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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

About Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT posits that our cognitions (thoughts), behaviours and emotions are all linked together. Unfortunately, we don’t have direct control over our emotions. If anyone has ever given you the advice “Just don’t worry about it!” then you know that trying to just change an emotion is a difficult feat. Fortunately, we do have control over our thoughts and behaviours. By utilizing CBT coping strategies, we can shift and change our thoughts and behaviours in order to impact how we feel.

 

Behavioural management techniques run a very wide range. We are often engaging in behaviours that are not improving our mental health, so CBT looks to identify ineffective patterns of behaviour and replace them with behaviours that are clinically proven to help us feel better. Some examples of behavioural changes are:

  • practicing meditation
  • boundary setting
  • gaining improved work-life balance
  • engaging in physical movement
  • engaging in hobbies
  • increasing our social connectivity
  • spending more time in nature
  • logging thoughts
  • decreasing avoidance behaviours

Decreasing avoidance behaviours can be a significant piece of work for many people. When we feel worried, distressed or anxious about something, we quickly learn that if we avoid the trigger, we don’t have to feel those ways. For example, if I avoid public speaking then I don’t have to worry about it. Avoidance is a perfect short-term solution to emotion management. However, as a long-term solution, it’s the pits. When we avoid, we don’t get to have experiences that may be in-line with our goals and values. Additionally, avoidance maintains difficult emotions. Usually, whatever we are avoiding is not as bad in reality as it is in our thoughts. So, if we engage in something we want to avoid, we will likely gain the evidence that it wasn’t so bad and next time we try it out it will be easier.

 

Managing Thoughts: Techniques in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Mental Health

 

Managing thoughts is also possible and helpful to our mental health. CBT states that the way we perceive a situation is more closely connected to our reaction than the reality of the situation itself. Therefore, we shouldn’t always listen to our thoughts! There are two main themes of thought management techniques: distraction and thought replacement:

  • Distracting away from our ineffective thought patterns is beneficial to our mental health. The less time we spend ruminating in thoughts that make us feel anxious, sad or self-critical, the better.
  • Thought replacement involves identifying ineffective patterns in thinking and replacing them with effective patterns to help us feel better. For example, if a common thought is “I’m so stupid, why do I always do things like that?!” you can learn to replace this thought with “I am doing my best and I am enough.” This type of cognitive work involves thinking through the evidence that does and does not support your original ineffective thought and using that information to come up with a replacement thought that resonates for you.