These days, mindfulness has been the focus of much of the therapy world, with many studies showing the benefits of adding it to many types of therapy, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the cognitive model, which in a nutshell states that the situations in your life are not your problem, but the way you interpret them is. This is not your fault; you probably don’t even realize you are doing it. Everyone has automatic thoughts, like a recording that is playing in your mind, and you feel you have no control over it. When the thoughts are negative, they are often interpreted as fact, when they are not necessarily true. What drives those particular negative thoughts is the way you were brought up, and what your assumptions and core beliefs are. These are all things that can be worked on with CBT.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT involves making action plans, which are things you do at home between sessions. This helps you remember what was covered during the session and improves on the problems we address in the session as well. Slowly over time, you will make changes in your life in the direction of where you want to land. As things improve in your life, so too does your mood.
You thought I forgot about mindfulness, didn’t you? Mindfulness is a way of being in the moment, and present. It’s not unlike meditation, but the goal of meditation is to empty your mind, and the goal of mindfulness is to pay very close attention to the sensations around you. Not everyone can do it right away, and it might take a lot of practice, but the benefits are worth it. People who practice mindfulness on a daily basis are more tolerant of their emotions, more observant, more able to calm themselves or self-soothe during times of stress. The great part is you can practice mindfulness when you are doing anything: taking out the trash, going for a walk, making coffee or tea, basically anything you normally do.
The Mindful Raisin Exercise
My favourite introduction to mindfulness is with food, especially the mindful raisin exercise. It involves very slowly studying the appearance, then feeling the textures, and the taste and sensations in your mouth of the raisin. You probably didn’t realize how many different textures and tastes a raisin possesses. If you don’t like raisins, then try it with something else like a grape or potato chip; something small, even a Hershey’s kiss. Just make sure you take your time and try to involve all your senses for the best effect. Now imagine how you can introduce this into other areas of your life. 😀
Does all of this sound like more than you can handle? Fear not; there are some people that just need a listening ear and a place to vent their frustrations, without having to work too hard. For those people, we have client-centered therapy, developed by Carl Rogers, which embodies the three tenets of empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard. Those are all things that I hold to no matter what techniques are being used in a session, so if you just want to talk, that is perfectly fine, in fact, you are the expert of you, so you will be in charge of where we go in sessions…but don’t worry, I will be there every step of the way.
See my recent blog post for how I work with couples and watch the video by Sue Johnson that explains more.