Category: <span>Self-improvement</span>

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy (psychotherapy) used to treat a wide range of mental health problems. While not the only effective treatment that therapists use, CBT is unique in that it is an evidence-based method, scientifically proven to show results for most people.

 

In addition to this, CBT can help you quickly identify and cope with specific challenges and stressors within your life. There are several core principles that CBT uses to decrease psychological distress:

  1. Learned patterns or unhelpful behaviors lead to psychological problems
  2. Faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking lead to psychological problems
  3. Problem-solving skills can help individuals cope with difficult situations.
  4. Using mindfulness to learn how to relax your mind and body
  5. Learning ways to develop a greater sense of confidence in your abilities
  6. Gaining a better understanding of your behaviors and thoughts to reevaluate them within situations
  7. Learning coping skills to decrease distress and relieve symptoms to increase the quality of life

 

Benefits of CBT

 

CBT is designed to address a wide range of mental health problems and is often a shorter form of therapy than traditional types of psychotherapy. CBT is a widely taught theoretical orientation that many therapists use in their practices. While every therapist practices a bit differently, this method has a relatively standard set of principles and rules to treat clients effectively.

 

Common Mental Health Problems that could Benefit from CBT

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may help improve numerous mental health problems, including (but not limited to):

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Substance and Alcohol Misuse

 

What to Expect During CBT

When receiving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a clinician will rarely use every technique and strategy described earlier in the article. Instead, CBT emphasizes a collaborative and structured approach to therapy tailored to the client’s needs.

 

This collaborative approach helps teach the client to become their own therapist within their lives outside of therapy. Through homework, exercises in and outside of treatment, and the development of coping and problem-solving skills, clients learn how to challenge and change their behaviors and thought patterns to increase their quality of life and decrease psychological distress.

 

Additionally, CBT therapists also tend to focus on what is happening currently in the person’s life instead of the person’s past. While some history of the person’s life is necessary for therapy, the primary focus of CBT is to develop ways of coping with life moving forward.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Length of Therapy

 

CBT is generally considered a form of short-term therapy. Expect traditional CBT to last between 5-20 sessions, depending. However, it is essential to discuss what length (and type) of treatment is right for you with your therapist to ensure the most beneficial outcome possible.

Loss and Grief

Loss and Grief

 

Loss and the resulting grief you experience can be one of life’s most stressful events and can be a complex emotion to live with and tricky to navigate.

 

Loss can come in many forms, such as:

 

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Death
  • Losing a job
  • Miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a dream
  • Loss of a friendship

 

Even smaller life transitions can trigger feelings of grief to surface. For instance, graduating college, changing jobs, or moving away from home or into a new apartment can be some situations that may bring up feelings of grief and loss.

 

What to Expect

 

The grieving process is a highly individual process that looks different for everyone, which means there is no right or wrong way to experience a loss. Feeling a wide range of emotions is common when dealing with loss, and there isn’t a set amount of time when it comes to how long or when these emotions will appear.

 

Some emotions that may appear when experiencing a loss are:

 

  • Denial
  • Shock
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Yearning
  • Humiliation
  • Despair
  • Guilt
  • Disbelief

 

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the emotions, you may face, intense and often quickly changing feelings are a normal and common reactions to loss.

 

However, it’s also important to understand that absorbing the impact of a loss is a process that takes time. While you may never stop missing your loved one, the pain and intense emotions ease over time and allow you to go back to your daily life.

Living with Grief

 

Learning how to cope when you experience loss is vital to your mental health and wellbeing. Grieving death and implementing coping skills can help you through the process of coming to terms with loss in your life while taking care of your mental health.

 

Myths Surrounding Grieving

 

Ignoring these feelings will help me move on faster

 

Ignoring the pain or other uncomfortable feelings associated with loss may be a short-term solution but usually only worsens the feelings of grief over time. Instead, have patience and allow yourself to feel and process the emotions that come up while deal with your loss.

 

It may also be helpful to reach out to a friend for support or a mental health professional who can help you process and deal with these emotions and feelings surrounding your loss.

 

Grieving shouldn’t last more than a few months

 

There isn’t a specific timetable for the grieving process, and how long it takes to accept loss can significantly vary from person to person. Trying to cut the grieving process short may lead to adverse mental health problems in the future.

 

However, if the distress you feel from your loss is negatively impacting your life and not decreasing over time, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Many mental health professionals are trained in helping people navigate the often complex emotions surrounding grief and loss.

 

I have to ‘be strong,’ or else I’m weak

 

Crying, feeling sad, or lonely is a common and normal emotion to feel and does not mean that you are weak. On the contrary, showing others your feelings can help other people who are also dealing with loss.

 

Moving on with your life is disrespectful to the loss you experienced

 

Moving on means that you have processed, accepted, and come to terms with what has happened – it doesn’t mean that you have forgotten the person you have lost. In fact, moving on while keeping the memory of someone or something you lost is a beautiful way to honor the loss you experienced.

 

6 Tips for Solving Relationship Conflicts

Conflict within romantic relationships is inevitable. When you integrate your life with
another person, it is bound to lead to disputes at some point.

Arguments within romantic relationships range from small ones surrounding what movie to watch to larger ones over career choices or how to raise children. It’s important to
note that while arguments aren’t ideal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is trouble
in your relationship. When handled correctly, conflict can help to strengthen a
relationship. However, conflicts can escalate to where nothing is resolved and can lead
to the deterioration in relationships.

On the flip side, a couple that never has a conflict or talks about problems doesn’t have
an opportunity to communicate and resolve them. Finding a balance between high
levels of conflict and no conflict can help couples have a long and healthy relationship together.

That being said,

having specific tools and strategies at your disposal during a conflict

can help improve the odds of a successful resolution. Here are some tools that can help
solve relationship conflict:

Be direct

It can be easy for people to beat around the bush instead of plaining stating what is
upsetting or bothering them. When in conflict, people often choose a more subtle and
indirect way of expressing their displeasure.

For instance, partners may avoid discussing the conflict by switching topics or
minimizing their feelings by responding with “I’m fine” after their partner notices they are
irritated. This lack of directness leaves both partners without a clear guide as to what
the problem is, how the other person is feeling, or how to solve the problem.

Instead, work towards having direct communication with your partner. While it may be a
bit uncomfortable at first, directly stating what is bothering you is the first step in solving
relationship conflict.

Use “I”  Statements & quotes to talk about the way you feel without blaming your partner

Statements that directly blame or put your partner as the direct reason for your feeling
seldomly help produce a good healthy dialogue on solving the problem. This is because
people typically go on the defense when they feel blamed or attacked in a conversation.

Instead, a more constructive way to communicate your feelings is through the use of “I
statements.” These statements focus on how you feel instead of being directed at your
partner. For instance, an “I statement” would pair an emotion and a behavior description
that focuses on a specific behavior your partner is engaged in. An example of this could
be, “I feel sad when you are on your phone during dinner.” This helps you be direct
while focusing on your partner’s specific behavior and the emotion that it makes you
feel.

Stay away from using the words like “never” or “always” during an argument

Saying things like “You are always selfish” during an argument leads the other partner
to feel like you’re attacking their character. This leads to defensiveness, stonewalling,
and decreased chance of solving the conflict at hand.

Instead of using words that suggest that you’re partner “always”or “never” does
something that bothers you, try focusing on the particular situation at hand. Focusing on
the current situation allows you and your partner to work together to resolve the current
conflict without bringing up one’s character or other moments within the relationship.

Not Everything Needs to be a Conflict

Not every single situation needs to turn into a conflict. A relationship is about
compromise and understanding. While some things do need to be addressed,

especially if they make you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or hurt, it may be best to let go
of minor issues such as forgetting to empty the dishwasher once in a while.

Listen to What your Partner is Saying

Sometimes we fall into the habit of listening to our partners to respond. But,
unfortunately, when we listen to respond instead of listening to comprehend, sometimes
we miss what our partner is trying to tell us.

Trying practicing active listening by reflecting the content of what your partner is telling
you back to them. This will help you better understand what your partner is telling you
and lead to more understanding of the conflict and better discussions surrounding it.

Know When it is Time to Take a Time-Out

Tensions can run high at times during a conflict. While it’s important to talk it out,
stepping away from the problem for a bit can also be beneficial. Taking a break can
allow you to process your own emotions around the conflict and calm any heightened
emotions that may have come about.

However, its essential to note that taking a time-out and removing yourself from the
situation is different. By taking a breather, you and your partner communicate how long
the time-out will be, where you are going (taking a walk around the block, going on a car
ride, etc.), and when you are going to continue the conversation. This communication
will help both partners feel respected and minimize any feelings of abandonment or
hurt.

For instance, communicating your need for a break could look like, &quot;Can we take a 20-
minute break from this conversation? I want to calm down a bit and go for a walk around
the block. We can talk about this more when I get back.&quot; Clearly stating your need for a
break and being specific and direct will allow your partner to understand where you are
coming from and be on the same page.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular form of self-care and a widely used mental health technique throughout recent years. Because it can be practiced in many different ways, mindfulness has become a flexible option for many people.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves going into our future or past too much. This can lead to feeling drained, anxious, stressed, or the development of mental health distress such as depression. Practicing mindfulness can help direct our attention away from patterns of thinking that lead to these difficult emotions and into a frame of mind that helps us engage with the world around us in the present moment.

Mindfulness helps you bring your focus and awareness to the present moment through different techniques such as focusing on sensations and feelings in the moment without judgement or interpretation. This practice can involve activities such as deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, or guided body awareness activities like Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).

Benefits of Mindfulness

Multiple clinical studies have supported the effectiveness of mindfulness activities including decreasing:

  • Stress
  • Symptoms of Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Pain
  • Insomnia

Not only has mindfulness been shown to help decrease symptoms stemming from mental health disorders, it has also illustrated efficacy in:

  • Improving sleep
  • Decreasing feelings of burnout
  • Improving attention
  • Improving diabetes control

Mindfulness Activities

There are countless ways to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Here are a few mindfulness activities that are relatively common.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

 This technique involves focusing on individual muscle groups throughout your body. Within PMR, you focus on slowly tensing individual muscle groups and then relaxing them. This activity helps you connect with your body, understand the difference between what it feels like to be tensed and relaxed, and become aware of physical sensations within your body.

Most PMR activities start with tensing and relaxing the muscles in your head and neck and working your way down to your toes. Try to tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for between 15-30 seconds before moving onto the next muscle group.

 Breathing

 Breathing activities to practice mindfulness can be done a lot of different ways. The most basic way of doing mindful breathing is to focus your attention on your breath. Take time to focus on your inhale and exhale in order to limit your mind from wandering to other things outside of your breath.

Focusing solely on your breathing can be difficult, especially if it is a new practice. If you want to practice a more structured approach to mindful breathing, short guided breathing exercises are available online for you to follow along with and many don’t take more than 5 minutes.

 Visualization

 This technique guides you to form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming, or happy place or situation. Visualization usually incorporates many different senses such as smell, sight, sound, and touch within the guided visual journey in order for you to immerse yourself in your vision.

In order to get the most out of this experience, it’s recommended that you sit or lay in a quiet spot, wear loose clothing, and concentrate on your breathing and on the visualization activity.

 Acceptance Training

Take a moment to notice the thoughts about yourself that you are having that are directed to yourself. Are they how you would talk to a best friend or are they a little harsher than you would like them to be? Focus on treating yourself like you would treat a good friend. Would you be more gentle? More Patient? More flexible?

Use this information to practice acceptance and compassion for yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings surrounding how you talk to yourself.

Notice the Present Moment

 The inner monologue that many of us have can be difficult to separate from. This technique helps you step away from your thoughts about the past or the future in order to focus on what is happening around you in the present moment.

Start by focusing on your breath and the sensations in your body. Once you start focusing on that, slowly bring your attention to what is happening around you. Notice the sounds, smells, and other sensations and senses that are currently present with you in the room. While some thoughts will come up, try and notice them without judgement and let them pass without inspecting them too closely.

There are many mindfulness guided videos that can help you get in touch with the present moment if you’re looking for more structure within this technique.

When to Practice Mindfulness

Depending on the mindfulness practice you choose, it is a flexible activity that can be done anywhere and anytime. Exercises like breathing, acceptance training, and noticing the present moment can be done relatively quickly and in any setting. However, research has suggested that doing mindfulness in an outdoor environment is even more effective and beneficial.

Exercises that are a bit more structured such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Guided Meditation require you to set aside time and be in a quiet space free from distractions or interruptions. We recommend trying these types of activities in the morning or before bed in order to get you ready for the day or decompress and get ready for bed.

Mindfulness is something that may take time in order for it to feel effortless. Aim to practice a form of mindfulness everyday for about a month in order for it to become a habit. It may be helpful to think of it as a form of self-care and a way to reconnect with yourself.

How to Start Therapy

As recently as ten years ago, mental health wasn’t something that many people talked about. In fact, seeing a therapist was rarely something anyone would advertise in their life. However, as mental health becomes more normalized, seeking therapy is something that is progressively becoming a standard practice for many. 

Is therapy right for me? 

It can be difficult to know when going to get professional help is right for you, especially if you have never been to therapy before. Therapy is a vulnerable and private experience and starting can be overwhelming. 

Because of this, it may take some time and consideration to decide if you are ready to see a therapist. However, according to the American Psychological Association, therapy should be considered if you:

  • Thinking about or coping with the issue for more than an hour a day 
  • The issue pushes you to avoid others 
  • Your quality of life has decreased as a result of the issues you are experiencing
  • The issues are negatively affecting aspects of your life such as school, work, or relationships 
  • You have created coping mechanisms or habits to deal with the issue that are causing problems or a decrease in quality of life

If any of these things describe you or you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or generally unhappy, it might be a sign that your internal ‘check engine’ light is on and seeing a mental health professional such as a therapist could help. 

Benefits of Therapy 

For those of us that don’t have a lot of experience with therapy, it could be seen as something that is for ‘crazy people’. However, that isn’t the case. In fact, a lot of successful people use psychotherapy as a tool to help manage stress, navigate life transitions, and gain skills to be successful and happy in life. 

In fact, research shows multiple benefits that therapy can have for individual. For instance, therapy can help you to better understand yourself, how you think and how you feel in situations better, give you tools to deal with difficulties in your life, and help you gain new insight and perspective. In addition to this, therapy also gives you a non-judgemental space to process and talk through emotions and difficult events.

How to Start

Finding a therapist, scheduling an appointment, and going to your first appointment can be a bit daunting. Because of this, it is important to understand and acknowledge any stigmas that you may be holding that are keeping you from starting this process in the first place. 

If you are worried about privacy or disclosure, it should be noted that therapy is confidential. This means that no one in your life is even needs to know that you are seeking therapy. Additionally, mental health professionals are bound by law to protect your privacy so you can be confident that what happens in session stays in the session. 

Finding a Good Fit

There are a lot of things to consider before making an appointment with a therapist. We recommend taking a look at the clinicians available here, knowing what the cost is and if your insurance will cover any of it, and what type of therapy you are looking for. 

It may also be helpful to come up with a list of questions for the therapist. This can help you get a better sense of what to expect from therapy and to help you feel more comfortable with starting this process. 

Some common questions to ask are: what experience does the therapist have working with your particular situation, what does a typical session look like, and kind of therapy does the clinician practice.    

What Happens if the Therapist I see isn’t a good fit? 

If, after your first session, you feel like the therapist isn’t what you are looking for, it is completely ok to try another therapist out. It isn’t uncommon to try another therapist and is completely fine to break off that relationship. 

While it may be uncomfortable to ‘break up’ with your therapist, it is important to push past those feelings in order to find something that will be beneficial to you. Let the current therapist know that it doesn’t seem like a good fit and the therapist or practice can help you find a clinician that may be a better fit for you. 

Remember, mental health professionals’ main goal is to help you get better so we don’t take it personally if you think someone else will be a better fit for your specific needs. 

Covid-19 and Mental Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 has had a negative effect on mental health for a lot of people. Mental health includes our emotional, social, and psychological well-being and has the ability to affect how we think, how we feel, and what actions we take such as how we handle stress. This being said, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to influence how we live our daily lives, it is important to understand its impacts on our mental health. 

 

Throughout the years, a large body of research has found that social isolation and loneliness have been linked to a decrease in mental and physical health. In fact, the former US Surgeon Vivek Murthy has recently brought this to the public’s attention, pointing out that social isolation and loneliness has the potential to reduce lifespan and increase risk for mental health issues and physical illnesses. 

 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a need to be much more isolated and distanced than many of us have experienced in our lives. While it is important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals to practice safe and effective methods for fighting Covid-19 transmissions such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and sheltering in place if advised, it can be difficult to fulfill basic needs, such as social interaction, necessary for mental and physical well-being.

 

According to health professionals, Covid-19 may be a part of our lives for longer than any of us would like. Because of this, it may be helpful to implement a self-care and wellness routine in order to take care of your mental and physical health for the long haul.

 

Eat Balanced and Nutritious Meals

 

At this point you have probably found that you are much more sedentary than you used to be in your life pre-Covid. With the majority of gyms still closed and as you’ve settled into your WFH routine, you may find it increasingly difficult to make healthy and balanced decisions at meal times. 

 

Because of this, it may be helpful to try out meal-prepping and mindful grocery shopping. This could include creating a list of ingredients and meals you want to make for the week so you’re more focused when you’re walking down the aisles at the grocery store.

 

While it may be tempting to order out food (and by all means order every once in a while to support local businesses in your community), try to limit take out as best you can and stick to foods that make you feel good. Nobody is the same, so find what works best for you and what makes you feel good and stick to that! 

 

On the same note, don’t forget to drink water! It’s easier to forget to drink water when your regular routine is disrupted but hydration is just as important for mental and physical well being as eating a healthy and balanced diet is. 

 

Get a Good Sleep Schedule Going 

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Practicing good sleep hygiene is integral to mental health and wellness. In fact, research conducted at Harvard University states that sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression and may actually be a risk factor associated with developing an anxiety disorder. 

 

In order to decrease your risk of developing mental health issues, focus on getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night and going to bed at around the same time every night. While it’s tempting to want to binge-watch Netflix in bed, it may also be helpful to only use your bedroom for sleeping in order to associate that space with relaxation and rest.

 

Stay Connected 

Luckily, it’s 2021 and technology is advanced enough to bring us together in more ways than one. Despite not being able to go out like we used to, there are alternative ways to gain that social connection needed for your mental well-being. 

 

For instance, try planning a time when you and a friend or family member can video chat. While it can’t beat in-person social gatherings, talking to someone you love can help decrease the feeling of isolation and loneliness which will help increase your mental well-being. 

 

Even if video chat isn’t available to you, a quick phone call to someone in your support system can be a great boost for your mental health and overall mood. 

 

Find a Work/Life Balance that Works for You

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Before Covid-19, it was easier to be able to separate work from the rest of your life. However, as more people move to working remotely, that separation can get a little muddy which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. 

 

Because of this blurred divide between your work and home life, it may be helpful to separate your areas for work and play. Much like only using your bedroom for sleep, try sectioning off a particular area in your home that is solely dedicated to work. This way when the work day is over, it is easier to transition into home mode by physically moving yourself out of that space. 

 

Seek Help if you Feel Overwhelmed or Unsafe

 

Living through a global pandemic is hard and it is ok to not be ok. If you start feeling overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you may want to harm yourself or others, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

 

Here is a list of sources that may be useful for you. In addition to this list, you can always reach out to our office and make an appointment (in-person or via telehealth) for psychotherapy and counseling. 

 

Resources:

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – Free and confidential support for people in distress, 24/7.

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment referral and information, 24/7.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy   Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy (psychotherapy) used to …

Sleep and Mental Health

  Getting consistent and high-quality sleep is an integral part of your physical and mental wellbeing. Numerous studies …

Loss and Grief

Loss and Grief   Loss and the resulting grief you experience can be one of life’s most stressful events and can …