My interest in CBT came several years ago. I don’t remember exact dates. I purchased a book called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. I’ve had experience before reading this book from my times in therapy, but I wasn’t aware of the concepts, ideas, or theories behind the therapy. And in undergraduate college psychology, I did not take any classes regarding therapy. For me, CBT is a tool that helps me deal with the anxiety and depression that often plague me. As far as I have read, there are three waves of psychotherapy. Each with its own way of claiming to assist someone with their mental, emotional or behavioral, or physical pain. The first wave involves psychoanalysis which aims to help with a person’s present problem by examining a person’s past and how it has led to the present problem and some how coming to terms with the past so the present will fix itself. The second wave started with behavior therapy that involves the application of principles of behaviorism such as reward, punishment, habituation, or desensitization to change behaviors. Another therapy in the second wave is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which is also called cognitive therapy. CBT combines behavior therapy ideas with examination of ones distorted thoughts to improve ones view of the world and decrease distress. The third wave of therapy includes therapies that combine knowledge from the previous waves and emphasize mindfulness and a tolerance for suffering and distress. Two types of therapies in this third wave are Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
I think each of these therapies have their benefits. From my reading and time in therapy for my own anxiety and depression, CBT is most familiar and beneficial to me. I can remember having trouble with anxiety from the time I was around eight years old. It gradually seemed to have gotten worse to where I eventually asked for help when I was around 13 years old. I had difficulty with both anxiety and depression when I was in college. Since the age of 13, I have been through group therapy, individual therapy, and medication. Right now I am 36, and I only take one medication for depression once a day and another medication as needed for anxiety; and I am monitored by a psychiatrist. Through my many years of therapy and reading related to CBT, I’ve learned about how practicing relaxation techniques helps to make anxiety triggering situations much more manageable even without anxiety medication. And once the anxiety is more manageable, I can repeatedly expose myself to situations that make me anxious until the anxiety eventually goes away. And learning to identify negative or distorted thoughts and coming up with more realistic and positive thoughts helps decrease my depression. I’ve learned these techniques from the world of CBT.
Recently, I’ve started reading about DBT and ACT. DBT has introduced me to something called meaning making. This idea involves identifying what is important to you and making it more meaningful. To me it is like a way of rising above your illness or disorder. I have felt this and I have read of other persons with an illness or disorder feel this feeling. The feeling that you are some how afraid of recovering from you illness or disorder because you may not know your world or yourself without the illness or disorder. The question arises, “who am I without the anxiety?”. Well meaning making is about enriching your life with people and experiences that are important and meaningful to you, so you can see that there is something more to your life than anxiety, depression, or any other illness or disorder. It’s actually a very wonderful breakthrough in psychotherapy. And believe it or not there is more to this DBT system, but the meaning making is what has really stood out for me. As for ACT, I started reading a book on this system of psychotherapy about a week ago. What little I have read has shown me that the system has to do much with accepting that suffering is inevitable and learning to deal with that fact. Sounds very fascinating and I am looking forward to reading more of this book on ACT.
In conclusion, I think that no matter what therapy a person finds to help them with their illness or disorder a positive attitude, patience, and trust are necessary to learn and grow. Psychotherapy is not easy and takes time. If you have anxiety, depression, or any other mental situation that distresses you and you have tried much on your own such as medication, family, friends, reading, and surfing the internet for answers and are still feeling distress, you may want to consider trying psychotherapy. A good psychotherapists can help you sort the tangle of confused thoughts and feelings you may have and help you to move in a positive and productive direction.
For more information refer to the Psychology section of the blog.