It takes very little time in the world of mental health treatments, before acronyms and mnemonics become everyday language. Psychiatric therapies have come a long way from the induced seizures, exorcisms and lobotomies of the past. Today there are countless methods of treatment – pharmacological, behavioural, community, and medical. Psychiatrists tend to be the big boss of drugs and medical treatments like ECT or TMS, while psychologists tend to deliver the behavioural and community therapies. And they love their acronyms. For anyone out there that hasn’t been blessed with the opportunity of gracing the couches and uncomfortable plastic chairs of therapy groups, I thought I’d share a summary of my experience of the ABCDs of therapy.

CBT-cycleCognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – perhaps the most well known modern day therapy – commonly used to treat conditions such as anxiety and mood disorders, disordered eating, anger issues or stress. CBT looks at thoughts, feelings and actions, and the way they affect perception and wellbeing. It focuses on altering unhelpful or unhealthy patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and is based on the idea that negative thinking is a bad habit that needs to be broken.

My personal take away from CBT? You are what you think. Reinforcing old ways of thinking, reinforces old ways of behaving…

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Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a behavioural approach to psychotherapy that stems from cognitive behavioral therapy. Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with inner emotions, instead, accepting deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that shouldn’t prevent them from moving forward in their lives. With this understanding, clients begin to accept issues and hardships and commit to making necessary behavior changes, regardless of what’s going on in their lives, and how they feel about it.

My personal takeaway from ACT? There’s a time for everything, and everything has its’ place.

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DBT-4-modules.jpgDialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. DBT specifically focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four key areas. Mindfulness focuses on improving the ability to accept and be present in the current moment. Distress tolerance is geared toward increasing tolerance of negative emotions, rather than trying to escape it. Emotion regulation covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems. Interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.

My personal takeaway from DBT? Life is full of distressing moments. Learn the skills to manage them effectively. I personally believe this is the most effective therapy for me as it’s so practical.

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There are heaps of therapies around – attachment therapy, eclectic therapy, guided affective imagery, jungian psychotherapy, nude psychotherapy, reichian therapy, transpersonal therapy, vegetotherapy. And a whole lot more. I have no idea what any of those things are… But I’m sure they’re all fascinating. We’re all so different. What works for me, won’t work for you. My therapist is great and I love her to bits – maybe you wouldn’t like her at all. I’ve discovered heaps and heaps of different tools and tricks. A handful of them are useful to me. It’s so important for all of us – mentally challenged or not – to be learning skills to manage our mental wellness, and to be learning what works for us, so the next time the excrement hits the proverbial spinny thing, we have tools at our disposal to manage things before they get out of hand. And better still, if we don’t need them, we also have tools to dish out to those in need. The TIPP skills come in ever so handy when friends are in high distress – especially the first two. Easy to talk someone through on the phone – plunge your hands into cold water, now go for a fast walk. Ring me when you get back. Those two things will usually deescalate a crisis quite quickly.

What works for you? What ABCD therapies have you found helpful? What helps in a crisis? What helps as ongoing self care to keep you grounded and in a good safe state of mental safety? I’d love to know. I’m sure others would too!

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