Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Psychotherapy is all about talking to a professional who will help you to view the self and world from different perspectives. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a form of psychotherapy where a patient suffering from certain mental or emotional condition is assisted by a therapist to analyse their situation, using a number of exercises to work through their emotions.
How Does CBT Work?
This all begins with sessions with a therapist. It can be a session per week or 2 weeks. You are likely to yield results in between 9 to 12 sessions. The sessions can run for between 45 to 60 minutes.
During the session, an assessment of the thoughts, emotions and behaviours would be conducted to help understand the patient’s current situation. CBT is based on the principle that our cognitions (thoughts) affect our emotions (the way we feel), which in turn affects our behaviours (what we do). In the same way that negative thoughts cause negative emotions (stress), positive thoughts will result in positive feelings of wellbeing. Essentially, the sessions aim to slowly shift chronic negative thought patterns into positive ones, improving self-esteem and confidence. It is also about behavioral change where patients try and take different actions for a given situation than those they would normally do.
Who Benefits From CBT?
CBT is effective for those who experience anxiety, chronic feeling of emptiness, stress due to life challenges, reduced self-worth or confidence. It is also effective in those who experience depression or anxiety as part of a mental disorder.
CBT can also be used in combination with medications for symptomatic relief, or with other forms of psychotherapy such as EMDR.
Any form of psychotherapy is only effective when approached with an open-mind i.e. those who are fully engaged in the process and truly ready to make a change. It should also be noted that conditions such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks tend to re-occur more than once in a lifetime. CBT helps the patient to better deal with the situation the next time it arises, hence a change in cognition and behaviour.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR) is a type of psychotherapy that is specifically effective in treating disturbing memories and the excessive mental arousal associated with them, which are the main symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but may also occur in other anxiety disorders. It is a solid alternative to mainstream treatment strategies for anxiety disorders, which may consists of antidepressants (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs) and traditional forms of psychotherapy.
What is EDMR?
EDMR involves recalling and reprocessing traumatic memories in a guided manner, which is accompanied by visual stimuli, usually lateral eye movements, or tapping on the knees. This therapeutic approach is based on the abnormal memory formation mechanisms during a highly stressful, traumatic event.
Researchers believe that when an individual is exposed to a traumatic event, which can be an accident, severe physical injury, sexual abuse or military combat, the memories associated with the event are inadequately processed and stored. This deficient memory processing does not allow for an effective connection with coping mechanisms, which usually help us alleviate the impact of stressful events.
The inadequate memory fixation of a traumatic event facilitates the activation of the autonomic nervous system, which may translate into typical anxiety symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, sweating, sleep disturbances and repeated flashbacks. These typical PTSD symptoms may determine the individual to avoid any circumstance or stimulus that would trigger hyper-arousal upon recalling the disturbing events.
Memory Reprocessing and Desensitization through EDMR Therapy
The goal of EDMR therapy is to change the way disturbing memories are processed and achieve a desensitization to triggers that can lead to flashbacks and severe anxiety. It is also aimed at connecting the mental processing of these traumatic memories to the natural stress coping mechanisms in the affected individual.
In other words, during EDMR therapy, the individual learns to become less sensitive to memories of the stressful event, and activates his or her stress coping strategies to prevent severe anxiety and the excessive activation of the autonomic nervous system. EDMR involves several stages that are conducted under the supervision of a therapist. The patient is encouraged to actively recall the traumatic events and their circumstances in great detail, which would normally trigger anxiety. At the same time, visual stimuli are applied in a controlled manner to achieve a progressive desensitization and allow for psychological coping mechanisms to be involved in this process, which results in adjusting the way memories are stored and their connections to the limbic system (a brain region responsible for processing emotions).
Who Benefits From EDMR?
Individuals who suffer from traumatic memories and their effects are the ones who benefit greatly from EDMR therapy. Medical studies reveals that EDMR therapy is at least equally effective when compared to the traditional exposure therapy, and it is more effective than antidepressant medication (SSRIs). However, depending on the severity of the condition, EDMR may be combined with antidepressant therapy, or with other forms of psychotherapy, such as trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy, which appears to possess similar effectiveness. War veterans, people who suffered from complex grief reactions, physical/emotional/sexual abuse are potential candidates for EDMR therapy.
What Mental Health Conditions can be Treated With EDMR?
* The most common application of EDMR is the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder. It demonstrated an efficiency superior to antidepressant medication and equal to exposure therapy in PTSD patients.
* EDMR can also be utilized in the treatment of other anxiety disorders that were caused by emotional trauma experienced in the past, even if they are not associated with flashbacks or hyper-arousal as with PTSD. Children who have suffered from physical or verbal abuse can experience a dramatic improvement and develop better coping mechanisms through EDMR.
* This form of psychotherapy is also effective in treating psychosomatic pain by achieving a reprocessing of pain stimuli on a psychological level and improving an individual's coping skills and reaction to specific triggers.