Personal experience of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Did it work for me?
Personal experience of CBT – did it work for me?
I’ve had a long term diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and experienced many episodes, but despite the popularity of talking therapies and their recommendation in treating mental ill-health, I’d never had the opportunity to access them.
So I was pleased when my Psychiatrist and Care-Coordinator put my name forward to receive CBT. What on earth is this therapy, and why is it so popular? CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works on the premise that your thoughts control your behaviour, and if you can change your thoughts then your behaviour can subsequently be changed, leading to less periods of mental ill-health.
Sounds good I thought, but still didn’t really believe it would work for me. I was introduced to my therapist, and she explained that I would be eligible for 12 sessions, and she went through what we would be doing.
We spent a lot of time talking about my early experiences. I wasn’t sure that she would think this relevant, but she explained that in order to understand my current thought processes it was necessary to look into my past to see what makes me the person I am today.
I was apprehensive at the thought of this since some of my early experiences had been quite distressing, and I wondered whether revisiting them could precipitate an episode. However this was not the case, and I relished the opportunity to discuss my early experiences with a neutral practitioner.
My main problem was with anxiety, which caused me to avoid certain situations or find them quite stressful. My therapist concluded that my experiences of early life and my relationship with my parents led me to feel that the world wasn’t safe, leading to anxiety about social and other situations.
I had to keep a thought diary, and look at situations dispassionately. Recording situations that I found caused me anxiety. Each situation consisted of a ‘hot thought’ or reason why I felt anxious. So for example, if I was nervous about driving alone in my car at night because I felt it might break down (it’s an old car) and I could be attacked, the ‘hot thought’ would be that I am not safe, and could get hurt.
Leading on from that my therapist encouraged me to break the scenario down and work out what would need to happen for me to be attacked. So I worked through from A-Z the steps that would need to happen for the scenario to become real and through doing this I realised that it was highly unlikely that anything would happen, even if I did break down (also, I have Breakdown Cover).
Each scenario which drove my anxieties, my therapist pointed out, contained a grain of truth, so even though they were highly unlikely to happen they weren’t completely irrational, and this made me feel better, knowing that there was some rationality there.
Another thing I had to do was to think of some visualisations. These were situations that made me really happy that I could look back on and feel good about. The situations I chose were riding my bike on a sunny day, and swimming in a pool in a hot country on holiday. I found that if I was in a stressful situation I could conjure up one of these visualisations in my mind and immediately feel calmed.
I also could practice my Yoga breathing, which immediately calmed me down and made me feel better.
All these differing strategies combined to make for a really effective therapy. At the start of our sessions my therapist asked me to rate different situations and how stressful I found them on a % out of 100. Some of them I found really stressful, such as having to tell people about my illness and worrying about the prospect of a reoccurrence.
I would be lying if I said the stress and anxiety has gone from my life completely. However without exception in all the situations my anxiety about them has reduced. What I now have are tools to manage my anxiety, and consequently now it has reduced it makes my life much more enjoyable, and that has got to be a result!!
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