Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is just one of the forms of therapy available here at the Recover Clinic. Here’s Ruth to tell you about her experience with it…
Back in 2014 my anxiety and depression went sky high. I barely left the house, didn’t have a job and my life was a mess. My mental health affected my whole life and made it impossible to do anything. However, one day a friend of mine talked me into actually getting professional help.
It was a long time coming and needed to be said. When you are that far inside the dark hole, it is difficult to see any way out. You accept all the hardships as your reality and something unchangeable. I felt like I was trapped and there was no way out no matter what was done. Are you feeling a similar way? Do you feel like your life is terrible and could never get better? Is it difficult for you to think positively about anything?
I thought I was past hope too but luckily I still decided to go to the doctors with my friend by my side. My doctor gave me a number to call whilst I was there and I soon had my first session booked in. My mental health was soon analysed and it was determined that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) was my best bet when it came to combating my demons. It could be the best method for you too. Therefore, I’m here to share my personal experience with CBT for anyone worried about trying it in order to ease your mind and debunk any false information.
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is done on a 1-1 basis and is talking-based therapy. It can change the way that you think and behave in certain situations. Especially situations that may trigger anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. It may sound scary and intense when you first hear the name but it’s not.
“CBT helps change patterns of negative thought and can be a way for you to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts. In this way, you break vicious cycles of negative thinking because when you change how you think, you change how you feel” – the Recover Clinic
My therapist was very sweet, understanding, and put up with my one-word answers for everything in the first session. They know talking about trauma will take time. Just do and talk about what you are comfortable with. The right words will come in time and there is nothing better than having that weight released from your shoulders.
The Best Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques
If you are picturing having to lie on a sofa and talk about your hardships then think again. CBT has a lot of layers on top of just talking. It is very deep-rooted and takes a lot of work and cooperation on your part. However, if you are willing to put in the work both inside and outside to train your brain to think differently of the therapy room then it is worth every second.
You talk/write about a situation that happened during the week, how it made you feel, any alternative thoughts you had, and what was the actual outcome of the situation. The point of the exercise is to push your brain to jump straight to the positive alternative as opposed to always expecting the worst. A very simple yet effective strategy that is absolutely nothing to worry about. Not scary at all, right? I would take a few sheets from my sessions home. Just in case my mind needs a little bit of a reminder one day in the future or I still needed to work on it.
“CBT is about getting you to recognise that you often catastrophise about possible outcomes which creates anxiety. Looking at the actual outcomes of events allows you to recognise that often your worst fears aren’t realised” – the Recover Clinic
This technique is much more intense but your therapist will slowly but surely expose you to the things that may trigger any anxiety or fears. They guide you through how to cope with the situation in the moment and make sure that you do these things in small parts instead of throwing you straight into the deep end. I would then talk about my experience facing the situation in my next session – about how I got on, how I felt, whether using techniques that I have learnt in the sessions worked and more. From personal experience, they do not mind if you don’t manage to complete the task. You need to work at the pace in which you are comfortable with and your therapist will know this. No worries.
NB: Exposure therapy is a form of CBT but is run as separate sessions at the Recover Clinic.
You will be taught a few breathing exercises in order to calm yourself when in the middle of a stressful situation. They are all simple and easy enough to remember. Your therapist will give you tasks to practise these exercises throughout the weeks until you get into a habit of using them. You can practise them in your room at first and move on to practising them in the middle of a stressful situation to see how much you benefit from it. This was one of the first methods that they went through with me in my CBT sessions and I still use them when anxiety hits hard.
“Mindfulness gives you space to pause and think about other choices and outcomes” – the Recover Clinic
How CBT Changed My Life
Without the life-changing techniques used in CBT, my mind would still be working overtime to see and expect the worse out of every situation. Back then, a close friend wouldn’t reply to my text and I would have a mental breakdown assuming that I had upset them or they were ghosting me. Now, my mind automatically thinks “they must be busy” and moves on.
The lack of breakdowns and panic attacks in my life since then has changed my life for the better. Getting these every single day, even over little things, can get incredibly exhausting and draining. Although, in some situations, it is still fairly difficult to just push the anxiety aside. However, I now know how to cope better in the middle of it and to get rid of the anxious feelings faster or even before they start by using some of the breathing techniques.
It is worth agreeing to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy if you are willing to put in the work. Go to all your sessions, cooperate with your therapist, actually complete all homework given and you will be coping much better in no time. There is hope for everyone and this may just be your first step towards the way out. Granted, CBT may not work for everybody but give it a go. You may benefit just as much as I did.
Written by Ruth Shapter
Ruth Shapter is a Mental Health Blogger (colourfulhope.co.uk) and Freelance Writer (ruthshapterwrites.com). She crafts her writing from personal experience and research in order to spread awareness about the reality of Mental Health.
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