CBT – is it ‘just talking’ after all

March 28, 2014
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (“CBT”) is a talking therapy which involves changing the way in which we think about things.  Unlike other psychotherapies, CBT is highly structured and is mainly concerned with how you think and act now rather than attempting to resolve past issues.  It involves helping the individual make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts which are more easily dealt with and by teaching the individual to understand the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

CBT appears to be the treatment of choice by the NHS to treat a variety of psychological conditions, with treatment being offered both on a face to face basis and using online resources.  Research has shown that CBT can be as effective as medicine in treating depression and other mental health issues.  This research is likely to be welcomed by many suffering from a mental illness who may be concerned at the prospect of taking anti-depressant medication.

Using depression as an example, anti-depressant medication has been referred to as a ‘symptom suppressor’.  It is recommended that some anti-depressant medication be continued for at least six months after the individual is in remission due to the high rate of relapse during this period.    The benefit of CBT appears to be that it provides systematic strategies for the individual to utilise moving forwards, hopefully reducing the risk of any relapse in the future.

Here at Bolt Burdon Kemp, we represent a number of individuals who, as a result of an accident, have developed psychological injury.  Such injuries are varied in their nature and may include anxiety disorders, depression and the psychological aspects of chronic pain.  We are committed to obtaining evidence to identify our client’s injuries and arranging treatment at the earliest possible stage to assist their recovery.  We often find that the treatment commonly recommended by medical experts for such conditions is CBT.  Clients, particularly those suffering from chronic pain, often find it difficult to accept that they are being referred for a talking therapy to deal with pain.  They often feel that this suggests that their pain isn’t being taken seriously, or that doctors think the pain is imagined.  It is often a challenge, as a personal injury solicitor, to try to explain to a client that this type of treatment can help with their painful symptoms.

New research has shown that CBT can actually result in a physiological change in our brains, similar to that produced by anti-depressant medication.  The Amygdala is part of the brain that processes emotion and the Hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in reliving traumatic memories.  Studies have shown that overactivity in these two areas of the brain returns to a normal level after a successful course of CBT.  Interestingly, anti-depressant medication also works by targeting these two areas of the brain.  This research provides invaluable insight into the cause and treatment of psychological injury and will no doubt assist those suffering from such an injury in understanding the treatment prescribed.

It must however be borne in mind that CBT will not be appropriate in all circumstances, and it is for the treating expert to identify the appropriate treatment in each case.

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