Cognitive Therapy On The Cheap

  • Though early in March it's still winter it somehow feels like spring to me and so what better way to begin this month's round of SharePosts than to write about cleaning house? 


    My first-ever published article was in the Women's Forum of the local newspaper.  Time to Start Spring Cleaning was published in January 1990 when I still lived in the residence and had not yet begun my first job as an administrative assistant.


    The suggestion was that you do spring cleaning in January to beat the winter blues and blahs.  I felt this season was the perfect time to clean house.  Spring cleaning as a wellness strategy involves clearing your mind of the emotional clutter and automatic thoughts that come to occupy it like true clutter over the years.

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    Spring arrives in two weeks and for this I'm glad.  I feel now is the time to focus on a mental health tool that can help you clear out and make room in your head to let in new opportunities and people. 


    My own spring cleaning started in the fall when I donated two bags of clothes to the Salvation Army and bought new clothes to reflect the new me I'd become.  It continued through the end of the year when I devoted my journal to writing about topics I wanted to focus on to be at peace with. 


    In this winter, I used cognitive therapy techniques to change my thoughts to change my life yet again.  I'm a big fan of CBT as a tool for coping with SZ symptoms and for changing your perceptions of what's going on so that you can take control.  Your situation might not change however once you change your perception of it you'll be able to cope better.


    CBT-the B refers to the behavioral aspect-was a tool I used two years ago with a therapist in private practice.  At the end of this article I'll link to my two SharePosts talking about these sessions.  Here now I want to detail cognitive therapy techniques you can use on your own to affect changes in your life.


    The book recommended to me by Dr. Altman was The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 6th Edition that offers simple, concise step-by-step directions for refuting irrational ideas, worry control, coping skills and acceptance among other techniques.  It also talks about exercise and nutrition and time management and assertiveness.


    The book costs $25 so it's cheap enough to buy.  Make photocopies of the worksheets so you can write in them over and over.  I will detail the chapter on refuting irrational ideas here because it is a low-rent version of cognitive therapy.


    A community member asked for suggestions and I gave her the nuts-and-bolts of this technique and it worked well.  I have used it in my own life to change my own thoughts to mediate how I felt about a situation.  Using the worksheet on this focus allowed me to take control of another area of my life.  Things happened this way in a snowball roll to good effect.


    The chapter on Refuting Irrational Thoughts has as its goals to recognize how your thoughts influence your feelings, physical sensations, and behavior, assess your distressing thoughts and counteract your needless distressing thoughts.


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    Five steps are used to dispute and stop irrational ideas.  You start by choosing a situation that causes you to have stressful emotions.


    1. Write the facts of the event, not subject impressions.


    2. Write your self-talk about the event.  This can  be subjective judgments, beliefs and worries.


    3. Focus on your emotional response.  It can be angry, depressed, afraid or whatever it is you feel.


    4. Counter and change the irrational self-talk identified in step 2 in the following way:

                a. Select the irrational idea you wish to halt and ask if there is any rational support for this idea.  The answer is typically no.

                b.  Counter the idea with evidence that it is false.

                c.  Ask if any evidence exists for the truth of the idea.

                d. Challenge yourself to think of the worst thing that could happen.

                e.  Examine the good things that might occur.


    5. Lastly: change your self-talk to reflect your new rational thinking.


    Trust me: I used this worksheet to change my perception of an event and in so doing I was able to transfer this to another aspect of my life.


    The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 6th edition is truly indispensible.  It also gives a problem-solving worksheet on facing worry and anxiety.  I might have gone overboard detailing one of the techniques so I want to urge you to go out and buy the book. 


    This SharePost is intended as a preview of the workbook so that you can decide whether to use it on your own as a cognitive therapy tool.


    The authors are Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, MSW and Matthew McKay, Ph.D. and they know what they are talking about.


    As a big fan of CBT, I hope you consider reading this book.  It is not a replacement though for professional help.  Seek the services of a psychiatrist and therapist if you have a mental health challenge.


    The second SharePost in March will talk about taking the leap to working in-person with a therapist in a private CBT practice.


    Cognitive Therapy Part One


    Cognitive Therapy Part Two


Published On: March 06, 2011