Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Really About Changing Your Thoughts

The mind I love must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody’s fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.  ~Katherine Mansfield

1.  From  Veronica Pamoukaghlian (Brain Blogger):  “The Cognitive Behavioral Miracle-Controlling your Emotions”:

Most people who have never experienced a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session, or at least read about it, tend to share the notion that what psychologists do is pretty much listen to your problems, sometimes offer advice and different points of view, and make you think about your feelings, actions, and emotions. In this popular view of therapy, the patient (or client) is a rather passive subject, and the therapist is the one doing the work. Personally, I don’t think there has been a more profound revolution in the study of human psychologyas the cognitive behavioral revolution.

I first became fascinated with CBT while translating and editing some course materials for the director of the CBT Institute in Ireland, Sylvia Buet. I then discovered that when one mentions behavioral, most people would think of Pavlov-style basic stimuli-response training; while CBT was in reality much more complex. Buet in particular teaches her CBT students to ask clients to sign a contract at the beginning of therapy, which binds them to work to solve their own problems. Esteban Mello, the director of the CBT Institute in Uruguay, consistently uses half of each session to explain the tasks the consulting individual will be expected to perform before their next appointment. In this scenarios, the stereotypical idea of a person who goes to therapy to “take a load off” every week becomes completely obsolete.

In a nutshell

The principles of CBT are based on a very simple idea: we feel according to what we think, in other words, our thoughts and cognitive constructions are at the root of our emotions and behavior patterns. CBT is based on three fundamental propositions:

  1. Cognitive activity affects behavior;
  2. Cognitive activity may be monitored and altered; and
  3. Desired behavior change may be effected through cognitive change.

2.  From Jennifer Ryan (I Choose Change): “Twisted Thinking: How it’s Rally Messing Things Up”:

As far as I’m concerned, cognitive therapy is the schiznit of all therapies. For the “therapist-seeking”  individual, this may not mean much. But perhaps it should – and I don’t use that term lightly (should).This is a term we in the Cognitive Therapy world term as shoulding all over yourself.

Cognitive therapy says this: What you feel and do is directly affected by what you think and believe.

When you change what you think and believe, you ultimately change what you feel and do.And, isn’t that the reason ALL people seek out therapy or life coaching of some sort? 100% of my clients seek outside assistance because they’ve grown incredibly tired of feeling something they don’t want to feel (like anxious, fearful, angry, or depressed) and doing things they don’t want to do (like drinking too much, yelling at their kids, or sleeping the day away).

For as long as I’ve been in private practice, I’ve had a sheet posted on my website, accessible to all entitled “Train Your Therapist.” While searching for a therapist, this isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” gig. After all, you’re looking for a therapist that will help you change your LIFE. This *is* a tall order, isn’t it? So the search is one that mustn’t be taken lightly!

So, what is the nitty-gritty of cognitive therapy and why do I boast its name so proudly?

Cognitive therapy is about changing twisted thinking.There are common errors we make on a regular basis that get us in to trouble in conversations with others.Because every one of us perceives differently, we tend to get hung up on “the truth.” The truth is essentially, YOUR truth and MY truth.We have different perceptions.

3.  From John-Folk Williams (Storied Mind): “Starting on a Path toward Acceptance”:

The promise as well as the difficulty of this process of learning became clear to me when I started watching the TV series, Obsessed. I’ve described this before, but it’s well worth coming back to. Each episode captures the dramatic moments of change as people with obsessive compulsive disorder work with therapists to confront their worst fears.

There couldn’t be more powerful examples of lives dominated by avoidance. OCD itself is a set of detailed actions to wall out the panic that seems to follow inevitably from triggering events. The story of one woman had an especially powerful effect on me.

She had developed severe OCD after several traumatic events that had culminated in the death of her father in a terrible freeway accident. She kept the torn and bloodied clothing he’d been wearing at his death and periodically felt compelled to wear the shredded garments. Driving provoked deep anxiety, and the thought of using the freeway set off panic. These were only the worst of many obsessive behaviors that had drastically limited her life.

A cognitive behavioral therapist taught her cognitive skills to cope with the ideas and feelings at the heart of her problem. His main concern was to use that training as preparation for guiding her to do the things she most feared. She needed to expose herself to dreaded situations in order to defuse and accept as part of normal living.

After she learned to handle smaller behavior changes, she had to confront her worst nightmare and drive through the freeway section where her father had died. Despite her resistance and intense anxiety, she passed the spot where her father’s car crashed. She gradually relaxed as she realized she had done it and survived. There was no nightmare.

Photo credit.

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