Using Self Help Resources
If you have never tried or even heard of CBT, you can do a mini, seven-step self-help course here.
You can read each step as you go and watch video clips explaining what is involved. You can also download each step and worksheets in PDF format.
It will give you a good understanding of the basics of how CBT works, and what you need to do. It is free, and you don’t need to buy any of their other material, or even register to do the course.
Does Self Help Work?
The short answer is – not usually. Why not? Is it too hard? There are several reasons it doesn’t work and none of them has anything to do with the complexity of CBT.
The principle behind how CBT works is deceptively simple. Our thoughts determine our feelings, which determine our behaviour. To change our behaviour, all we have to do is change our thoughts.
When trying to do CBT by ourselves, we run into two main problems:
- Our thoughts have grown up with us
- We are not accountable to anyone
Changing Our Thoughts
How we think now, is the result of a lifetime of experiences. Whether you are 30 or 50, changing them is not going to be easy. Like a video recorder, our mind has stored everything we have ever experienced or learned, be it good or bad.
When something happens to us, the recordings are automatically used to determine our feelings, and hence our response. This happens so quickly that we are not even aware of it. It has become instinctive.
Trying to consciously bypass the recordings simply just doesn’t work. Our learned thoughts have become so deeply ingrained, that our subconscious mind will win over our conscious mind every time.
We have to actually change the recordings, and that takes a lot of effort, pain and time. We have to pinpoint exactly which recording is causing the problem. This involves a lot of detective work, trial and error. We can’t fix a problem until we have first identified it, and trying to do that on our own is very difficult.
Who Cares Anyway?
Ultimately, most people give up trying, because it all becomes too hard and nobody is monitoring our progress anyway. We are not accountable to anyone, so we stop trying. There is no one who is going to give us any encouragement or even help.
It is no good relying on friends or family, because they will have no understanding of what we are even trying to accomplish, yet alone how.
Ideally we should be doing CBT with a professional counsellor. But this may not be an option for some of us, either financially or physically. Or we may not even be prepared to undergo formal therapy, through fear or social stigma. Even if we do seek professional help, it will usually only be 8-12 sessions, and we are then left to our own devices to keep practising it.
This is where peer support groups are much more successful than self-help methods, and can also provide the necessary ongoing aftercare from counselling. We will have people who understand CBT to support us, and provide caring accountability, so we don’t give up.
A strong support group is worth its weight in gold. While other members may not have exactly the same problems we do, they will have their own, and can understand what we are going through. In practice, this very difference in the exact nature of each member’s problem, gives us the opportunity to help someone else.
Peer groups are mutual, self-help groups, made up of equals all striving toward the same outcome – changing our thoughts. Everyone’s journey is different, but we are all on the same bus and heading in the same direction!