Posted by: Kay in Gtown | 2008/06/20

Industrial-strength CBT, but...?

Dear Dr CS.
Sorry I'm back so soon. I went for psychotherapy a few days back and got another industrial strength CBT session! I felt like I had been put through a wringer and was exhausted afterwards. The psychologist is efficient, direct and really challenges my thinking, while still being kind and supportive. I’m not complaining, I like him and we did some real work. I can see how CBT helps, and I have been watching myself think negatively a LOT, and then feel lousy – but I still have a question.

I think a lot of my negative thoughts come about because I have a number of basic beliefs about the world and how it works, best summed up as “Life’s a bitch, everyone is in it for themselves, and then you die”. I know a lot of this probably comes from childhood, growing up with an alcoholic father, moving constantly etc etc

I notice you only really seem to advocate CBT, but I could work on changing my thoughts till the cows come home and still there is something inside that screams “It’s not LIKE that!!”

Is there not some other therapy for addressing how I got such negative beliefs in the first place? – because the CBT sometimes just feels like a band-aid over something still festering below it, even after all these years (I’m 46), that I’ve never reached *emotionally*, and maybe underlies my recurrent depressions over the last 22-odd years?

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Our expert says:
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Well, Kay, it reads as though your message is written partly in Martian, but otherwise I follow --- pleased to hear the CBT has started well. One of the things I like about it is that you are indeed challenged and WORK on it, rather than being made a passive listener to second-hand wisdom.
As you will find in further sessions ( and take this excellent challenge of yours directly back to the therapist ) you don't accept that these beliefs are false just because the therapist says so, nor do you accept them as true just because that inner voice insists that they are. You become a fellow scientist, and you TEST them out, and see which PROVES to be right.
In fact, our evidence shows that it matters surprisingly little HOW or WHY you adopted these unhelpful beliefs --- they still need to be challenged and tested. Even if you could find a convincing explanation for WHY / HOW, and your currentl explanation makes a lot of sense, knowing why doesn't actually change anything, and can at times be a decades-long exmploration to discover false gold.
It is any other therapy which tells you things and does NOT get you to challenge and test, that provides a band-aid. With CBT, you try living for a while as though you had a more positive belief, and see what happens. Rather than waiting for the stage-wagon to arrive before trying ou the change.
Change the beliefs, and there may no longer be any strong reason to return into those habitual depressions.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Kay in Gtown | 2008/06/20

Yikes, I'm sorry about all those strange characters that make it harder to read... :(

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