I became a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist primarily because I wanted to understand myself better. I imagined that Cognitive behavioural therapy would explain all the prominent questions I had about mental health and human behaviour.
I have learned a lot through qualifying as a counsellor but I realised my expectations were unrealistic. There are many grey areas in Psychology and still a lot remains unknown and unexplored. For instance, experts still aren’t sure why we dream and there is so much about the brain that we still need to uncover.
Having said that, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has helped me to cope better with depression, anxiety and stress. I am not immune to life’s challenges but I have strategies to interrupt the ‘crisis’ in my head.
Don’t automatically believe your thoughts
I have learned that my thoughts aren’t always accurate and they are generally a reflection of my insecurities and fears. For instance, when I worry about my health, I am far more focused on health issues – I am more aware and this cognitive bias means I am hypervigilant for all things about health. Our thoughts and insecurities hone in on what we are afraid of and sometimes complicate the situation.
Errors in thinking
We begin to catastrophise (imagine the worst), mind read (imagine we know what others are thinking – especially where it concerns us), predicting the future, only focusing on what is bad etc These are known as errors in thinking. A good way to couneract these thoughts is to ask yourself where the evidence for that thought. More often than not – there will be no direct evidence. Don’t always believe what you think!
I also became a Cognitive behavioural therapist because I like helping others. It gives me a sense of purpose. I like trying to understand people and their motivations. I also enjoy statistics, looking for patterns.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy examines your thoughts and teaches you to challenge thoughts rather than automatically accepting them as real. Thoughts lead to emotions and emotions influence our behaviour. To get out of stuck unhelpful patterns, we need to alter our unhelpful negative thinking. We can also alter our behaviour. Behaviour also affects thinking. For example, if you had social anxiety you may think – I will embarrass myself (thought) and that will make me anxious (emotion) and so I think I just won’t go (behaviour).
If you forced yourself to go (behaviour) you may find that it wasn’t that bad (Anticipation is usually far worse than the reality) and your thinking might be “That wasn’t so bad”. You have effectively ‘reality tested’ your thinking and when you do, the usual result is that it changes our thinking – excellent stuff!
Of course, theory and application can be quite different and it isn’t always obvious how we should react to certain dilemmas and problems. Life is a series of challenges and negotiations. Our mental resilience gets tested regularly. When you are struggling, give yourself credit for getting through the day. Go on, give yourself a big pat on the back. Try to be philosophical remember that you are growing and testing your limits when you are experiencing tough times. There is such a thing as “post traumatic growth” – yep, struggles help you figure yourself out. Be proud of yourself.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you with self sabotage, low self esteem, relationship problems, anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. If you need help, get in touch.
I offer Skype sessions worldwide.