Cognitive Behavioural therapy vs traditional counselling
Mental health awareness and progress has come a long way from the rudimentary interventions once used. Electroconvulsive therapy used to be all the rage but nowadays we use more civilised forms of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Both have proved effective in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD and eating disorders.
CBT offers a set number of structured session where goals are created collaboratively between the therapist and the client. It is very useful for dealing with the here and now but also deals with longstanding issues in order to understand what might be maintaining the current issues. Unlike traditional psychotherapy, CBT is able to effect change a lot quicker whilst working on the more deeper issues over time. Conventional treatment can leave a client waiting weeks or months before they feel any improvement.
I have had traditional psychotherapy (which can go on for years) as well as CBT and I favour CBT over conventional counselling any day. CBT isn’t as narrow as many believe it is as it has the flexibility to imporve a person’s quality of life immediately whilst still working on the long standing issues.
Traditional psychotherapy takes forever, is very non-directive – I couldn’t stand talking for a whole hour, getting nothing back from the therapist apart from a few nods and looks of sympathy, only to be told at the end of the session that time was up, and “see you next week”. I may as well have talked to the wall! The whole odea of being a mental health expert, in my view, is to be abole to offer something back to a struggling client who cannot make head or tail of their emotions. Gentle guidance is underrated and I personally felt more frustrated after an hour with no feedback than if I hadn’t attended at all.
Of course, it is true that a large part of the success of a therapy session is down to the rapport between therapist and client. It felt good to be able to say whatever I wanted and be completely self absorbed for an hour but it didn’t resolve any of my issues. Sure I felt more connected but that was about it. These days, more is demanded of a good therapist:
I would always recommend a therapist who is accredited with the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) as I believe they are (most, not all) a cut above the average therapist out there. They usually come from a psychotherapeutic background (Psychodynamic is well regarded) but have the additional expertise of Cognitive behavioural skills and interventions. The creme de la creme of therapists, if you like.
Not only do they have to be academically sound, they have to have great people skills. When I completed my CBT training, the course was gruelling. We were tested on theory as well as practical skills. We had to record our sessions, with the client’s approval of course, and then submit that for evaluation. These recorded session were evaluated according to 12 sets of stringent criteria. Not for the faint hearted!
CBT is someffective as it uses a two-pronged approach. First is challenges your thinking, identifies unhelpful thoughts and helps the clients become accustomed to being more aware of what they are thinking ehilst at the same time, learning how to distance themselves from the thinking. Thoughts aren’t facts but often we live in our heads and believe the nonsense going on up there.
The other part of the approach involves looking at behaviour. Depending on the type of problem, this could involve exposure therapy and/or behavioural experiments. CBT is a skilful blend of expertise, clinical judgement and skill from the practitioners.
I am a big fan of CBT and not just because I practise it but because, as a clilent, I found it helped me improve the most.