How Does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Treat Depression

Written by April Russell

It wasn’t so long ago that I was convinced I’d be unhappy for the rest of my life. I first developed depression at some point in my early teens and from there I’d spent the better part of my life struggling with anxiety, low mood, feelings of hopelessness and tension. I’ve lost count of how many times I thought about ending my own life.

My sickness was so severe I was unable to work. I barely left the house. I had no social life whatsoever. In my early twenties my weight plummeted to 7.5 stone and as I approached my thirties I was worryingly getting smaller. I believed that I was cursed and would never be able to enjoy life.

Life was totally out of my control and for me, that was the biggest problem. It’s fair to say my circumstances in life were rather bleak and I felt like a failure. I thought the only way I’d ever be free from depression was if I was able to solve all of my problems and go on to be whatever I perceived to be a successful person.

However, no matter how many problems I solved, more problems would always come and I found myself in the darkest pits of despair time and time again.

It was becoming apparent that the real problem was my desire for greater control over things which cannot be controlled. It had taken years of severe depression and a rather miserable life to begin to understand that all I can control is myself.

Counselling training

Over the years I had received counselling training and had studied various psychotherapeutic modalities. There came a point where I realised I had been learning how to combat mental illness and I hadn’t been practising what I’d discovered. I had been training myself in therapeutic techniques so that I could help others, yet I hadn’t really been testing these methods on myself.

It was when I began applying the techniques I had learned through training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and treated myself to Nutritional Therapy that I quickly began to see an improvement in my mental health. Within a couple of months I was able to call that period of my life my recovery. I was able to continue training in complementary therapies and begin launching my own business.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy commonly used to treat anxiety and depression and is sometimes helpful for other health problems. CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interconnected and negative thoughts and feelings perpetuate a vicious cycle of thoughts, feelings and actions. In CBT a client is shown how to change these negative patterns and improve the way they feel.

In a formal setting, CBT can last anything between 5-20 sessions, with each session usually lasting between 30-60 minutes. At home I simply began strategising how to implement Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques into my daily routine until I began to see a shift.

My thoughts were my enemy

My own thoughts had been my enemy for years, but I have proven to myself that thoughts and feelings can be changed. Even deep-rooted, age-old beliefs and ideas can begin to transform with conscious effort and real willingness to change.

I had been telling myself that my health and my life was not in my control, but during my recovery I learned the opposite as truth.

I began to look at every aspect of my life. I faced every problem, every doubt and every fear. For me the most powerful tools during my recovery has been meditation and learning to recognise sabotaging negative thoughts and transforming them. I had previously been so comfortable in a mindset that caused me nothing but harm and now, through CBT techniques, I was learning to love life again.

Changing negative thoughts

CBT invites a client to reflect, analyse and determine what kind of impact thoughts, feelings and behaviours are having on their lives and then together the therapist and client plan how to strategically change the negative thoughts and behaviours. Negative thoughts can lead to negative feelings and negative behaviours, or vice versa, and as such, I discovered that I was effectively able to treat depression by changing the way I thought.