CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is quite commonly suggested as a way to help people try to manage their anxiety better. Many GP’s in New Zealand recommend this approach.
CBT is a talk based approach used by psychologists / psychotherapists to help clients become aware of their thoughts and feelings and how these affect their behaviours in life.
CBT operates on the principle that our thoughts influence our emotions and actions, so by changing our thoughts, we can change how we feel and behave.
CBT is a goal-oriented approach that aims to equip people with effective coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
At first this all sounds wonderful, but if we take a closer look you will learn why many people who try this approach to help deal with anxiety find it very limited.
I have had many clients tell me that they found CBT somewhat useful to a degree. It often helped them manage the anxiety or lessen it a little, but they lacked the tools to help them actually break free.
Why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is limited
As stated above, CBT operates on the principle that our thoughts influence our emotions and actions, so by changing our thoughts, we can change how we feel and behave. And yes, this has some truth in it, but what it fails to understand is that most people are thinking a certain type of way due to their physiology.
So if the person is in a stressed out state, the Nervous system will be adapting in a certain way and as a result, the person will think a type of thought congruent with this. Trying to change the thoughts without changing the physiology is often limited, as you will just go back over and over again.
A great analogy can be if you are tuned into a radio station frequency, you will have a certain type of music / playlist. Our bodies, whenever our Nervous system has been under too much stress and adapts into a defensive physiology, will produce a thought process that matches this. So when the body is in defence - the mind will be in defence.
If your body is in fear - your mind will be in fear.
Trying to change the mind without changing the body first is like listening to a rock music radio station and hoping to hear a classical beethoven track.
CBT therapists limitations
Another challenge I see when my clients go to CBT Auckland practitioners, is that their goal is to help their clients try to develop coping strategies.
Now the problem with coping strategies is, if they do work, the person keeps using them. BUT then the person needs to keep using them. And the problem here is that they never get beyond that point.
My goal is to help my clients move beyond anxiety to break free, and so very rarely do we try to help the person with a management strategy - because if your managing it, this means you ain't resolving it!
From my experience of seeing clients who have gone to a CBT practitioner - they will not help you resolve your anxiety, but they will help you manage it.