Self Therapy

Self Therapy

by Dr Emma Gray - 14th January, 2019

In this blog I am going to show you how to carry out your own therapy session. The techniques are based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is currently the most effective treatment for a wide range of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and confidence.

1. Set aside 10-15 minutes, once a week. It is easier to keep Self Therapy going if you make it part of your routine, so choose a time that will work for you every week. The hardest part of Self Therapy is finding the time to do it and even though you might appreciate how good it is for you, this type of ‘self care’ activity is always the first to be pushed into touch when life gets busy. So, if you manage to sit down, you are more than half way there.

2. Get your laptop, a piece of paper or the use the notes on your phone, whatever works and is easiest for you. Think of this step as a warm up for your mind and in the same way that when you exercise your body you warm it up to ensure your workout is as beneficial as possible, to get the most out of Self Therapy you must warm up your mind. Sometimes you will come to Self Therapy with a negative focus that will make working through problems much harder, this warm up enables you to stretch your focus to include all aspects of your knowledge and experience, which you will need to tackle any difficulties.

The task itself: spend 5 minutes listing all the things that have gone well for you this week. Use a timer to make sure that you do not rush through this warm up. The urge to do this will be the strongest if you are feeling stressed or anxious.

3. List all the things that have been bothering you this week and rank them in terms of how much distress they have been causing you.

4. Highlight the first item. Each week you will tackle only the first problem on your list. Doing this will make Self Therapy feel less daunting. Also, many of the other problems on your list will resolve themselves once the most pressing problem has been dealt with. Any remaining problems can join the queue for your next Self Therapy session.

5. Identify the thoughts that are attached to the highlighted problem. For example:

Problem: Next week’s assessment

Thought: “This is going to go terribly, I am going to fail and everyone will realise that I am useless and reject me”.

6. List all of the evidence that supports your thought, regardless of how ‘rational’ it seems.

a) I just feel like it isn’t going to work out

b) I haven’t done this before

c) The last time I did this it didn’t go well

d) I often mess up

7. Go through each supporting piece of evidence and counter it:

a) Feelings aren’t facts

b) This is true but I have done similar things so I can use my experience. I am also creative and resourceful and usually manage to come up with the goods, maybe I should trust myself a little more.

c) This is also true, but I learned a lot from that experience which I can put into practice this time.

d) This isn’t true, a few times things haven’t gone well, but what is more often the case is that I manage well enough in this type of situation.

8. Using your counter evidence as a starting point, think about what you would say to a friend in this position coming to you for advice.

“You have a tendency to doubt and criticise yourself, however you have some skills and have proved that you can make this work. Even if things don’t go as well as you would like them to, you will be able to manage”.

9. Make a positive plan of action:

  • Prepare, but don’t over-prepare.
  • Read through your Self Therapy notes whenever you feel your negative emotions rising to an uncomfortable level
  • Use breathing techniques to switch your mind and body into a more relaxed mode: For more help with this click here.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


View all my other articles here...

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