*DISCLAIMER: This post is based on my personal experience of cognitive behavioural therapy, which may not reflect the experiences of others who have undergone the same therapy. Please don't let my post put you off if you are waiting to have CBT yourself. It might be really helpful for you so I would encourage you to give it a go first.
Hey everyone! Today's post is going to be a more personal one, on the subject of CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and why I believe the treatment was not beneficial for me. I thought this was an important topic to discuss so that others who found that CBT was not helpful for them will know that they are not alone. I hope you all enjoy reading!
So, what is CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
CBT is a type of talking therapy which is commonly used to treat an array of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. This therapy focuses on helping patients to identify their thoughts and attitudes towards different situations that they find stressful and/or triggering, and how these thoughts affect our behaviour and actions. Mind UK is a fantastic mental health charity with an excellent, educational website where you can find out more about CBT and read some personal stories from people who have had CBT themslves. Find out more about CBT here.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Me
If you've been following my blog for a while, you will know that I struggle with my mental health; I have generalised anxiety disorder and depression. Upon graduating from university, I was seen by the local mental health team back in my hometown who eventually referred me to start CBT therapy, in September last year, as a treatment for my anxiety. I was scheduled to have 12 sessions and they have almost come to an end. After many months of ongoing therapy, I have seen no improvement to any of my mental health conditions and they have actually gotten worse over time. Because of this, I was recently referred to the next level of mental health care and so far, I have been appointed a care co-ordinator from their team who I've had two appointments with.
During the last few months, the fact that CBT was not working for me really affected my mental health. I was disappointed because I had expected to gain at least something from the therapy and when I did not, it made me quite worried about what would happen when the sessions were over. I turned to the internet for answers and found that there was barely any information about CBT not being beneficial for others who had experienced it, so I decided that I would blog about it when I had completed my therapy, hopefully to give others who are finding that CBT didn't work for them some peace of mind to know that it's not their fault, that the therapy doesn't work for everyone and that's okay. CBT is not the only resource out there and you can still get help for your mental health.
I have several theories as to why I think CBT was not successful for treating my mental health and I wanted to share these with you all.
1. I personally think the period of time is too short to help someone with moderate-to-severe mental health problems. CBT is usually run for either 6 to 12 sessions (which are typically 30 minutes to an hour long, depending on what the therapist feels needs to be discussed). In my opinion, I don't believe that a long-term mental health condition that I have been struggling with for ten years now, for the majority of my teenage years until now, is going to be improved in approximately 3 months worth of therapy, spaced over 6 months.
2. CBT is a therapy that helps people recognise their emotions and thinking processes, and how they relate to their behaviour. This is often very difficult for some people to identify on their own, especially if they have been trying to suppress their feelings for a long time, but a therapist can help them identify the way they think about certain situations and how they may have a negative impact on their behaviour and mood. I have always been very emotionally aware and so the CBT sessions that focused on this were not helpful for me at all.
3. I was already concerned that CBT woud not be very effective for me before I began my therapy, because whilst I was still at university and struggling a lot with my mental health, I researched self help methods and came across several CBT-based activities that I decided to try, in an attempt to reduce my anxiety. These activities focused on identifying and challenging the way you think about things that cause you to experience anxiety, and I found that they were not very useful for me.
4. A lot of my anxiety is related to my chronic health conditions and the fact that I can never predict how they are going to affect me from day-to-day. They can suddenly change at any moment and this makes me experience high levels of anxiety. In order to feel prepared when I'm out of the house, I do specific things and my therapist seemed to consider these as 'avoidance behaviours', which really irritated me. She didn't seem to understand how these things are crucial to ensure I can pace myself or prevent an IBS flare, etc. This is required for my health and well-being,and I felt that my chronic illnesses and how signficantly they affect my everyday life was being undermined. She tried to encourage me to stop these behaviours, which I found very stressful.
One of my close friends struggles with mental health conditions too and found that CBT was not helpful for her either, so I asked her to share why she believed this was. Here's what she said;
'The reason CBT didn't work for me was because my mental health issues were too severe. I found it difficult to open up and when I did, it was very cold and clinical so I didn't really trust the therapist and stopped talking to them about my mental health. They gave me tools to help myself but they didn't work and my issues just persisted after the sessions ended. Eventually they stopped offering help, after the third time being referred for CBT with different therapists, because it was getting me nowhere.'
I just want to say thankyou so much to my wonderful friend Kayleigh for allowing me to share this with you all ♥
I hope this post has been interesting to read and helpful to anyone who is questioning whether CBT is right for them or anyone who is struggling because they are currently finding that CBT is not helpful in improving their mental health. Although, I personally found this type of therapy to be unsuccessful for me, I would still recommend that you try it for yourself if it has been offered to you. Everyone is different and what works for me might not work for someone else and vice versa. CBT has been shown to be very helpful for many mental health cases, which is one of the reasons it's so popular and I have talked to several people who experienced positive results from it. To all of you struggling with mental health, stay strong and be proud of yourself for considering and/or seeking help :) Asking for help is the first step towards recovery and there are other treatments available if CBT is not beneficial to you.
Thankyou for reading!
Have you ever had CBT therapy? How did you find it?
If CBT wasn't helpful for you, have you found anything else that is?
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