Tools for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Mental health professionals employ a number of different strategies to help clients dealing with issues such as anxiety and depression. One of the most widely used is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). In addition to anxiety and depression, CBT is also effective for treating issues like eating disorders, anger, chronic pain, and addiction among others.

Some therapies revolve around what happens in a person’s life. CBT differs in that it concerns what the individual thinks about those events. Here is a basic overview of how CBT works and some information on mental health counsellors.

Changing Beliefs
Some therapists might choose to concentrate on a certain event in a person’s life as being the catalyst for their problems. For example, Elaine’s mother might have died while she was quite young and the therapist sees that as the event that triggered Elaine’s problems. CBT would focus not on the mother’s passing, but on the beliefs Elaine developed as a result (e.g. I am responsible for her death, She would not have been unhappy and died if I had never been born, et cetera). CBT clinicians feel that these thoughts contribute to the mental health problem the person experiences.

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Tracking Your Thoughts
Let’s say that whenever Elaine thinks about her mother, those thoughts immediately come to mind. These are automatic thoughts and CBT will often ask clients to write them down when they occur. Therapists also ask clients to record other particulars, such as the situation or trigger that led to the thoughts, the person’s feelings at the time, the facts that support the thoughts, and the facts that do not support the thoughts.

In writing all of this out on a thought record, clients can easily review and analyze the information. By providing evidence both for and against the validity of the thoughts, a person can consider both sides and decide which is more valid.

Therapeutic Tools
Therapists also use this information to ask clients additional questions. These help to further identify the automatic thoughts that apply. These thoughts are important because they contribute to the person’s core beliefs. As these beliefs are responsible for the emotional turmoil the person experiences, it is important to make it obvious that they are not valid.

This knowledge helps a person stop the thoughts when they occur. If a situation arises where Elaine starts to think she is responsible for her mother’s death, she can recognize the thoughts for what they are: invalid distortions of reality. This revelation allows her to stop the thoughts from occurring and negatively affecting her emotional state.

Short Term Therapy
Some therapies require the patient to consult with the therapist for a period of months or even years; CBT teaches patients to act for themselves. They may continue seeing a therapist where needed, but the goal is for the individual to recognize and stop the thoughts before they continue doing the harm. This not only makes a person happier and more centered, it is also empowering.

Counselling Centre is a not for profit, multi-faith counselling agency committed to strengthening emotional and spiritual well-being. We believe that faith and spirituality are important resources for healing and change and embrace diversity and cultural inclusivity. We provide trained therapists who qualify for membership in the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.