On the 21st June 2016, I embarked on a new adventure regarding my mental health – I started CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
I had started having regular counselling nine months prior to starting CBT (not including my university counselling which started almost a year before that). I found it very liberating and helpful to an extent to talk about my problems to a stranger, someone who had no emotional attachment to me like a friend or family member would. It was great having someone entirely neutral to listen to everything I said without trying to give advice or pass judgement, especially when I was at my worst with my depression.
However, after several months, it became clear that while it was nice to talk to my counsellor, my problems weren’t getting better. If anything, I was starting to feel a bit worse. My OCD flared up to the worst it had been. Counsellors aren’t there to give you strategies and tools to use to cope with your problems in the way that Cognitive Behavioural Therapists are. So, after recommendation from my doctor, I signed up for CBT.
I find it hard to leave behind things and people I get attached to. I was very used to the idea of going to my counsellor in a regular time slot week in and week out, and I was worried I wouldn’t find a therapist as nice as she had been. I was adamant that I would stay in counselling while I had CBT. Unfortunately, this is not widely accepted, as CBT and counselling are distinctively different therapies. So, I ended up having to leave counselling to pursue CBT. It was hard and sad, but now I am SO glad I did it. CBT has ended up helping me so much more than counselling did.
To start with, I had ‘holding sessions’ with my counsellor every few weeks or so, to keep in touch, and basically hold my spot within the counselling service so that if CBT wasn’t working for me or I wanted to go back, I could do so without having to re-register with the service. It was nice to know I wasn’t permanently cut off from my counsellor. Within a few months, however, I didn’t go back to counselling, and I don’t think I will. Not right now, anyway. Who knows what the future holds!
I still see my therapist for CBT now. I used to see him weekly, but have now managed to lengthen the time between sessions to around four to six weeks. This is one of the goals of CBT, I guess. To be able to cope for longer and longer periods ‘on your own’. Sometimes I have booked in sessions in a few weeks time, but something troubling has come up and I have gone earlier. And that’s ok! I know that I can email my therapist any time and he will book me in as soon as he is able to. But I try not to do this if I can help it – I don’t want to end up relying too much on him.
If you’d asked me when I started how long I would expect to be in CBT for, I would have probably said 8-12 sessions, give or take. This is what my therapist said was the average length people with OCD tended to see him for. Although, of course, depending on the person it could be much less or more. For me, it ended up being the latter. Almost a year now and I am still there! But everyone is different, and it just so happened that I needed that little bit more support than some others might (and my anxiety about finishing CBT, but that’s another story!).
My OCD was the main reason I started CBT at the beginning. But it has also helped me with SO much more, including with my general anxieties, depression, skin picking, self esteem, confidence, etc. CBT uses specific tools and ideas to help the patient recognise and adapt their way of thinking and patterns in their thoughts, so it can help with so many different issues! It is one of the first treatments recommended for many mental health conditions, and can be available on the NHS (although, I believe this is for a limited number of sessions) or privately.
There are tonnes of resources available online! I’d urge you to look into it if you think that it could be useful to you. It can be accessed in all sorts of different ways, not just face to face (such as online, phone, books) so there is a way for CBT to suit pretty much anyone! I want to make it clear that it may not be the perfect treatment for everyone, but from my own experience, it has been such a fantastic help.
Have you had CBT, or will be having it in the future? Are you in the middle of it like me? Let me know your thoughts on it!