Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is a psychological intervention that helps an individual recognize and understand the impact of their thoughts and feelings on their behaviors.
CBT may be used aloneAloneness is a characteristic that many creatives embrace and yearn for. Being alone is anything but lonely. Reading, writing, and creating art all demand a personal space where one can… More or together with other therapies to deal with a mental health condition.What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? – Mental Health Center Kids
The CBT triangle, also called the cognitive triangle, is a tool that illustrates the relationship between how we think, feel, and behave. It’s one of the essential components of cognitive behavioral therapy.
The tip of the triangle represents our thoughts, while the bottom right and left points represent our feelings and behaviors, accordingly.The CBT Triangle: What it is and How it Works – Mental Health Center Kids
Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT)
AuDHD_Therapist ND Affirming Mental Health on Instagram
- Created for children who had experienced abuse. Expanded to help children and youth who had experienced any form of trauma; includes the family.
- One skill from this therapy I still use with all ages is the Trauma Timeline where we create a timeline of major events which we intentionally process as potential roots to current distress and dysregulation.
- Also has emphasis on grief – which helps!
CBT, like any form of therapy, can sometimes be misused to correct or reframe someone’s thinking in a way that’s invalidating or even gaslight people into doubting their own reality, especially when therapy isn’t done in a collaborative way with client
Because it focuses on cognitive distortions or thinking errors it can be easy for us to jump to the conclusion that our thoughts must be wrong especially if we’re being told that by someone we trustAutists conceptualise the world in terms of trusted relationships with unique people.The beauty of collaboration at human scale The Autistic way of developing trust is based on experienced domain-specific competence…. More which is something those of us already dealing with cognitive challenges are susceptible to.
Used properly though, CBT should be collaborative and based on hypothesis testing.How This Type of Therapy Can Be Helpful for ADHD – YouTube
CBT and the CBT triangle can be useful tools, but they can also be problematic for neurodivergentNeurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a mind that functions in ways which diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS Neurodivergent is quite… More, traumatizedIn expanding our definitions of trauma, we must make sure we see trauma as a structural issue, not just an individual one. Scholars now recognize what people from marginalized communities… More, and marginalizedFor me this space of radical openness is a margin a profound edge. Locating oneself there is difficult yet necessary. It is not a “safe” place. One is always at… More people.
CBT: You’re wrong for being upset about your oppression and neglected pain. You’re overreacting. Stop it.
Mindfulness: You can’t control the future. Be in the present. Oh, you’re in pain 24/7 INCLUDING the present? Uh…take a deep breath?Alana Saltz on Twitter
And this leads us to a criticism of both CBT and stoicism. Is there a danger that we’re encouraging people to accept things that they really shouldn’t have to?Ancient Therapy for Modern Problems: Stoic Philosophy Explained – YouTube
CBT and Autism
AutisticAutistic ways of being are human neurological variants that can not be understood without the social model of disability.If you are wondering whether you are Autistic, spend time amongst Autistic people, online and offline. If… More children are anxious.
We treat them using CBT.
They learn to mask their anxiety, so the adults believe they are improved.
When the maskingMasking is exhausting. Utterly utterly draining. I’ve had people say to me many times over the years “But WHY are you so tired? What have you been doing?” and I’ve… More wears off the adults see the anxiety again and belief it is a relapse. – The relapse is the relapse of the masking.
If the children’s feelings are not important outcome of therapy, why do we send them to therapy?Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
Missing from the triad:
Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
- Sensory stimuli
- Interpersonal relations
- InteroceptionInteroception our 8th sense, connects us to inner bodily awareness (e.g. pain, thirst, hunger, desire, hygiene & toilet needs, temperature, heart rate, breathing, even our bones, etc.) rather than sensations… More
The major problem for CBT is it assumes disordered thinking which can be altered. Maybe sometimes the autistic way of thinking is not disordered, maybe it is actually correct.Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
What CBT asks autistic people to do?
- As usual, try to survive sensory stimuli: sounds, lights etc.
- Find out what you are feeling and put words to it
- React accordingly to CBT – if you are happy and calm, do nothing
if anxious, go to CBT
if you can’t figure out what you are feeling, then what?
- Find out what your bodily sensations are
- Figure out what you are/were thinking
by this time, you have had many other thoughts
- Remember what you are supposed to do
behaviour, challenge your thoughts
- If you remember what to do, do it
if you don’t remember, then what?
So it puts much more on autistic people than non-autistic people because the way the brain works.
And this all is putting an enormous pressure on processing speed and memory.
And then we come again to evaluating your thoughts, CBT is all about evaluating your thoughts, but there is a problem there because autistic people have had their thoughts and beliefs doubted since they could talk. It is the most common experience of all autistic people. They are constantly doubted.
There was also another problem because many autistic people in therapy have been just questioning their thoughts and feelings every day, and they claim it’s anxiety provoking. They describe this as fueling their anxiety, and now they go to therapy and the therapist tells them, “you know you should question yourself more”. And it is just a fact that constantly questioning your personal experience is going to lead to anxiety. And also it can increase self-blame.Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
Special interestI don’t know who invented the phrase “special interest.” Probably some researcher. Autistic people don’t really love the term because the term “special” has become tied so closely with terms… More is a part of autism
Special interest not something autistic people can stop or snap out of
Can be detrimental when people focus too much on their thoughts and feelings Therapy can in my experience trigger this or make this worse
Sometimes feelings, thoughts, sensations or mental health can become a special interest (generally called “obsession” by NT or “hypochondria”)Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
In CBT wrong diagnosisSelf diagnosis is not just “valid” — it is liberatory. When we define our community ourselves and wrest our right to self-definition back from the systems that painted us as… More means wrong model & wrong treatment
Depression (behavioural activation) VS Burn out (restWe urgently need a society that’s better at letting people get the rest they need.Fergus Murray WIP by Kristina Daniele I’m in pain. Mental. Physical. The result’s the same. Retreating… More)
Anger (self control ) VS MeltdownMeltdowns are alarm systems to protect our brains.Without meltdowns, we autistics would have nothing to protect our neurology from the very real damage that it can accumulate.I don’t melt down… More (prevent the situation)
Phobia (exposure to the “danger” ) VS PTSD (never exposed to similar event)Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
For me, a CBT focus in itself is unhelpful. All it does is point out more things I “should” be masking and teaches me to put more effort into masking rather than understanding myself and others properly. It taught me that the things I do and think are “wrong”, which increased my anxiety and convinced me I was making up my feelings and problems.Quote from Scottish Survey of Autistic Adult’s experiences of counselling, 2020 by Sonny Hallett
I call CBT: “The therapy where you look at yourself in a mirror and lie to yourself”.One of my Icelandic clients, 2023, Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23
In CBT I learned a lot of new technical words. After CBT I had the feeling there was something more wrong with me. I even felt that I was doing something wrong.One of my Icelandic clients, 2023, Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23
When autistic young people who present internally go unrecognised, they are likely to be struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, as well as poor self-esteem (Livingston and Happé, 2017). This can be due to feeling differentOur friends and allies at Randimals have a saying, What makes us different, makes all the difference in the world.Randimals We agree. Randimals are made up of two different animals… More from their peers, not receiving the right support for their needs, or feeling forced to mask their difficulties. Unrecognised autistic people who present internally may also have difficulty developing a sense of their own identity (Mogensen and Mason, 2015) and can develop unhelpful coping strategies such as self-harm, eating disorders or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. They may be offered therapies such as CBT for their mental health without these being adapted for use with autistic people, meaning they are often ineffective.Autism, Girls, & Keeping It All Inside
Clinical studies show Daan’s experiences are far from abnormal. Therapy that is focused on battling “irrational beliefs,” such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), doesn’t work as well on Autistic people as it does on neurotypicals. One reason for that is many of the fears and inhibitions of Autistic people are often entirely reasonable, and rooted in a lifetime of painful experiences. We tend to be pretty rational people, and many of us are already inclined to analyze our thoughts and feelings very closely (sometimes excessively so). Autistics don’t need cognitive behavioral training to help us not be ruled by our emotionsJustice, equality, fairness, mercy, longsuffering, Work, Passion, knowledge, and above all else, Truth. Those are my primary emotions.Very Grand Emotions: How Autistics and Neurotypicals Experience Emotions Differently » NeuroClastic https://youtu.be/uPRa6G2a48E… More. In fact, most of us have been browbeaten into ignoring our feelings too much.
Recently, Daan switched therapists. His new therapist had only taken one continuing education course on Autistic adults in her entire career, but that still made her better informed than most providers. She sent Daan to get assessed, and began to read up on how to alter her therapeutic practice to fit him better.
“My new therapist admits there isn’t much research on helping Autistic people work through trauma,” he explains. “But she at least got me evaluated. And that has unlocked a world of understanding for me, because it’s helped me talk to other Autistics online.”Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity
If you suspect you have an unhealthy relationship to drugs or alcohol, it will be important to identify a treatment method that suits your neurotype, or find a mental health provider who has experience with Autistics. Since a growing body of research suggests cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches don’t work as well for Autistics as they do for neurotypicals, CBT-based addiction If addiction is like misguided love, then compassion is a far better approach than punishment.Can You Get Over an Addiction? – The New York Times In her book Unbroken Brain,… More treatment might not be a good fit—at least not without modifications. One exploratory clinical study published in 2019 did find that when mental health providers were taught about how to communicate effectively with Autistic patients (a skill set most providers lack), the cognitive behavioral therapy they offered did help Autistic adults with their substance use disorders.
Unfortunately, most careThe activities that constitute care are crucial for human life. We defined care in this way: Care is “a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue,… More providers are not well informed about how Autistic people think and communicate, and there is very little published research into which addiction treatment programs consistently work best for adult Autistics. Many of the effective treatment plans that do assist Autistic adults involve making sure our health care, housing, and other material needs are also being met, in addition to ensuring we are plugged into a network of supportive people. Often the fears that CBT therapists train their patients to view as irrational (if I say the wrong thing, I’ll lose my job and wind up on the street!) are completely rational for Autistics, and rooted in genuine experience.Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity
Therapy based on these models can be
Reflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
- Unhelpful (when models point to wrong targets in therapy)
- Increase problems (when models point to wrong targets in therapy)
- Increase self-blame (blame themselves when therapy doesn’t work)
- Increase anxiety (because situations never get easier, it teaches doubting your feelings, thoughts)
Therapy: Discover your needs
Because autistic people are often denied their needs in childhood they often don’t know their own needs
Most autistic people are raised in families with NT-typical value system & society has the same value system
Therefore they need to learn what needs they have & that they have the right to have their needs and not NT-needsReflections on CBT and autistic thinking: Webinar for professionals03 02 23 – YouTube
CBT and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)
What Is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria? ADHD and Emotional Dysregulation
Cognitive behavioral therapy might allow people to better understand their triggers, and equip them with healthier coping mechanisms when they feel an RSD episode coming on. However, CBT and other therapies are considered less effective for RSD than they are for other mental health conditions, in part because of how quickly an episode of RSD can be triggered. Although therapy may be helpful, mindfulness can also help people with RSD control their emotional reactions.Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: What You Should Know About ‘Emotional Sunburn’
CBT and Chronic Illness
For example, I was repeatedly made to do CBT for my insomnia (at least 4 times until now) but except for the first time, which was before my fibromyalgia was triggered, it never really worked. In fact, the last time (about 6 months ago), it very nearly broke me. That is when I started questioning whether generic treatments like this will work for people with chronicChronic illness is a pretty big umbrella, and it would be impossible to list them all. Some of them are triggered by an injury like a car accident, or something… More conditions (especially with various co-morbidities) without individual attention.5 things I’ve learned from #NEISVoid (No End in Sight) – A Painful Identity
CBT and Oppression/Minority Stress
The “CBT Triangle” is a visual which shows how our Thoughts influence Feelings which influence Behavior:
AuDHD_Therapist ND Affirming Mental Health on Instagram
- Basis: thoughts create our reality.
Change your thoughts, especially “faulty beliefs” + your feelings and behavior will improve = problems solved.
- While CBT can be helpful with skills like “reframingWhen we successfully reframe public discourse, we change the way the public sees the world. We change what counts as common sense. Because language activates frames, new language is required… More thoughts”, it fails to be inclusive of ‘problems’ caused by systemic oppression (which cannot be overcome by simply changing our thought patterns).
Therapy is one only option: While many folks have felt supported in therapy, not everyone can access it, not everyone wants to access it, and for some people, it simply hasn’t been helpful. Most dominant therapeutic techniques were developed with a white Eurocentric understanding of psychology and trauma, and approaches such as CBT can cause more harm to marginalized people.Barriers to Intervention — Project LETS
Further readingThere are three types of reading: eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading.The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning Most schools and… More,