More about CBT

Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a scientifically proven talking therapy that can help people with a wide range of difficulties. It is recommended in the NICE guidelines (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) as an effective treatment for Anxiety based problems and Depression. CBT explores how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes impacts on what you do and feel and how a greater understanding of these cycles and processes can lead you towards solutions and change. CBT tends to be more focused on the present but can refer to the past to better understand how it impacts on the here and now.

The Third wave family of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies includes Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT and Compassion Focused Therapy (amongst others). I am able to draw from this innovative body of knowledge with its growing evidence base to ensure you get a tailor-made therapy suited to your particular needs. ACT uses Mindfulness and Acceptance skills to help you negotiate what gets in the way of what matters to you, whilst Compassion Focused Therapy has a focus on responding kindly and wisely to the inner critic and painful feelings. I hope you choose to read further but in essence, CBT is really about becoming your own inner coach and brain trainer! so you can do more of what’s healthy and helpful in your life and less of the things that aren’t working. Find out more about the problems that can be effectively treated with CBT under About You.

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy gets its name from its main themes - to accept things that are out of your control and commit to changing things that can be changed to make your life better. In summary, ACT uses mindfulness and acceptance skills to develop a more flexible relationship with your thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations. Time is also taken to clarify what gives your life meaning, your values. Without being held back by tricky thoughts and feelings and with a new sense of purpose and direction, you can begin to build a more enriched and meaningful life.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (say Act, not A.C.T.!) is an engaging and playful approach to tackling life’s difficulties. Just like traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it is underpinned by a growing body of scientific evidence highlighting its effectiveness for many psychological problems and challenges.

ACT draws on brain science to show we are all wired to ‘suffer’ or find life difficult because we are designed to pay attention to anything we perceive as threat. This explains why we often find ourselves caught up in our in our ‘chattering’ mind, over-thinking ourselves, our problems or disturbed by our feelings. We are also programmed to find solutions, to deal with the ’threat’, (in this case our thoughts and feelings), so we are naturally compelled to distract ourselves from this tricky stuff or avoid things that lead them to show up in the first place.

This gets us caught up in unhelpful vicious cycles, like comfort eating, relying on alcohol, retail therapy, spending too long watching shows, checking social media, sleeping or overworking… the list is long! In Act we call this, The Struggle, when in an effort not to feel or think we end up doing things or not doing things that take us away from the person we want to be or the life we want to lead. (Clearly most of these things are fine in moderation!). These ineffective coping strategies often play a key part in maintaining things like anxiety, depression and low self esteem and may cost us dearly in terms of time, energy, money, health and relationships.

How does it help?

The research underpinning Acceptance and Commitment Therapy shows that we are also pre-programmed with the capacity to develop skills to work through life’s challenges - there is hope! In sessions you will learn key skills to enable you to step back from your chattering mind and what may be at times toxic thinking and learn ways to have and handle uncomfortable or painful feelings. Through mindfulness and acceptance skills, use of metaphor, experiential exercises and the development of self compassion, we will actively construct a new way for you to respond to long-standing habits and reactions that you know are not helping. If your life has grown narrower, we will draw on tried and tested behavioural strategies such as Graded Exposure and Behavioural Activation to enable you to move TOWARDS things you may have been avoiding.

These skills help promote what ACT refers to as PSYCHOLOGICAL FLEXIBILITY, which is all about trying to build a new relationship with difficult thoughts, feelings and sensations, one that doesn’t rely on avoidance or distraction. In essence, this means we are less stressed/distressed and able to do more of what we value, giving us a greater sense of meaning, purpose and therefore, well-being

Change or connecting to what matters

If battling with our difficulties pulls us away from how we want our lives to be then getting things on track needs to take into account our ‘bigger picture’ – what is important to us in life. Taking time to identify your values will enable you to set meaningful goals, giving you a greater sense of purpose and can become a motivator when things are tricky. From my experience this work also helps people appreciate what they already have in their lives right now. ACT is also a really practical therapy of change so if moving forward involves learning new skills or solving problems we can consider this too.

What is Compassion Focused Therapy?

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) aims to help promote mental and emotional healing by encouraging people in treatment to be compassionate toward themselves and other people. It is another member of the wider family of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies and was founded by Professor Paul Gilbert.

Like ACT, CFT emphasises the inherent difficulty of our evolved Tricky Brains which can make us our own worst critic. Compassion Focused Therapy is particularly relevant to those who experience feelings of shame or guilt and self-critical thinking. Many people feel able to respond in a kindly and supportive fashion to others but struggle to motivate themselves in this way. Although the word Compassion makes us think of qualities like kindness and warmth, this approach also places great emphasis on the strength and courage it takes to engage with our suffering and do something about it. CFT presents Compassion as a skill that can be developed and nurtured through Compassionate Focused Exercises and Practice.

What is Mindfulness

Ever noticed how you get caught up in your head, thinking about the next thing to do, worrying or re-living the past. Experts say we spend up to 47% of our waking moments in autopilot! Mindfulness is a way of training your mind to be more aware of the here and now so we can actually live life in the present. It enables us to hold attention where we choose, rather than what our thoughts or feelings dictate. Its aim is not to try and control or suppress our thoughts or distract from our feelings but to enable us to see them for what they are – mental events. Learning to look at our thoughts rather than from them means we no longer have to over identify with what our mind is telling us. If we can learn to notice our experiences, take a step back, we are freed to choose how we want to respond. This increases the likelihood that we can start acting in ways that are more healthy and helpful and move us towards a better life. Finally, Mindfulness enables us to be more present in those moments that really matter, so we can appreciate them in all their glory rather than being “there but not there”.

As a Therapist I’m a great believer in “practice what you preach” so do my best to commit to a daily mindfulness practice. I hope this increases my own capacity to be open, present and engaged within a Therapy Session.

Me and Mindfulness

I am committed to developing my practice and understanding of mindfulness, and over the last few years have completed training with the Breathworks Mindfulness Organisation.

Breathworks is a charitable organisation providing evidence based mindfulness and compassion focused programmes for individuals and organisations as well an Accredited Teacher Training programme. My training prepares me for teaching the Mindfulness for Health and Mindfulness for Stress Courses. Training includes learning within week long Residential Retreats, Residential Movement Meditation training and supporting a local 8 week course alongside commitment to individual practice and supportive Supervision. In May 2022, (following leading my first Mindfulness for Health 8 week Practice course), I qualified as a Fully Accredited, Breathworks Mindfulness for Health and Breathworks Mindfulness for Stress Course Leader. Breathworks is a member of the Federation of Holistic Therapists.

Individual Mindfulness Training

The Mindfulness for Health and Little Mindfulness Workbook can form the basis of an individual programme which we can work through together supported by in session practice alongside access to the free online meditations and downloadable exercise sheets linked to books. This gives you the opportunity to gain from an evidence based programme with the benefit of an individual learning experience tailored to your needs and interests.

"Clinical trials have shown that mindfulness meditation can be as effective as prescription painkillers, and can enhance the body's natural healing systems. Mindfulness can also reduce the anxiety, depression, irritability, exhaustion, and insomnia that arises from chronic pain and illness".

Mindfulness for Health, Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman

"Expert author Gary Hennessey brings together his 35 years of experience as one of the UK's leading practitioners for his new book The Little Mindfulness Workbook, a practical guide to everyday mindfulness techniques.

Using transformative techniques and exercises coupled with the theory behind the practice, each chapter of the book builds on the outcomes of the last helping the reader to build a repertoire of techniques"

The Little Mindfulness Workbook, Gary Hennessey