Self-reflection: Be your own therapist

Photo: Kathleen McCormick

How is your life going? Do you keep running into the same problems over and over again? Would you like to:

  • not second guess yourself so much
  • be good enough as you are without comparing yourself to someone else
  • stop taking things so personally
  • be able to handle situations that are difficult without thinking the worst will happen
  • refrain from blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong
  • stop feeling that you have to do things perfectly

Do you see a way out?

Getting help or helping yourself

For many years now I have subscribed to a way of dealing with problems. It is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is very simple and elegant in how it can provide you with insight into how you think and how this interacts with feelings and behaviors. CBT is problem-focused and action oriented. It can be done with the help of a therapist and there are also many excellent workbooks and interactive computer programs that people can use on their own. What I find to be really great about CBT is that it provides you with a framework that ultimately teaches you to be your own therapist. Basically it helps you to become critical of your own negative thinking and to think more realistically and constructively. It also helps you to figure out which behaviors are serving you well and which are not. It has been found to be effective in treating almost every mental health issue from depression to addiction use disorders to schizophrenia.

The basics

Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck are considered to be the fathers of cognitive behavioral models of treatment. They came up with their models independently. Albert Ellis’ model is referred to as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy while Aaron Beck’s model is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . In these blog posts I will concentrate on Aaron Beck’s model since this is the model I was trained in and use. It explains how thinking affects mood and behavior and how this cycles back again to affect thinking. We learn to challenge our negative thinking and, through practice, become able to trace our negative thoughts back to our basic beliefs about ourselves, the world and the future. We can also challenge negative beliefs by addressing the behavioral part of the problem. For example, if we believe we are too anxious to attend social events we might test this out by arranging to meet a friend at a party. We essentially set up an experiment to prove ourselves wrong and gradually this belief begins to change.

Where do you start?

Once the basic model is understood you can start to work on your thinking and behavior in order to improve how you feel. You can learn more about this process at the following websites which I highly recommend:

Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

http://www.beckinstitute.org/what-is-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/

Dr. David Burns’ website, Feeling Good:
http://feelinggood.com/

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