C is for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

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.

must stay positive

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?

help quote

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rebecca Meyer
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 13:28:44

    Thanks for this post. I am currently in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and that’s the only type of therapy that I’ve had experience with. For me, it seems to be affective. I don’t know how I would do in the other forms of therapy.

    I do agree that the negative thoughts are hard to shake. That has been my biggest battle so far. But I feel that I have made progress because I’m aware that the thoughts I have are negative, and I’m learning how to automatically challenge them and make them more realistic. It’s not easy, but I feel like my work is paying off.


  2. Gene'O
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 15:23:36

    I’ve gotten the most good out of Mindfulness-based therapy. I’d not have gotten through grad school without it, and it helped me through a bout of PTSD about 10 years ago.


  3. Petal and Mortar
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 15:44:54

    Medication has helped at my most extreme points. I have tried a mix of therapies but found them exhausting. Then I got a life coach last year and it made a HUGE difference! I feel productive. Moving forward and achieving goals is good for me. But I still think I could do with some therapy.


  4. NotAPunkRocker
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 16:13:30

    I have had more luck with DBT than CBT, when I stick to it. I know plenty though who prefer CBT so it all is in finding what is right for you ๐Ÿ˜€


  5. Jemima Pett
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 10:34:06

    Funnily enough, my gardening pals and I were discussing this while we were digging our community vegetable plot this morning. From your list I reckon ACT might be better for me than CBT. But I reckon social gardening will do me a lot more good at present. Must add that to the benefits when we next bid for funding!


  6. Tessa
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 00:15:20

    I didn’t realize there were so many different types of talk therapy and never tried CBT.


  7. Mental Mama
    Apr 06, 2015 @ 09:04:15

    I’ve been in therapy for a loooong time. DBT was by far the best for learning to manage the symptoms of borderline. The therapist I’m working with is the same guy who was my primary for DBT but I don’t think that’s precisely what we’re doing now. At any rate, it is interesting to find out how many different flavors there are. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, you are definitely smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, and gosh darnit, people like you. ๐Ÿ˜€ (if that doesn’t trigger a memory then go out to YouTube and look up Stuart Smalley’s “I’m good enough” bit)


  8. Katie Paul
    Apr 07, 2015 @ 01:47:27

    The only therapy I’ve tried is ACT and I loved it — it helped me get through some serious trauma and grief issues. Thanks for a great post.


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