Counselling and Support

For about a decade, I went to mental health counseling intermittently.  I would show up at the sessions, spill my guts for an hour, pay my good money and, for the most part, get absolutely nothing out of it.  I ended up on antidepressants and still tried to commit suicide.  Not too successful in my book.

I, now, realize that the whole process failed miserably because of me.  I would, basically, go in there and tell them what I thought they wanted to hear.  I did not paint a true picture of the real me. I did not depict everything as butterflies and rainbows, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone my deepest, ugliest secrets and let them see my darkest side.  That’s the catch. You kinda have to be honest for it to work.  Imagine that?!

There is recent scientific evidence showing that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  actually works and changes the brain!  In their book, The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success, Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske tell of a study led by Greg Seigle which found that CBT was more effective at calming patients’ amygdalas and, hence, curbing emotional over reaction than antidepressant medication.  Unlike the effects of medication, which wore off shortly after it was stopped, the effects of CBT lasted long term after the therapy ended.

CBT utilizes neuroplasticity to make permanent changes in the brain.  CBT is based on the idea that changing your thoughts and feelings affects your subsequent behaviors.  Making new thought and behavioral patterns recruit different neural networks and make new connections and pathways in your brain.  Change your brain; change your life.

Under the direction of a trained, licensed clinician, CBT requires a person to evaluate their current behavior to identify strengths and weaknesses – honestly – and decide on specific, measurable goals.

Then, they commit to making changes in thinking and behaviors to play up strengths and limit weaknesses to reach the goals.  This is the hard part.  The new cognitive-behavioral skills must be practiced and implemented regularly… over and over…even when it is not easy or fun in order for the brain to make changes.

CBT is no quick fix. It can take weeks or months or even years to replace rigid thought patterns and rewire the brain.  In their book, the authors make the very good point of asking you to think of how long it took to get to the state you are in, in the first place. It may take that long to see real changes to something different.

I, unknowingly, have used my own home cooked version of CBT in my recovery.  I am currently in counseling, but I did not participate in any at all for the two years immediately after my suicide attempt.  I also stopped taking antidepressants shortly after the attempt.  Now, I feel I have a very good counselor, and I do tell the truth…in all of its messy, gory detail, and I find it very beneficial.  Whadya know?

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joehoughton/

15 Comments

  1. I spent a decade in therapy as well with hubs and without him and with and without 3 of my 4 daughters. It was when I was 27-37. It made such a difference I got a master’s degree in counseling psych and CBT was very effective for both myself and my clients. Thanks for sharing your journey. Enjoy the process. I looked forward to most sessions in both roles;)

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      How rewarding to take something so meaningful and beneficial to you and use it to help others. What an accomplishment too! I truly think that is what it is all about. Taking our experiences and sharing them with others in a way that they can, hopefully, learn from our path. They still have to walk their own, but, we can kinda help them avoid the land mines. I think I have successfully learned to not step on them by now. I thank my therapist for helping me to do that. For someone who was so anti-therapy for a few years after my suicide attempt that is saying a lot. When I quit trying to be smarter than the therapist, it is amazing how much good it does!

  2. Hi Debbie,

    I’m a big fan of retraining the amygdala and appreciate your update here. Meditation is also very effective in calming the amygdala and retraining the brain. All the best to you.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I am with you there. Meditation has also been a huge part of my healing my brain, calming my brain, and changing my thought patterns. I called my meditation time my healing time over the past couple of years. It also neuroplastically changes the brain. With it, CBT, yoga, visualization, affirmations, and many other things we really can create our own realities. Powerful stuff!

  3. Debbie, I am glad you are doing so well. Your blog is excellent and very useful for those of us that struggle just to get through the day.

    I don’t agree that it’s your fault the CBT didn’t work for you previously. It’s not your job to understand and manage therapy sessions. People are too confused and overwhelmed for that. Additionally, therapists deal with people not divulging the full truth all the time. It’s their job to pull things out of people.

    I know from my own experiences that there seem to be more unskilled therapists out there than skilled. They might be knowledgeable, but practicing and teaching may not be their strength. I had even gone to one of the best CBT doctors around yet nothing was done in a structured understandable way. I have no idea what we were doing there. It just seemed like more wasteful, stressful, frustrating chat therapy to me.

    So no, I don’t think it was your fault or that you really did anything wrong. It’s not always “your fault,” though the world would certainly like us to think so. The system is seriously flawed. All practitioners are not highly skilled. I think the statistic is that psychotherapy in general is only successful 1/3 of the time, which isn’t very good. Personally, I feel that if things were done with standardized treatment programs and methods, that the results would be better.

    I do believe in the science of CBT however. My suggestion for people who seek outside help (which is the point of my post) would be to make sure you understand what the treatment plan is from any given professional. Make sure it is structured and get specifics up front on what you will be doing in the sessions and why before investing any time, money, or emotion in their services. It’s hard to question and they don’t like it but this way you can be relatively sure they have a plan and know what they’re doing. If they’re not open to this, move on. These things can go on for years at great expense, unnecessarily. You would think treatment would be standardized but it’s not. After a lifetime of struggling, the best and quite productive treatment I received was in a free research program which lasted only a number of weeks. It was someone’s life’s work and commitment and she both knows us well and had every i dotted and t crossed in her treatment program. It was excellent and I even met people just like myself. Very sad. My very exhausting, painful and bizarre life is almost over. I have spent a fortune over the years rather than save and will likely become destitute at this point.

    We are indeed lucky in this internet age. It’s much easier to educate ourselves on what’s available. You are indeed lucky (and a good teacher) that you have been able to research and treat yourself with so many great methods and tools from the pros and to even rebuild your brain. Quite amazing! Best to you always.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Gosh, thank you for your praise. It is hard earned truths that I have learned from the trenches of life the not-so-fun way…but usually the best for really sticking with you, huh?

      Thank you also for the suggestion that, in order for the CBT to be successful, it takes two. I never thought about that before, but you are absolutely right! It absolutely would have been more productive had I been forthcoming, but surely, as you say, I was not the first one to do this.

      I, also, totally agree with what you have outlined as far as understanding the treatment plan and mutually agreeing upon one before investing in it. I have learned this now…that you have to be your own advocate, but I did not know it or do it then.

      I would encourage you not to just accept that you are going to be destitute in the remainder of your life. I truly believe, by thinking this way , you are creating this. I am not saying just to completely live in a fantasy, but start visualizing , affirming, believing otherwise. You do not have to be rich, but know and believe and feel that you will have everything you need which is in the end after all very little.

      I used to be really anxious about not having “enough.” I have seen my fear go through phases and release its hold on me…through affirmations, meditation, and thought reframing and such. I am 47 and gonna have to, pretty soon, for the first time in my life…ever, start a career and support myself. At my age? But, I tell you what, I know I can do whatever it takes. I know I can adapt. I know I am smart. I know I will thrive.

      By your writing, I can tell you are smart with well organized thoughts, well spoken, and computer savvy. Don’t know much else about you, but I do know that you can change your life by changing your thoughts. This costs nothing. Why not? Just see where it takes you. Devote some time to it every day. You are worth it. Your life/happiness is worth it. Invest this time and effort in you. You will not become destitute…you don’t have to have any more than the bare minimum and a happy mind to be rich…and only you can make your mind rich. Blessings.

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