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23 Oct

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), The Quick Fix?


When a crisis hits us in our lives we naturally want it to end as soon as possible. We may look into psychotherapy and counselling and see that it takes a bit of time. Then we see that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) takes 6 – 8 sessions and it’s an easy choice. Or we have done some psychotherapy but want to be fixed quicker so CBT is an easy choice.

We can come to CBT wanting a one-line ‘magic bullet’ phrase or piece of advice that will undo all our problems. We don’t want the answers to have to do with our behaviour, our body or our feelings, just be cognitive. Those areas are off limits. Our back story can also be off limits ie how we got into this situation. The more that is out of bounds and off limits, the more any solution will be purely partial and won’t last very long. What we are DOING is avoiding. Trying to fix only one aspect of ourselves is like putting a small boat on a big ocean, when the ocean rears up the boat gets smashed and the ocean reasserts itself. In other words, the size and power of the mind and its patterns reasserts itself.

Emotionally we can therefore come to CBT with impatience and anger, born out of desperation, but showing an underlying sense of panic and uncertainty. What we are DOING is treating ourselves and others harshly and impatiently from the panic we feel at the uncertainty we are experiencing.

Vicious Cycle

From this we move into relationships and a therapeutic relationship with a sense of ‘give me the answer, you fix me now’. What we are DOING is assuming someone else has YOUR answer. What we are telling ourselves is ‘I can’t help myself’. What we are also telling a therapist is ‘I’m looking for certainty, I can’t bear the uncertainty I’m feeling and the anxiety it brings’.

We are stuck in the vicious cycle of how we treat ourselves. CBT describes the vicious cycle as ‘What we DO follows from and serves to confirm what we believe’.

Working with ‘not knowing’

In CBT we have to become aware of what we DO first, become aware of our patterns. As we calm down we get in touch with the uncertainty and anxiety and see that we don’t know, YET. Knowing that you don’t know is the beginning of knowing and is the start of the solution. We start to give ourselves the time and space we need to look at what’s happening in us and to take a more full view rather than racing to fix one thing out of panic. As the panic itself subsides we see the same one problem differently already. We then have space to trace the roots of this panic and find the underlying assumptions and the core beliefs they sit on. Albert Ellis, one of the founding father of CBT, said: ‘We are not disturbed simply by our experiences, rather we bring our ability to disturb ourselves to our experiences.’

CBT Vs Psychotherapy

CBT is not something separate from psychotherapy. CBT’s founding principals are based on the same therapeutic principals. There is just a slightly different emphasis – the importance of DOING something to change it, behaving in new ways. When we change what we do, when we stop avoiding and stop panicing and stop treating ourselves with aggression and impatience, and see that we CAN help ourselves and what that might involve, we can begin to DO things differently.

In summary, we become aware of what we do first, then consider ‘what can I DO’ that would represent an important symbolic change in that behaviour. When we act differently we get different experiences coming back to us and our life changes.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the quick fix?

How long that takes depends on what is happening with us. Six to eight sessions may indeed be enough to get through the crisis. It may require more and it may not. It’s like drinking water, if you don’t drink enough you remain thirsty, if you drink too much, you can continue drinking but there is no point. There is a point between these two extremes that is the right ‘enough’ point for YOU. Only you can judge that point from your experience of CBT.

For a wider description of how CBT works, and to see my own availability for CBT, check out https://thomaslarkin.ie/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-dublin/

Dublin Counsellor Blog

phone: 0857283697 | email: [email protected] | ← Back to Home

23 Oct

Body Psychotherapy: Our body speaks in psychotherapy


Sometimes clients come to psychotherapy and find it hard to speak. They feel ‘if I’m not saying anything nothing is happening’. What they don’t realise is they communicate the second they come into the room. Their body tells their own story.

How we stand or sit, how we hold ourselves, where we scratch, where the tics and fidgets are, all tell the story of what happened to us, how we tried to protect ourselves and where that’s left us on the inside.

Body Pulsing

Our body is a living organism that pulses. This pulsing produces feelings and allows self-recognition. When we go through difficult experiences the startle reflex is triggered within our nervous system. This is our instinctive reflex to danger or potential threat. Our body reacts by contracting – our shoulders go up, our legs prepare to run or we freeze, our eyes sharpen. Our body comes out of this process as the danger passes and we return to the natural pulsing. Our body rebounds from this shock in some violent outburst such as crying, screaming or anger.

If the nature of the event is severe enough or on-going for long enough the startle reflex remains in place. The natural pulsing stops and the body remains braced. It becomes rigid. Our muscles then form around the startle. Our body becomes locked in defence, keeping the outside world out and the inside world in. Experiences such as deprivation, neglect, punishment and anxiety are felt bodily and result in our bodies becoming set. This setting of the body is called ‘body armour’.

Body Armour

With body armour in place we become disconnected from ourselves and our experience. Clients often speak about feeling like they are ‘in a bubble’ or have a sense of ‘floating’ or ‘unrealness’ about their lives. They are no longer in their bodies and the only place left to be is in their heads where everything is rationalised. One anxious thought chases the next and the anxiety spirals making us more and more disconnected from our bodies. Our bodies no longer speak as it is frozen and our life on the outside mirrors what is happening on the inside, we are stuck.

Body Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a process not unlike cooking. First of all our body has to thaw. If meat is cooked from frozen it doesn’t work. As we sit in body psychotherapy and trust begins to emerge, our body is able to begin to release the tension it feels, it is thawing. This is happening regardless of what is being said or not said in therapy. At the start of body psychotherapy we tend to talk for the sake of talking, out of our own discomfort, out of our own disconnection. As we settle, we begin to talk from the part of ourselves that has been frozen. As that experience is processed and heard and acknowledged by both the therapist and the client, the anxiety, anger and sadness of those experiences is felt and released. Our body is then free to return to its natural pulsing. Our body informs our mind and there is dialogue between them. We feel more connected to ourselves and the world. We can now allow our inside world out and the outside world in, fitting with the natural rhythm of life and our bodies.

For a wider description of how psychotherapy works, and to see my own availability for psychotherapy, check out https://thomaslarkin.ie/psychotherapy-counselling-dublin/

email: [email protected] | tel: 085 7283697 | © Thomas Larkin 2014