Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a core component of most counselling and psychotherapy trainings worldwide, and is very simple to understand and integrate into other approaches. Considered a form of top-down processing, the goal of CBT is to examine and address the problematic thinking patterns that can contribute to emotional distress and maladaptive behaviour patterns.
CBT focuses largely on the impact that automatic negative thoughts and core beliefs (also known as cognitive distortions) have on our emotional states (in particular, depression and anxiety) and, consequently, our coping or relational behaviours. These negative or limited thinking patterns are generally developed as a result of problematic, stressful or traumatic life experiences. For a list of common distorted thinking patterns, click here. CBT focuses on helping individuals notice and change unhelpful thoughts through various techniques, with the goal of improving mood and functioning.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is one way CBT has been adapted to integrate mindfulness principles, which suggest that rather than try to change our thoughts (CBT), we should instead change the way we relate to our thoughts (mindfulness).
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a form of bottom up processing that, similar to mindfulness, recognizes that there are at times limitations to using a strictly top-down approach. Willpower alone cannot always change belief patterns that are held and maintained by certain bodily processes, like a nervous system that is chronically hyper-aroused or in a state of freeze / dorsal-vagal shutdown. In these and other cases, shifting one’s thoughts through cognitive overriding is not effective or does not result in sustainable change unless work is also done at the level of the organism/body to support greater coherence and regulation.
At The Refuge, we use a combination of top-down and bottom-up methods that allow for a more comprehensive approach to healing and wellness.