Exploring Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Earlier this week I had a medical review with my psychiatrist and care coordinator.  I was quite nervous about the appointment; this was my first review in almost a year and it felt as though there was an awful lot (too much!) to talk about.

I have been really struggling with my mental health recently.  Although I have no schizophrenic symptoms such as delusions and psychosis, my mood is very low at times and I have been having some suicidal thoughts.  I wake up each morning with severe anxiety and depression, and I struggle with the onset of panic attacks perhaps once or twice a week.

After explaining all of this to my psychiatrist in the review meeting, he was quick to mention Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and he described this as the first and most effective treatment he would recommend for my symptom profile.  I explained that I was sceptical about attempting a talking therapy when my symptoms seemed so physical, but the only other option offered to me was anti-depressants, and I am even more sceptical about those!

I asked to be referred for CBT and was told the waiting list would be around 3 months, which doesn’t seem too bad.  I went to my local library and got out a book called ‘Teach Yourself CBT’ which I hoped would serve as a good introduction to the therapy.

Actually, this isn’t my first experience of CBT.  I attended a 10 week group CBT course run by Oxfordshire Mind a few years ago.  I found that particular course largely unhelpful, but it did serve as a good introduction to the tools and methods of CBT.

As I have been reading the ‘Teach Yourself CBT’ book I have been using some of the methods from the book to challenge my negative thought patterns.  For example, yesterday, when I felt the onset of a panic attack after going for a walk in a busy park, I lay on my bed and began to evaluate why I was feeling panicky, whether it was rational, and whether I should really be feeling more calm.

As I reasoned with myself I did feel the panic symptoms ease somewhat.  This gives me confidence that the methods of CBT may actually help me with some of the difficult emotions I experience on a daily basis.  I am feeling a little more positive now about attending a one-to-one CBT course at my local hospital.  And to have a little hope, at a time like this, is a really good thing.

What is your experience of CBT?
Do you have any advice about CBT?

9 comments

    1. Dear Tarun,

      Many thanks for your comment. I’m aware of Soteria and the Hearing Voices Network. I have tried contacting Soteria here in the UK but they don’t seem to be very active at present. Thanks for the link to the article, it’s a bit too long for me to read in full but looks very interesting!

      Thanks for your advice, which I will take on board. I agree that having positive relationships could be a very good thing for me. I had an excellent experience seeing my psychotherapist for several years – totally transformed my personality and changed my life! So I know that meeting the right people at the right time can help.

      Best wishes,

      Steven

  1. Hi All,

    I found that CBT on an individual basis was much more effective than group based CBT. One reason for this is that your not bound by behavioural guidelines that apply in a group. We were discouraged from meeting each other outside the sessions, for example.

    Another approach that I found helpful was Assertiveness Training. I was surprised to learn how low my self-esteem was and this was a big factor in my lack of self-confidence, anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

    Dinos

  2. Dear Steven, I have great sympathy for you. I take anti-depressants as well as anti-psychotic tablets. Both of these have helped my mental illness considerably. My daughter has manic depression and I have a milder form of it. It was only having moved to North Wales 3 years ago that we got the help we were desperate for. Both of us had, made several suicide attempts in the past with no effective ongoing help from doctors. Wales is the place to be for mental illness. We both have the same psychiatrist who has at last got us on the right medicines. He allows you to take some responsibility for the dosage you take within certain parameters which gives you confidence to control the symptoms. Not only that we have a helpline number so that if we need to see or talk to someone urgently we can do so. When my daughter was having an extreme “downer” (depression) someone came to see her in an hour or so. The same goes for the psychiatrist who if necessary can be seen within a week. This gives us both confidence and reassurance when we are feeling vulnerable. Why are you averse to taking antidepressants because once you find the right one for you the effect can be very beneficial. I think doing CBT is a good idea, I have never had it myself but instead saw a councillor on a weekly basis. Anyway I hope you get relief soon because having a mental illness is no joke. I watched a youtube video of the Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm and found his talk on mental illness very helpful. He has a lovely sense of humour as he was a Londoner until he started a monastery in Australia where he resides now.Let me know how you are coping. Best wishes Sophia.

    1. Dear Sophia,

      Thank you for sharing and I’m sorry to hear about the mental health problems that you and your daughter have had. It sounds like you have some good support in place at the moment which is really important.

      If the CBT doesn’t work I suppose I will have to consider taking antidepressants but I’ve heard they can have bad side effects and I really want to be on as little medication as possible.

      I know Ajahn Brahm and used to watch lots of his videos!

      Wishing you a peaceful and enjoyable week ahead,

      Steven x

  3. Hello Steven,

    Thank you for responding to my posts.

    I’m glad that you have indicated that you prefer to avoid anti-depressants. I think this is an admirable and brave decision.

    I think Jan’s advice to start another project is a good one. I disagree that you need to write a work of fiction. Anything you write emanates from your own thoughts, fiction or fact. Your pieces on how you feel are serving a good purpose both for you and your readers. I have found them very interesting and well-constructed. You definitely have good writing skills and I would urge you to use them to explore fields other than philosophy. I am reluctant to make suggestions because I do not know you well enough.

    You’ve seen examples of my work, like ‘Thoughts about God’, and you know that I started a group exploring what it means to be human. I have also written a short play for a local drama group. It was enacted about a year ago, but I don’t think I sent you a copy of that. But it’s horses for courses so whatever suits you, go for it…..

    Best wishes,

    Dinos

  4. Hi Steven, I’ve much enjoyed browsing your blog 🙂 Reading this post of yours made me think of Joe Dispenza, who I find gives such an amazing and empowering perspective on emotions and thoughts and what he calls the “Quantum Field”. Sending you many positive thoughts and warm wishes, Sam 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Sam for visiting my blog and for your kind comment. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Joe Dispenza as I haven’t heard of him. God bless and best wishes, Steven 🙂

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