The renowned French philosopher, René Descartes, wrote that, ‘I think therefore I exist’. Personally, I’m not that convinced by Descartes’ one liner. If you were to ask me I would say that, ‘I think therefore I suffer‘. Human suffering, in all of it’s endless forms, is all the product of our thinking. If our thinking is poor then our lives become nightmares; if we think well then our lives become joyous and full of meaning and achievement.
That idea is the foundation of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
Popularized in the seventies and eighties by Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis and then by David Burns, CBT has revolutionized how people heal their minds, their lives, and their relationships. In the years since, CBT has helped people emerge from bone crushing depressions, horrible anxieties, life destroying addictions, and the ravages of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This revolutionary approach works (and thousands of scientific studies say that it does) because it’s not revolutionary at all; it works because it focuses on changing the most elemental parts of our lives: our thoughts and our thinking.
Trained formally under Dr. Beck, I’ve been using CBT for many years. With it’s wisdom, I’ve seen countless clients climb out of their own personal tortures and make their lives work for them. CBT takes a positive, practical problem solving approach to depression, anxiety disorders (such as obsessive compulsive disorder and phobias), post traumatic stress disorder, immobilizing grief, addictions and compulsions, and the psychological distress that comes in the wake of health crises. CBT is also a very useful tool for helping couples get out of ruts and find the happiness and joy in their relationships.
CBT is a respectful form of psychotherapy. In many cases, relief can come quickly even after one or two sessions. In CBT we examine how your thoughts and your thinking immobilize you. This is done through the give and take of compassionate dialogue as well as through cognitive exercises and pleasurable ways to bring light to the darkness that our thoughts can bring us to.
For some useful CBT tools which I use regularly with my clients, see here. You will also find my books, Returning To Joy: A Jewish Self Care Guide To Overcoming Depression and The Power Of The Positive as excellent resources. You can see them here.