Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Our beliefs about ourselves and the world are central to our personal identity. We received them at a very young age and they help us make sense of and contain what can be a challenging internal and external world.
On the other hand, those very beliefs can be one-sided and thus limiting and excluding other possibilities. They can also be out of date. Beliefs we absorbed long ago can need updating. Who we are now has changed over the years but our beliefs can remain the same and keep us locked in a time and pattern that no longer suits us.
In particular, the beliefs about ourselves are the most emotionally important to us and so we can actively resist changing them. As a result, our behaviour stagnates as we try to maintain an old identity and no new possibilities are allowed in our lives.
Our beliefs will be reflected in our thoughts as we explore them in a session. Our thoughts will reflect certain themes and, as we identify them, we begin to trace the core beliefs or underlying assumptions that are outside of our conscious awareness but still drive us. We begin to see how these form our world and how they make us feel.
We then look at how our behaviour maintains this world view and begin to ask the question 'how can I do this differently'? By acting differently from the inside, we begin to get new feedback from the outside and our world changes.
Outside the session, we may conduct behaviour experiments, developed and agreed between us, where we practice trying to act in a different and new way. We can keep track of our progress by maintaining a 'thought diary'. This makes us more familiar with our thoughts, the themes in them and how they change as our behaviour changes.
What CBT is…and is not…
CBT is designed to look at quite specific target areas such as, for example, an anxiety-based phobia or mild feelings of depression. We thus set up a time-limited number of sessions, to be agreed mutually.
CBT is not a 'magic bullet' or quick-fix solution to all problems. If the roots of our issues are deep and life-long or the trauma is severe I would recommend engagement with psychotherapy/counselling as this form of therapy reaches to the roots of problems.
A Tibetan saying illustrates this: ‘When a line is drawn on water it is easy to disperse. When it is drawn in sand it takes a little longer to be washed away. When the line is drawn in rock it takes ever longer to remove.’
In a paragraph…
CBT is a time-limited form of psychotherapy that shows us how our thoughts and behaviour influence how we feel and visa versa. Our thoughts and behaviour can keep us locked in negative patterns and feelings that do not allow us to live as fully as we would like. In a session we examine this in the context of our life to help unlock and allow new ways of thinking and acting. This naturally opens new dimensions to our lives.