Cognition is so important in terms of mental health. It is the whole basis of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). The belief in CBT is that your life experiences consist of five components; environment (past and present), thoughts, moods, behaviours and physical reactions. These components are all interconnected and a change in one can influence the others. Although adjustments in all five areas are probably needed to improve mental health, CBT puts the emphasis on your thoughts. Thinking patterns are thought to be most important when trying to make lasting positive changes in your life. A change in thought patterns from the usual negative to more positive and constructive can cause similar changes in the other components.
Of course, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your negative thoughts are automatic. You have to actively identify them and then use a strategy to combat them. I like to use logic. What are the facts? What information do I have to support my thoughts? What is the proof? I use previous experiences too. What has happened in similar situation? How did I cope? What have I learned that will help me this time? You have to work at it before it becomes natural. CBT has really helped me manage anxiety and perfectionism.
Then, there is depression. My issue is self-loathing. I hate the way I look, I’m not successful, I am inadequate. These are my thoughts. I know they are negative and I know I need to combat them. There is nothing wrong with the way I look. I get compliments, no one calls me ugly. I am successful. I am a Ph.D. candidate, that can’t be a failure. I am adequate. I am a good person, I work hard, I try to lead a balanced life. That is adequate. I have re-framed my negative thoughts into more positive ones. I realize my self-loathing is irrational and there are no flaws in my logic, so why do I feel worse?
The whole thing creates a conflict in my head. I know my thoughts are irrational, but logic is not enough to change the way I feel. It seems like I am lying to myself. Not only that, but I am a failure because I can’t get CBT to work for me. I gave up on therapy for a while because of this. Only after doing my own research and talking to the mental health community online did I figure out there were other forms of therapy I hadn’t tried. I guess CBT is either the front line in terms of talk therapy or it was for my specific case. All the clinicians I worked with wanted to go in that direction.
Here is a list of some of the other options.
- Psychoanalysis – This was developed by everyone’s favourite psychologist, Freud (note the sarcasm here) and is where the whole lying on the couch thing came from. It is intense, several sessions a week are required. It focuses on bring unconscious thoughts and behaviours to the surface.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – This one examines the relationships in your life. There is a focus on communication and may involve role playing with the therapist.
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) – This is centered around the discussion of opposing views and work on how to balance the two extremes. There are usually individual and group sessions. This form of therapy is often recommended for Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Mindfulness-based Therapy – It is focused on talking and mediation. Its purpose is to reduce stress and prevent a relapse in depression
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This method stimulates the brain through eye movements intending to make distressing memories less intense.
- Life Coaching – The focus is on hopes and ambitions. It uses empowering and motivational methods to reach goals and make changes in life.
- Arts-based Therapies – Involves expression through various art forms, visual arts being the most common. The aim is to help you release emotions and understand yourself better.
- Bibliotherapy – The use of self-help books.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – Uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to increase psychological flexibility.
- Hypnotherapy – Uses hypnosis to modify behaviour, emotional content and attitude.
- Somatic Psychology – Focuses on the link between mind and body. It teaches you to become more aware of the physical body and how the mind interacts with it.
- Humanistic Therapy – The focus is on the person as a whole. It explores your relationship with different parts of yourself (emotions, behaviours, mind, body, etc.).
- Existential Therapy – It is a holistic therapy that considers depression the result of how you make sense of yourself and the world around you.
- Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) – This is usually recommended for those that have high levels of shame and self-criticism. It has Buddhist and evolutionary elements.
My psychiatrist recommended I try DBT next. I was supposed to start in January. In the mean time I have been art journaling and I have a couple self-help books on ACT and mindfulness.
Did you know there were so many different types of talk therapy? Do you have experience with any of these therapies? What do you think is the best approach? Is medication the more important element?