I need something sweet.I need some antibiotics. I need CBT.

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a very popular type of therapy these days. It is short-term, symptom-focused work that can be used in a range of situations. Because it is short-term, insurance companies and government health plans love it. It is backed up by a lot of research and is relatively simple to learn. It is also highly structured and tools-focused which appeals to our mechanized way of seeing ourselves and our desire for quick fixes. This paragraph is loaded with generalities that I long to unpack but today’s post is not about evidence-based psychotherapy or the training of therapists so I will move on.

There is no such thing as CBT.

CBT is not a product that can be ingested. It is not something you can buy or put in a bottle.

In order to “do CBT” you have to work with a therapist who is trained in CBT. The closest you can get to CBT is CBT as mediated through your therapist. A therapist trained in CBT has been trained in the tools and concepts of this modality. Everything they have experienced in their life is combined with this training and the result is their version of CBT. No two versions are the same as each therapist-client dyad is completely different.

This may sound like bad news. Many clients arrive in therapy believing that CBT is what will relieve their symptoms.

I think sometimes our eagerness for a cure causes us to jump away from our experience. Particularly the part of our experience which is painful and unpalatable to our view of ourselves and the world.

In fact - this is all very good news. It means that there is a possibility for therapy to be effective - because it is a living response to you, a living being. But it also means that we have to look in a different place for healing than we do when we take medication. i.e. we need to shift from a passive to an active stance.

The tools and exercises alone do not magically make symptoms go away. Unless those exercises involve allowing yourself to articulate and feel into your current experience and share this with another person (your therapist) they won’t be much use. A good therapist will use the exercises in support of your growth. A good therapist will facilitate the expression of your feelings.

But no modality can reign supreme. Because there is no such thing as a modality.

This means: There is no such thing as CBT. There is no such thing as psychoanalysis. There is no such thing as coaching.

There is only two people. In a room. One of them trained over many years in helping people to change. The other looking to make a change.

There is only you. And the person who is there to help you.

The relationship is the therapy.

You can take in your therapist.

But you can’t take in CBT.


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