Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has achieved a lot of coverage in the media and research trials recently.
The central tenet of CBT is that our thoughts trigger the way we feel (emotions) and how we in turn act (behavior). The process of effective CBT requires clients to be hugely motivated to do “practice work” between sessions to understand how their thinking processes can shift their response patterns. Whilst the evidence base is strong for using this approach for depression and anxiety, it is important to assert that CBT principles can be adapted in therapy work for a number of difficulties beyond anxiety and depression and can provide a useful base for exploring how difficult emotional and behavior patterns are triggered and maintained.
Systemic Therapy focuses on understanding individual emotional difficulties in the context of different social relationships. It shares some of the principles of Family Therapy and places significant emphasis on the communication patterns in a person’s context as being responsible for their emotional well being and development.
Thus, any difficulty which impacts a person’s emotional well-being in relation to the other relationships such as with their family (spouse, children, relatives) or their wider systems such as workplace, community, culture would benefit from this approach. This approach focuses on using resources which a person has and developing these as strengths to make meaningful changes in their relationships.
Solution Focused Therapy
As the name suggests, this approach focuses on “finding solutions” as apposed to “problem solving”. In contrast to other therapy approaches which are generally centered on understanding the origins of a difficulty in order to inform treatment/ therapy interventions, solution focused therapy work emphasizes clients’ coping skills and their realistic aspirations for a “different future”. The approach believes that there might already be instances in the clients’ life which resemble aspects of their preferred future (exceptions to problem states) but that clients need help and clarity in thinking as to what needs to be done to be in a different emotional place.
This approach is particularly useful for clients who want a short term, coaching/ goal oriented approach such as adolescents and young adults (due to varied/ transient and different presenting problems),addictions, conflict resolution and personal development.
I have used this approach on it’s own as well as in conjunction with other models with university students, workplace managers, teachers, entreupreuners, new coupples and parents.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based, values oriented approach which aims at enabling people to develop a meaningful life alongside the difficulties which life inevitably brings. the approach belives that epxeriential avoidance is an important cause of psychological distress. A key message in ACT is “to accept what is outside your personal control, while commiting to action which will improve the quality of your life”
The approach focuses on enabling clients to develop psychological flexibility by using the values which clients consider as important and meaningful to guide action/ behaviour. Hence, awareness and acceptance in order to move forward are two key areas of work in this approach. ACT princilples and techniques can also be used for transdiagnostic interventions.
There is empirical evidence for the effectiveness of this approach in difficulties such as chronic pain and long term health problems, relationship diffculties, bereavement and trauma, abuse, low mood and post-natal depression.
Compassion Focused Therapy
Compassion focussed therapy is an integrated therapy approach which draws on ideas from developmental, social, evolutionary and Buddhist ideas. The clinical focus of compassion focussed therapy is on shame and high self criticism.
Research studies reveal that shame and high levels of self criticism often have roots in parental neglect, a lack of a nurturing environment, history of abuse and bullying. These experiences result in an under developed ability to self soothe and often presents as an over-active and exaggerated threat system in indivduals. This makes people more vulnerable and predisposed to low mood, anxiety disorders, perfectionism and lwo self esteem.
The aim of therapy work in this approach is to try and re-balance the emotional regulation systems and to create “social safeness”. Payal draws on ideas from this approach when working on diffciulties such as relentless standards, perfectionism, shame and guilt, low self esteem, trauma and self harm. she has also found this approach as particularly helpful whilst supervising trainees as they often present with high standards and unrelenting self criticism in their training.