COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one of the most well known and researched treatment approaches. CBT aims to help individuals become aware of inaccurate or unhelpful thinking styles and emotional responses, so they can view challenging situations more clearly, and respond to them in a more effective way. CBT has a greater focus on the present moment, is quite practical, and provides many opportunities for home tasks.
If you are interested in learning more about CBT or doing a self-help course, please visit the Centre for Clinical Interventions or This Way Up for more information.
Regardless of the treatment approach, our sessions together will always start with a formulation. You can think of this as a map of all the different elements that lead to, make up, and maintain your difficulties. Within CBT it will usually be considered in the following format: the situation or trigger > which lead to automatic thoughts or core beliefs > which can result in different emotions or physical sensations > which are followed by different behaviours or actions > all of which produces a positive or negative outcome. For example, an individual with social anxiety may think "everyone will judge me if I say something stupid" at a party. This may make them feel stressed and anxious, which can lead to fidgeting, looking around the room, and hyper-focusing on their own thoughts and words. The outcome of this process may be that the person appears disengaged during conversations, and that they continue to feel uneasy.
During sessions, we’ll work to understand the cognitive elements influencing this process. This may be cognitive evaluation or core belief work. Cognitive evaluation is the process of monitoring your automatic thoughts, the associated emotions and physical sensations, and identifying any factual evidence that supports the thought and refutes the thought. You then come up with a more balanced thought (considering all evidence available), or, a more helpful thought to help you live the life you want, and re-rate how this makes you feel.
At a deeper level, core belief work looks at your underlying core beliefs and assumptions you're developed about yourself, other people, and the world, to understand how this shapes your thoughts and behaviours. After identifying your core beliefs with your psychologist, you might come up with a list of the most significant memories that led to the development of these beliefs and start to unpack and reframe these in a more accurate and helpful way.
Once we've gone through the process of understanding the problem and re-framing the cognitive components, we'll put the cognitions to the test and ask you to enter situations that you may have previously avoided or endured with a lot of anxiety. This can be both a daunting and exciting step, and we won't force you to do anything you aren't ready for. But, it's here that real change happens. Using our example above, we may ask this person to socialise with people, being mindful of the conversation, rather than their own thoughts and others' reactions. Another example may be positive activity scheduling to increase mood and break a depression cycle, and being around animals in the case of animal phobia.