TYPES OF THERAPY
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The overarching framework guiding all of our work at CPC is to practice evidence-based therapy within the context of a caring, compassionate therapeutic relationship. Evidence-based therapy is therapy backed up by science. Similar to other practices in medicine, psychologists have established standards about what is most helpful in therapy in order to increase the quality of treatment and the accountability of therapists to provide gold-standard care. Evidence-based therapy incorporates three core components to treat an individual: the best available research, clinical expertise, and individual characteristics of the client, including their cultural background and personal preferences. The results of practicing evidence-based therapy are consistently faster and better therapeutic outcomes.
Exposure therapy - also called “Exposure and Response Prevention” (ERP) - is a key component of CBT. For anxiety and OCD, “exposure” is often the behavioral aspect of CBT. Exposure has been researched for several decades, and is consistently found to be the most powerful way to overcome anxiety. It is an action-oriented approach to improving one’s relationship to anxiety by gradually and systematically approaching what one is afraid of, so that new learning about the feared object or situation occurs. Although avoiding fears sometimes helps us feel more comfortable in the short term, avoidance maintains fears in the long term. Why? Because we do not get the opportunity to learn about avoided experiences - that we can cope with them or that they are not as bad as we feared. With chronic avoidance, our lives tend to get smaller and smaller and we can lose our self-confidence. With the support and guidance of a trained, caring professional, exposure therapy empowers people to step out of the trap of avoidance and step into the life they want.
Most people experience significant improvement in their anxiety with exposure practice when guided by an expert therapist. At first it can be scary to confront the very experiences you most try to avoid. However, with practice it often begins to feel liberating, as you gain confidence in your own ability to handle anxiety and the uncertainties of life, and become more open to experience. At CPC, we’re by your side every step of the way, helping you design effective exposure practices, coaching you on how to be with uncomfortable sensations, and working with you to progress at a pace that feels manageable. With exposure therapy, you can break free of the anxiety that holds you back.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an umbrella term for many forms of therapy that involve working with thoughts (cognitive) and actions (behaviors) in order to improve chronic difficult feelings such as anxiety or sadness. CBT and related approaches, such as those discussed below, are the gold standard treatment for anxiety, panic, worry, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, low self-esteem, couples difficulties, and many other life struggles that keep people stuck.
CBT is a present-focused, goal-oriented, and collaborative therapy approach. From the foundation of a caring, trusting, transparent therapy relationship, high-quality CBT empowers people to understand how they stay caught in unhelpful cycles of thoughts, actions and feelings. CBT strategies help people interrupt these patterns, and learn alternative ways of thinking and behaving that can improve painful emotional experiences, empowering a person to pursue the life they truly want.
WHAT IS ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT)?
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
A newer addition to the CBT umbrella, ACT was founded on the premise that mental health is not just about reducing your symptoms; it is also about living a life consistent with your true values. It focuses on clarifying the aspects of life that are most important to you, and teaches you the skills you’ll need to walk in the direction of your values – including mindfulness and acceptance of difficult thoughts and feelings.
Some older versions of CBT operated under the premise that to live an emotionally healthy life, one needed to “change negative thinking.” Newer research is informing us that sometimes we cannot “change” our thought patterns, but thankfully, we don’t need to in order to live a happy, fulfilling life. We can learn to take our unhelpful thinking less seriously, knowing the stories of our minds and seeing thoughts for exactly what they are - just thoughts! ACT emphasizes changing how we relate to our distressing thoughts, versus changing or eradicating the thoughts themselves. It teaches us to accept the various aspects of our human experience that cannot be changed. People often find this extremely freeing and can reach new levels of contentment with ACT by making peace with all aspects of the human experience.
WHAT IS COMPASSION-FOCUSED THERAPY (CFT)?
CFT is based on research suggesting that learning to be kind to ourselves when we are suffering has a dramatic positive impact on anxiety, stress, depression and quality of life. On the flip side of this, self-criticism seems to make all of our struggles much more painful. Many people have great difficulty treating themselves with the care and respect that they easily offer to their loved ones. This is particularly true when we suffer, fail, or fall short of our own expectations.
People often fear that self-kindness is the same as self-indulgence, will cause an inflated sense of self, or will lead to complacency that gets in the way of meeting one’s goals. Thankfully, these concerns have now been put to the test in rigorous research, and it turns out, they are simply not true! What science shows us is that people who are more self-compassionate tend to try again when they fail, meet their goals more effectively, let go of unhelpful behaviors more quickly, offer more compassion to others, and generally experience less stress and low mood. Sign me up for more of all of that! Another exciting research finding is that self-compassion can be learned. That is, it is possible to develop the skill of self-compassion, even if one does not “naturally” know how to be self-compassionate yet.
At CPC, we integrate self-compassion strategies when appropriate into all of our evidence-based care plans. We have found that making change is hard, and often best done with a large dose of understanding and care. There are specific skills and tools that one can practice to become more self-compassionate. Our therapists help you learn these if this is right for you, and infuse therapy with genuine compassion where you need it most.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
MIndfulness is a core skill that has wide implications for improving self-awareness, relationships, focus, and wellbeing. Mindfulness has been defined as paying attention, on purpose, non judgmentally in the present moment. You can improve your mindfulness skills through training and practice.
Many evidence-based therapy approaches include mindfulness skills. Through mindfulness training, you can increase your ability to notice difficult thoughts and feelings without being overwhelmed by them, allowing you to remain focused and to gain control of your reactions and behaviors in response to upsetting events and everyday stressors.
Research also demonstrates that mindfulness is particularly helpful for relapse prevention - that is, for individuals who have improved in therapy and want to prevent falling back into old struggles. For that reason, we often integrate mindfulness-based approaches into our treatment planning to lock in gains. Our expert clinicians have training in teaching mindfulness and we also offer a mindfulness class for beginning and intermediate meditators.