Monday, April 29, 2013

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and How to Explain it to Your Patients

Most of us can appreciate that if we have a negative thought eg "Iam not good enough", this can lead to a negative feeling ie we feel inadequate, sad and depressed, and this can then lead to a negative behaviour eg withdrawn and not wanting to go out, and then this can reinforce the original thought of "Iam not good enough, and then the cycle goes around and around, perpetuating into a vicious cycle of negative emotion.

CBT aims to break this cycle at the thought and the behaviour level.

It teaches us to validate and challenge our negative thought patterns into a more helpful and realistic one.

It encourages us to change our behaviour in order to promote a more positive emotion.  To better understand the behavioural approach, try this simple exercise.  Look up, and while looking upwards, try to be sad.  Now look down and try to be sad.  If you did this exercise correctly, you would have found that it was very difficult to be sad while looking upwards and much more easier to be sad while you were looking downwards.  Why????

This is because, when we look upwards, we are "telling our subconscious" that we are hopeful, that we are inspired and NOT sad.  Obviously, the opposite is true for looking downwards.

So, in summary, if we can change our negative thought patterns and reinforce this with a congruent positive behaviour, then we can increase our chances of breaking the cycle of depression and anxiety.

We will explore various CBT strategies and concepts in future posts.

(Please note that you are not required to know how to do CBT for the GP exam.  Posts on CBT are to give Doctors an appreciation of what CBT is, know when to refer patients for CBT/counselling and what happens to them when they are referred away for counselling).

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