Cognitive behavior therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment modalities for many psychological disorders and mental health issues. Thousands of scientific research studies have supported the effectiveness of CBT in treating anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and numerous other presenting problems. In contrast to certain other psychotherapy approaches, CBT is more focused on the present and is more problem-solving oriented. It addresses the relationships between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, and seeks to intervene to improve functioning in all three areas. In addition, patients learn specific skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. These skills involve identifying patterns of distorted thinking, modifying unhealthy and inaccurate beliefs, relating to others in different ways, and changing maladaptive or damaging behaviors.
In CBT, patients are encouraged to actively participate in their treatment planning and its implementation. Patients begin to recognize that the way they get better is by making small, consistent changes in how they think and behave on a daily basis. When treatment ends, patients are able to use the skills and tools they have learned in therapy in their day-to-day lives.
Mindfulness Meditation is a Western, research-based form of meditation derived from an ancient Buddhist practice known as Vipassana or Insight Meditation. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion.
The University of California Center for Mindfulness, part of the medical school’s psychiatry department, describes mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness is non-judgmental, open-hearted, friendly, and inviting of whatever arises in awareness. It is cultivated by paying attention on purpose, deeply, and without judgment to whatever arises in the present moment, either inside or outside of us. By intentionally practicing mindfulness, deliberately paying more careful moment-to-moment attention, individuals can live more fully and less on ‘automatic pilot,’ thus, being more present for their own lives.”
Consistent practice (for a few minutes each day) promotes the development of stability, calmness, and non-reactivity of the mind. This allows us to face and embrace even the unpleasant, stressful, or painful aspects of daily life. By developing a simple and pure awareness, we can learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and to connect with our experience, with ourselves, and with others in a healthier and deeper way.
Since 1967, over 1500 studies have shown mindfulness to be clinically effective in the management of stress, anxiety and panic, chronic pain, depression, obsessive thinking, strong emotional reactivity, and a wide array of medical and mental-health-related conditions.
In addition to significant reductions in stress, proven benefits of mindfulness include:
- Improved immune system function
- Decreased frequency and duration of illnesses
- Improved management of chronic pain
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
- Improved sleep and digestion
- Increased energy
- Improved mental function, intelligence, and memory
- Less irritability, anxiety, and depression
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Increased resilience to change
- Improved creativity and creative production
Stress, and especially chronic stress, can negatively impact all aspects of an individual’s functioning. Stress can damage mental health, strain relationships, lead to declines in work performance, and erode our physical health. At its worst, stress can become immobilizing and debilitating, with long-lasting consequences.
Stress management entails using a tailored combination of approaches to manage the causes of, and symptoms of, stress and chronic stress. Primary approaches include: psychotherapy and development of coping strategies, relaxation techniques, breathing retraining, meditation practice and biofeedback. Adjunctive modalities such as physical exercise, yoga, and massage may also be recommended. With the client’s commitment to making small, but consistent, modifications to their lifestyle, significant reductions in the symptoms of chronic stress can often be achieved in a short period of time.