Sunday, June 24, 2018

Psychology 101 – ABC’s of Modern Mental Health

Current Psychology is filled with acronyms, and these often stand for evidence- based treatment theories.  I thought it might be helpful to put some of the most talked-about, current theories in easy-to-understand language.

CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This method aims to teach clients skills to modify dysfunctional uthinking.  We look at how the maladaptive cognition (harmful or unacceptable thought) was developed and correct the ensuing behaviors.  Example – Your spouse has moved out of the house, because of you yell and scream during every confrontation.  Your counselor helps you uncover that you yell and scream easily, because it was "normal" in your house of origin.  You don't even realize that you do it or how deeply it hurts others.  So now that your clinician has helped you uncover this “maladaptive thought pattern,” the two of you can work to train you to change your behavior using practicable techniques.

DBT – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – This method works to teach emotional regulation and coping skills.  While it is important to understand where negative thoughts and behavioral issues come from, sometimes Clients need to understand what they are experiencing in the moment and have tools to deal appropriately.  You may have heard of “mindfulness” – being aware of your emotions in the moment.  Mindfulness is the core principle of DBT.   If you are aware of your emotions, you can learn to either control them – if they are emotions like anger or depression – or fully enjoy them – if they are emotions like happiness or contentment.  So let’s say you deal with anger issues.  You've lost relationships and had significan health issues, because you are easily angered and have little control over your reactions.  So one day after you've started counseling, someone cuts you off in traffic. If your counselor has worked with you using DBT, you become aware of your blood pressure escalating, your neck muscles clenching, and your stomach knotting.  You willuse the coping skills you have been taught to de-escalate yourself, to avoid the negative effects of your anger. 

EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – This method was originally developed for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is used for Clients dealing with difficult current or past experiences that are causing them stress, anxiety, and/or depression.  Often, patterns can be found in multiple events that compound negative “core beliefs”.  EMDR uses the same method your body uses to process daily events – Rapid Eye Movement – to re-process negative perceptions of events and try to make them more manageable.  So let’s say you, as the client in this scenario,  were adopted at age 6, and your best friend moved away when you were 11, and your fiancĂ© broke off your engagement at 25.  You could have a negative core belief such as “it is not safe to feel”, “I am defective”, or “I am abandoned”.  You are going to reprocess these events with guidance of a therapist to soften or disprove that core belief.  You're then going to work with the therapist to find positive experiences that disprove your negative core belief. Together, you will strengthen these more positive memories through EMDR processing.  Clients who have dealt for years with long-term difficulties report achieving relief and peace, after having worked with a trained EMDR therapist.

Of course, there are many other theories in the world of mental health counseling.  Some clinicians find benefit in focusing on one method.  Others (myself included) assess their clients and “mix and match” their treatment to the client’s needs and personality.  Hopefully, this blog gives you relatable descriptions of the ones being talked about the most, right now, so that you can choose the right clinician for you.