The MHD Way – CBT

 

CBT rs

It is no secret that here at Mind Health Development we favour a methodology based on CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy. It might also come as no surprise that we are probably in favour of a big ‘B’ in our CBT as behavioural methods are some of our favourite approaches. But we do enjoy the use of other philosophies that gel well with our foundation principles.

In this series we will highlight exactly what are our core methodologies, sources of inspiration, philosophies and origins.

In today’s instalment we will share with you exactly what is this thing we call ‘CBT’, what are its strengths and weaknesses and we will try to explode some of the common myths and misconceptions.

In subsequent weeks we will examine amongst other things Stoic philosophy and the great works that still exist alongside the great Stoics throughout the ages. We will identify some of our favourite self-help authors such as Stephen Covey and of course we will discuss our own works and musings. Hopefully you will gain a clear understanding of why we operate the way we do and this understanding will encourage you to study further and develop your own philosophy for great emotional health and productivity.

 

CBT

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So, what is this thing we call ‘cognitive and behavioural therapy’?

CBT is a talking therapy. Whilst it is seen by many as being a relatively new thing and much younger than other psychotherapies such as psychoanalysis, this isn’t necessarily an accurate belief.

Behavioural approaches to psychological issues have been on the radar for well over a century now and famous psychologists have long dominated the research whilst behavioural approaches with specific therapeutic aims were developed as long ago as the second world war.

 

Behaviour

As early as 1913, the psychologist John Watson was writing about behaviour and behaviourism as a branch of psychology and prior to this Ivan Pavlov was experimenting with the behaviour of dogs and their response to stimuli and association – Changing the dynamics could force a response and what was once a neutral stimulus could eventually (actually, sometimes quite quickly) become an active stimulus.

Other psychologists, some now famous, developed our understanding of the field with some very interesting experiments.

Burrhus Skinner utilised a box in which he originally placed a hungry rat. At first the rat did very little but as it became more accustomed to its new environment, it began to explore. A lever was present in the box which the rat soon learned facilitated feeding. After a while, the rat would press the lever as soon as it was placed in the box with no exploration. The rat was now fully conditioned. We call this ‘operant conditioning’.

Following up on this experiment, Skinner subjected the rat to a constant electric shock which was alleviated by pressing the lever. This we refer to now as ‘negative conditioning’.

The world of behaviourism was advancing at a rate of knots.

In therapy, people will frequently need to experiment with what makes them feel a certain way. Reading this you might think this is crazy but think yourself of times when you know you have done something you know will make you feel worse and yet have done it anyway such as drinking enough to get drunk and hungover or you have left revising for an exam until the last minute.

Motivation

Behavioural techniques will also work on the levels of motivation a person feels. Let us take depression for instance. People experiencing very low moods will almost always feel low levels of motivation. Experimenting with short duration and simple activities with high levels of pleasure or achievement can trigger responses which result in greater levels of motivation and subsequent mood elevation. In CBT we often refer to Behavioural Activation or Activity Scheduling.

 

Cognitive

Cognitive approaches are all about that tricky thing we do too much of – Thinking!

A thought tends to precede every emotion so understanding this relationship and how to deconstruct our thoughts and thinking patterns can be extremely useful. It has long been recognised by therapists that people the world over are plagued by certain negative thinking patterns. These might include negative and automatic thoughts, negative introspective thinking, unhelpful attached meanings to thoughts and events and patterns of cognitive biases or thinking errors.

I frequently see people in my own office who, when exposed to these topics for the first time exclaim they experience all of the above. Many of us do and still cope just fine. But learning about these and finding ways of besting them can open up a whole new world of clarity of thought, reduced stress, fewer anxieties and better moods.

 

The Big Names

It would be remiss of us not to mention a couple of big names when discussing CBT and two of the biggest are Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis.

Ellis developed a therapy we now call Rational Emotive Therapy which will feature in a subsequent article in this series. Aaron Beck and the Beck Institute are the Godfathers of CBT. Beck (1967) posited the three mechanisms responsible for depression. He suggested that a negative view of the world, self and the future mixed with negative schemas or beliefs about themselves and those cognitive distortions mentioned above create a fertile ground for the seeding of mood issues.

 

Our Approach

So, CBT is perhaps the foundation of our approach here at Mind Health Development and not just for depression. CBT has been proven time and again to have significant benefits in many psychological issues and science is always working with therapists to improve our understanding of how cognitive and behavioural approaches can help people.

 

Next Up

Next up we will look a little further at Albert Ellis’s RET and its links to CBT and why we use it as part of our approach.

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