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What is CBT Anyways?

How many people know exactly what CBT is? Can you tell me what that stands for?

It's Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. No, not the other CBT...

Essentially what it means is increasing your awareness of how your thoughts and emotions interplay and affect one another, and how this governs your behavioural reactions and choices.

CBT re-emerged in the last five to ten years as a promising model for mental health care, helping folks intervene with current problems in their lives and providing the allure of tangible solutions. It quickly became the "go-to" best practice for everyday interpersonal challenges and mental health management from everything including depression, anxiety, to sleep disorders. Got a problem? Answer: CBT! It's a Best Practice!

Well, not so fast...

This promise of a tangible, discrete and successful intervention is not so straightforward in terms of the bigger picture of someone's life as well as the social location which that person may be occupying. It's efficacy also varies depending on the presentation of mental health symptoms, coping patterns, and cognitive (brain/thinking/perceiving) variations that people have.

When you are experiencing structural barriers in your life in terms of access to safe housing to call a home, finding a job, dealing with everyday violence in the form racism and transphobia, if you have longer standing issues stemming from familial traumas...if you have ADD/ADHD - just to name a few different realities, you could find CBT somewhat lacking in terms of approach. Here, do these homework questions! Change your thoughts! You are good to go.

In my opinion, as I've witnessed in trying to meet clients where they are at, CBT is best used as one of many potential strategies to help folks start to examine the space in between their perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and their identity. Less of a "change your perspective" on the structural barriers and traumas in your life approach, and more of a "hey, guess what, you are NOT your internalized beliefs! You are NOT your depressive thoughts!"

In that sense, if a practitioner or therapist can offer up ways of helping you increase your awareness of automatically negative, destructive, or antagonistic thoughts and help you appreciate and observe how this impacts your emotions, mood, and can be a great starting point for identifying alternative thinking, awareness, and grounding strategies to help you feel more positive about dealing with challenges in your life.

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