(Note: I diverged quite a bit on this post… I don’t personally know much about Aaron Beck himself, just CBT and how it has helped me.)
Dr. Aaron Beck was known for being one of the founders of CBT, cognitive behavior therapy. Although CBT is considered to be a form of psychotherapy, a lot of the techniques are pretty useful for people in general. He lived to be a little over 100 years old. His daughter, Dr. Judith Beck, continues his work at the Beck Institute. I’ve never met the Beck family personally, though I have worked with one of their trained facilitators.
Prior to CBT, I had dabbled a bit into various forms of reframing beliefs. One was a method (not CBT, just to clarify) developed by someone who was not involved in medicine or higher education in psychology, but whose method was quite fascinating and almost felt life-changing. It was great… until it wasn’t great. I didn’t really understand the potential flaws in that approach until much later, and I actually no longer recommend that method, at least not with the current facilitators, and especially not for people who struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma, or any serious disorder. I’d first recommend CBT for anyone, especially if it is facilitated by a proper professional, which I’ll get into in a bit.
There’s a lot of people who claim to do CBT or something close to it. You want to make sure that whoever you see is willing to be as unbiased as possible. A good CBT psychologist will guide you here and there, but will ultimately allow you to decide the meaning you want to give a situation.
Some people claim to do NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and similar methods. I haven’t delved too deep into these spheres, though a lot of what I’ve read points to NLP picking and modifying concepts from CBT (and REBT) itself. There’s also not much peer-reviewed scientific research done on NLP. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, but that CBT is much more thoroughly investigated. Plus, CBT was designed with people who face serious problems in mind. I’m not talking about going from 5 figures a year to 5 figures a month (though that is nice problem to solve as well). I’m talking about overcoming eating disorders, substance abuse, coping with hearing voices, panic attacks, extreme phobias, and more. But, CBT can pretty much be used in any situation or context.
When I hear of NLP though, it’s usually in the context of business or self-help. I don’t hear much about CBT in the business or self-help fields. For whatever reason, a lot of people seem opposed to therapy in general, as if it implies that they are broken or something. It’s good that at least NLP is viewed as a form of coaching vs. therapy though, because otherwise we’d have a bunch of people claiming to be doctors or psychologists, followed by a bunch of medical lawsuits. But, therapy itself can be beneficial to so many people. I actually wish that they would offer a free annual CBT session with a licensed and trained CBT psychologist once a year for everybody, as a routine exam.
Anyway, it’s quite interesting to see what kinds of people end up getting into NLP (mostly the entrepreneur type). Some approach it as a way to improve upon their career or business-related ambitions, yet they never actually question their own beliefs regarding their values (in this case, ambition). These beliefs may not have seem destructive per se, as they may have helped them to achieve their “success”. If you dig deeper though, you may see a link between that person’s self-worth or self-importance with their accomplishments, social status, and contributions. You’ll also see that some of them demonize negative self-talk, yet they have a bunch of critical views as well. For example, some of these people will end up “succeeding” in business, and then look down on people who are satisfied with less.
Maybe one day, I’ll entertain an NLP session, just to see how it compares. It could just be that some people promote it in a salesy way or that a lot of people just happen to apply it to money/career. Otherwise, I would definitely suggest CBT for anyone in general who is struggling with a pattern that they’d like to change or break.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I wish that CBT (especially from the Beck Institute) were more accessible to the general public. It’s quite pricey to work with someone who is a trained expert professional. There are psychiatrists and therapists who have some base training in CBT, but I have yet to meet one who is actually effective at it. Makes sense when you consider that only a few psychologists actually specialize in it. I mean, honestly, it’s probably best that a trained psychologist do this as opposed to someone who has no understanding or awareness of psychology or health sciences in general (imagine if someone tried to practice CBT on someone who has a mental disorder or an underlying physiological imbalance). But, it seems out of reach for most people to afford such services, especially those who are in dire situations. The potential impact and improvement on their quality of life could be astounding.
I also don’t know many people representing minority groups who specialize in CBT. There are some women, but pretty much all of the people I know are caucasian. I can’t actually name any practitioner from any minority group. So, I’d like to see the field broaden in this aspect as well.
Aside from 1-on-1 consultations though, there are some books and worksheets on CBT. Some are designed specifically for clinicians (verbose, scientific and dense). But, there are some that are quite easy to understand and digest. I’ll link 2 resources, one free and one paid, that I’ve tried and found useful (any Amazon links are my affiliate links):
– Free Online CBT Workbook
– Feeling Great by David D. Burns (you can also check to see if it is available through your library, as that is how I first obtained a copy)
I’m currently going through a CBT-I book (CBT for insomnia), and it’s going to be another month or so before I can evaluate any changes. (If that goes well, I may link it in a future post.)
There’s also DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), which apparently branches off from CBT. I’m not sure how much different it is, but that is also something I might explore, just for the sake of curiosity and also seeing how it compares.