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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Your Body

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I always talk about the body with clients.

With Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) you will often see a triangle used to describe the CBT model. The points of the triangle are your Thoughts, your Feelings and your Behaviours. CBT therapy helps you look at how those interact.

The CBT triangle is a great model – however, I add the Body smack in the middle of the triangle. I do this because your Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours also affect your Body and vice versa.

I encourage clients to tune in to how their stress or emotions feel in their body. It takes a little practice or “homework”. They track symptoms and become more aware of what is going on. Often, they can notice an interaction between their thoughts, feelings or behaviours and their body. For example – lack of sleep can lead to irritability. Or, worried thoughts can lead to lack of sleep. Or, anxiety can lead to loss of appetite.

Once clients are more aware of what is going on in their body – they can then learn to use a tool or technique when those body sensations start. With anxiety, worry, or panic, it can essentially head off the problem when it begins.

Or, clients learn techniques to calm their body, which can then calm their thoughts.

Everyone is unique and everyone needs a personal, tailored approach to help them manage or change the problems they come to therapy to work on. It is my honour to be a part of that experience with them.

CBT HOMEWORK vs ACTION PLAN

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I never liked the term homework that is used in CBT therapy. I mean, who enjoyed homework at school? Not me. Whenever I used the term homework with clients I put air quotes around it – “homework”. I would also explain that it’s completely optional. And no one is getting marked on it. 🙂

Although the word “homework” was not quite right, the idea of working on something in-between sessions has great value. One of the reasons I like doing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with clients is because they really get involved in their own healing. Homework keeps clients involved in-between our sessions, in their day to day life, thinking about what they are trying to change or paying more attention to their thoughts, feelings or behaviours so that we can put in tools or techniques to make changes.

I just read that the Beck Institute (Dr. Aaron Beck is the founder of CBT) has started using the term Action Plan instead of homework. I love it! Action Plan sounds collaborative, goal oriented, and positive. So, I am going to start switching my terms from Homework to Action Plan – It may take me awhile to make this change stick, but I will use CBT techniques to help me 😉 I will also be changing the wording on my web page and communication bit by bit. That’s my Action Plan.

Mary Cross, MSW RSW, therapist.

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