There are many psychological treatments for depression and one of the most effective is CBT. There have been many studies which have shown it to be highly effective at treating depression. In this article I will explain what CBT is and run you through a real life example of how to use it.
What Is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT helps you to think about yourself, others and the world around you in a different way. It teaches you to challenge your automatic and limiting negative beliefs and replace them with more healthy thought processes and better ways of viewing various situations.
One of the main points of CBT is that it is not an event that causes us distress or negative feelings and thoughts, it is the way we choose to see the events that causes the bad feelings. Therefore, if we are choosing to see something in a negative light, then we can also choose to see it in a positive light or take a more balanced view of what is happening.
“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them”
Another key point with CBT is that it is focused on the now. It aims to improve your mental health and wellbeing now rather than dissecting our past and how it has shaped our lives.
As with most psychological treatments for depression, it is important to repeat the process many times for it to become a natural part of our thinking. It is difficult and sometimes confronting to challenge our thinking at first, but with time and repetition it gets easier and easier until it becomes like second nature. That is the power of CBT, once you’ve practiced it then it becomes a part of your depression fighting arsenal forever and it is always there for you to call on when you need it. Eventually you will reach a point where you don’t even realize you are using CBT.
How To Use CBT For Depression
As I explain each of the steps I’ll use an example to highlight my point. In this example we are going to use forgetting a loved ones birthday
Step A – Activating event.
The way I was taught CBT was in a step by step format, where the first step was to identify what the activating event was, or the event that triggered a negative emotional response from you.
So step A is forgetting a loved ones birthday
Step B – Belief/thought
What was your negative automatic belief or thought when the event occurred?
If you forgot someone’s birthday, your automatic negative belief or thought could be that you are useless and hopeless.
Step C – Consequences
What were your emotions, physical sensations, behaviors and action urges? Doing this step allows you to sit with negative feelings and identify them.
So still using the example of forgetting a loved ones birthday, we may have felt physically ill when we realized, we may have had the urge to run and hide, we may have cried.
Step D – Disputation
In Step D, we are going to dispute what we wrote in step B, which was our automatic negative thought. Our thought in the example was that we are useless.
We aim to use facts rather than emotions to dispute this, so we can say we are not useless because we have never forgotten a birthday before, we’ve been a devoted and loving partner since the relationship began, and we often take the time to do nice things for our partner.
Step E – Even thought
So now we have successfully disputed our negative thought with real facts, what is a more even/balanced or helpful thought to replace our initial thought in step B?
How about “although I forgot my partners birthday and I feel terrible about it, it doesn’t make me a bad partner as there are lots of things that I have done right in the relationship to make my partner feel loved”.
Now compare how you felt in step B initially (useless and hopeless) to how you would feel if you replaced step B with step E. Step E is a far better way of viewing things and it will not leave you in a negative mindset for the rest of the day like step B would. Now I want you to imagine going through each day where this becomes your automatic thought process. Bad feelings and thoughts come up and then they are laid to rest with a more helpful way of thinking. Imagine how easy and successfully a depressed mind could get through the day using that? That is the power of CBT and why it has been proven time and again to be a highly effective form of treatment for depression and other mental illnesses.
How To Put CBT Into Action For You
The hardest part is always getting started. It can be especially hard when you are deep in your ingrained negative mindset and trying to look at things logically and in a non emotional way.
It’s important to stop and take a breath first of all. If you use mindfulness to relax you then now is a good time to try to calm your mind a little before attacking those negative self beliefs and thoughts. Any other relaxation techniques you usually turn to will be useful here as well. It won’t come very easily to begin with, but it is important to have this process that you go back to over and over and eventually you will see progress and the process will become easier and more automatic.
How Can I Learn More About CBT?
You could spend some time on the internet reading and learning more about the subject as there is plenty of information out there. The biggest difficulty with that is having to sort through all of the information to get to what you need.
Alternatively, you could buy a book or a course on CBT. There is only one course that I recommend on this website and it covers everything you need to know about how to use CBT for your depression, as well as covering other topics such as diet. It will give you a 7 step process to follow to improve your mental health starting straight away. You can read my full review on it here.