
To contact Diana:
Cottesloe Counselling Centre
11 Brixton Street
Cottesloe Western Australia 6011
Its allright.org, 2004
Chronic Pain Group, Coralie Wales, 2004
Cognitive Psychology, Best, 1986
Penguin Dictionary of Psychology,Reber, 2001
A Manual of Mental Health Care in General Practice, John Davies, 2000
See also: Clinical Supervision