TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

When it comes to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), there are many, many techniques, strategies, and interventions at your disposal. Evidence suggests there are 5 areas we should consider when looking to improve our mental health and wellbeing and our experienced clinicians have developed the resources on this page to help you achieve this.

Trying these things could help you feel more positive and able.

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SITUATION

The situation in CBT is also sometimes called the antecedent or the trigger.  The way we think about different situations can affect the way we feel and behave. For example, if you interpret a situation negatively then you might experience negative emotions as a result, and those bad feelings might then lead you to behave in a certain way. It is therefore the way that we interpret events/situations – the meaning that we give to them – that gives rise to our feelings. This explains why two people experiencing the same event can react in completely different ways.

cbt self-help for ocd

When CBT is used for OCD treatment, it usually focuses on exposure and response prevention. This means that you will be confronting the things that trigger your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. You will then learn how to change your responses to these triggers. Use these resources to learn more and to practice some of the techniques taught in CBT.

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HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR THOUGHTS

When we talk about thoughts we’re referring to a lot of different mental activities, including wishes, hopes, plans, predictions, judgments and memories. Most of the time we don’t notice our thoughts – they go on in the background, helping us make decisions and carry out many tasks automatically. Once you have caught some of your negative automatic thoughts you can then begin to challenge these.

HOW TO CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS

Remember, the goal of CBT is not to ‘think happy thoughts’ but is instead to think accurately. Our thinking can become biased, but it is within our power to change the way we think. Identifying thoughts is the first step in managing our minds. Once we can reliably catch our automatic thoughts we can examine them to see how accurate they are and replace the thought with something more rational or positive. We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we had when we created them!

HOW TO PROBLEM SOLVE

Problem solving in CBT focuses on identifying and tackling one problem at a time and developing a specific action. We do this by developing as many solutions as possible and evaluating each solution before choosing one to implement. This can create self-awareness and improve an individual's ability to cope with stressful life experiences.  

HOW TO MANAGE WORRY

Worrying too much can interfere with a person’s ability to do the everyday things they may want to do. People can feel trapped in a cycle of worrying that can make them feel physically tense or on edge, may affect their sleep or make them feel more irritable with the people around them. They may also find it hard to stop worrying as it can make them feel that things are under control or they may think that it is useful to worry things through to prevent things going wrong.

HOW TO RECOGNISE THE POSITIVES

To assist in changing the way you think it is important to train yourself to pay attention to the small positive moments throughout the day. Our natural tendency is toward the negative, so it takes a concerted effort to wear a different set of glasses. So, in order to have positive moments, we have to think about them and see them, and remember them.

HOW TO RECOGNISE EMOTIONS

If we want to manage our emotions (or live alongside them more comfortably) first we have to get in touch with how they are impacting our lives. Take some time to reflect on the role emotions play in your life at the moment . You can read our information sheet and fill in your answers on the the worksheet.

IIt makes a lot of sense to try to get away from things that feel unpleasant. This strategy seems to work for other things that make us uncomfortable (e.g., heat, cold, pain, hunger). Unfortunately, when we apply the same strategy to our emotions, it seems to backfire. The more we fear, struggle with, and try to avoid any form of distress, generally the worse that distress gets. Our fear and avoidance of the distress actually amplifies the distress.

RECOGNISING PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Different emotions are associated with different sorts of body states. When we are sad or low we can feel tired and heavy. When we are anxious we can feel jittery and on-edge. It is not unusual to dislike certain body sensations and sometimes we can become afraid of them. However, because we have to live in our bodies these kinds of fears can prove limiting! People with mental illnesses can experience a range of physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, pain, headaches, insomnia and feelings of restlessness

MANAGING PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Positive psychological wellbeing can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, poor mental health can lead to poor physical health or harmful behaviours.

IDENTIFYING UNHELPFUL BEHAVIOURS

Unhelpful thoughts lead to unpleasant emotions and unhelpful behaviours (e.g., avoidance) that reinforces our negative thoughts and maintain the problem. In other words, our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours can interact and influence each other to create a vicious cycle. We all have negative thoughts every now and then, but if we consistently apply negative meanings to events, then we are likely to experience problems with anxiety and/or depression.

BREAKING THE CYCLE

There is evidence that changing your behaviour can lift your mood even if you don’t or can’t change your practical problems. You don’t have to make major changes – even small changes can make a lot of difference to the way you think and feel.

GRADED EXPOSURE

Graded exposure therapy combines cognitive and behavioural therapy techniques to retrain the brain, teaching the brain that it doesn’t need to create a reaction to specific situations. It breaks the association that the the brain has made between fear and a the specific situation by introducing a previously avoided behaviours. With this slow introduction, the brain is given positive feedback that the situation doesn’t need to be feared.

BEHAVIOURAL ACTIVATION

Poor mental health can lead to inactivity, withdrawal and isolation, there are even fewer opportunities to derive pleasure or a sense of achievement from life. We can reverse this cycle by increasing engagement in valued activities, which increases our chances of pleasure and a sense of achievement from life.