Cognitive methods

Cognitive-behavioural psychology methods can be helpful for getting to the essence of a problem and for problem solving. Of the many cognitive methods and cognitive teachers out there, I primarily am fond of Christine Padesky. I find her approach client friendly and down to earth. Her frameworks blend well with the other traditions I use in my practice—particularly the very constructive way of dealing with handing over tools to the client. Take for example the cognitive diamond, a method that involves writing down your thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, and actions you might take in relation to handling a negative situation. With the diamond, it’s easy to see how negative thoughts produce negative feelings which then produce a certain feeling in your body that perhaps makes you react or hide from the problem.

This negative spiral often gets automatised in a way where it’s easy to think that there are no other options. When you write down what is going on, you can clearly see how each thing is affecting other negative aspects and how they connect to form a downward spiral. The good news is that when we recognise the pattern, we can disrupt it. We can find ways to change the cycle into a good spiral. Like the downward spiral, the upward spiral will be self-reinforcing such that things get better and better. In cognitive therapy home assignments are important, mostly because it will help the client to be in charge of the progress, also because we challenge the problem through this. I also find the assignments useful because they keep the client and I clear on where we are in the process. It gives an indication of what is helping and what could be the next obstacle.

When action is applied then the therapy process speeds up and it therefore can potentially provide a row of small successes which can be encouraging to the client. Another useful side to cognitive therapy is the focus on having a clear aim with the therapy. Often it’s important to have a short and a long term goal that the client formulates with the therapist. The clarity of what is the problem and the participation from the clients side empower the client to be their own agent. Also it keeps the therapy on track.