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What I've learned about cognitive behavior therapy


SF Supporter
This is my own experience but I thought I would post it. I've been in and out of severe depression including suicidal ideation for many years while balancing a career and family. Fortunately I've had a strong job with access to healthcare so for that I'm blessed.

I've spent a lot of time in loops of really bad feelings and emotions that include things such as "I can't ever consider myself a success because I didn't complete this thing by the time I was 30". The thing could be something as outlandish as winning a marathon or earning the Nobel prize. The point is that it was impossible to do. Most of the classical cognitive therapies were to reframe that and try and place a positive on the events; to reframe my view of reality. And I'll tell you that for me it didn't work at all. Typically I came out of these types of sessions much worse off, angrier, more likely to be in a suicidal ideation mode and more caught in the loop than ever before.

What I began to.realize actually did work was a form of work that my company uses called design thinking. In it we take a problem and all agree to current state. Say that you want a better way to get from point A to point B or to file your papers or to get in shape. You spend the first amount of time listing everything that you do currently to file your papers. Every single step in the process. Then you acknowledge that this is current state and you set it aside and agree that it's there to refer to but it's current state. Then you pretend you have a trillion dollars and infinite time and say "if I could build the very best way to file my papers what would I do?'. And if you create a wonder paper filing system that slices, organizes, indexes and files itself in your mind then you say "what are the gaps between the current state and the wonder filer?". Then your action items were to solve the gap.

So if I am down because I can't win the Nobel prize by age 30 I take all of that and agree that it's true that I can't. There is no way to do it and I even agree that I failed because of it. Then I say, assuming everything but time travel is possible, what would I do? The answer might be.to win the Nobel prize by age 50. Then I can outline how to get there.

The point is that that in my type A world I have to come out of therapy with action steps and it's always been a frustration that the only steps I come out of cognitive therapy with are touchy feely things. I don't every have daily goals that build something for my mental health and in every other aspect of my life I can do more situps or practice another scale on the piano or run a new analysis or eat healthy as a set of defined steps to close a gap.

In most of the cognitive work I had done, feeling better about the event was the goal but I couldn't simply make myself feel better without creating something concrete to work toward. I wanted Step 1, do this every day for 14 days without fail Step 2) do these mental exercises.

I realized every single success in my life has been with very hard detailed program steps to get better at something. I have felt like my depression was something completely fuzzy where the doctors asked "why do you think that is" which is completely contrary to normal broken bone treatment. In the kind of treatment that helps me get better with a broken bone the doctor has step 1) wear this cast for 6 weeks then step 2) weae this brace for 6 weeks them Step 3) go to physical therapy and do this for 8 weeks.

I do believe that for a segment of the population, this type of mental health therapy with steps instead of simply reframing the events is much more effective.

I'm not a.mental health professional but this has been my own small anecdotal experience with decreasing the frequency of my suicidal ideation. I dont have a background in therapy or counseling. I have been to a lot of them. I have a form of high functioning Asperger's which makes me completely immune to reading others emotions and my own emotions are almost always data and logical in their views so that could be part of the lack of cognitive behavior success for me.

Just thought I would share. It's been over a month without suicidal ideation and I'm working on anneconomics problem that I hope can get me that Nobel.


Absolute Peach!
This is amazing! Really interesting to read and hear about, and I'm glad that things are improving for you, too :) thanks for sharing!

Sending hugs

Sad Elf

Well-Known Member
Thank you for sharing. I think I might give this a try, it seems logical and specific.I have always struggled to get a grasp of exactly what I am suppose to 'do' in CBT.

Really intrigued by if I can make this work, going to give it some thought and then start on the steps u describe.


My Toughest Problem Has Been Solved.
SF Supporter
For me the CBT then and now focuses on Buddhist Meditation. Even when away from the therapist, I still practice it diligently and also watch Buddhist sermons online.
What Buddhism teaches me is that I cannot control my circumstances but I can control my emotions. Of course I'm not perfect at all, so sometimes the emotions seep through. But I keep trying.
And the therapist himself is great too, because the regular sessions with him remind me to keep up the discipline.

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