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8 Common CBT Based Therapies & How They Could Power Up Your Mental Health

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It starts where everything starts: a Google search. Which leads to a Psychology Today directory. And from there you write down a few names. Some people located near your office. A couple maybe near home.

Things cascade. It’s like the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie story, but it’s If You Give a Guy Some Mental or Emotional Distress. It begins as a panic-struck Sunday afternoon scrolling through streams of psychotherapists, certified counselors, licensed social workers, all with any number of credentialing acronyms at the ends of their names.

You ask a friend or two. Ask who they see, what they like. One sees a doctor who just doles out scrips. That’s too cold, and not what you need. Another builds sessions off pulling a card from a tarot deck. Which is just a little too hippy-dippy. But their preferences help you define yours.

Who do you want to actually talk to? Someone who looks like you? Another man? Around the same age? Or someone totally different from you and the people you spend time with. Maybe an older woman who could be a stand-in for one of your mom’s old work colleagues. A Janet or a Caroline.

So you write a few inquiries, laying out what’s bothering you. They ask to get on the phone with you. “I would put the onus on them to organize the conversation,” says Avi Klein, a licensed clinical social worker and Men’s Health advisory board member. “That would start to give you a sense of how they work.”

Suddenly, you’re coordinating times and a private place to take the call. You try to take account of billing—if they’re in network or not. You check your insurance plan. And if their hours fit with your schedule. If the logistics line up, you keep going.

“Ask them to explain why their approach will work,” says Klein. “You should share a sense of a road map and what the expectations are.” If they’ll be direct and action oriented. Or if they’ll have you journal or fill out worksheets. If they’ll just sit and let you vent for 45 minutes.

The most important part of that consultation or phone call “is your sense of them,” says Klein. “Do you like them? A good working relationship is one of the biggest determining factors in successful therapy outcomes.”

And maybe you don’t follow up with one of them. Or you make an appointment, and just the one appointment. It’s fine. You’re testing people out. Tell them that. They get it. Then you leave one consultation feeling pretty good. You carve space in your schedule, and clear it with your insurance, and plan for next week.

Because once you get a hint of how much better you could feel, you find a way to make it work. —Matt Goulet

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There are hundreds of therapy techniques, some employed by trained professionals and some, like “puppet therapy,” that aren’t. Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., helps us select the most effective methods.

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“I would encourage people to seek out practitioners of cognitive behavioral therapy,” says Lazarus. Focusing on corrective thoughts and actions, behavioral therapy aims to provide everyday strategies for the stresses and anxieties of the here and now. But avoid “monotherapy”—an approach that employs only one method. Choosing a behavioral treatment is like mixing a cocktail: It should include techniques tailored to the individual. These are some of the more common CBT-based approaches you’ll likely come across.”


Assertiveness Training/Interpersonal Effectiveness

  • Helps you: Learn to say no without feeling guilty. It also helps you express your feelings and desires in a responsible manner.
  • Best for: Those looking to express themselves in healthier ways.

Cognitive Restructuring

  • Helps you: Shift your thinking from negative and self-defeating patterns to more realistic and adaptive ones.
  • Best for: Those managing invasive and stressful thoughts.

Behavioral Activation

  • Helps you: Identify and correct behaviors that are driving depression. For example, you’re withdrawing and disconnecting from enjoyable activities.
  • Best for: Those whose depression prevents them from engaging socially.

Emotional Regulation

  • Helps you: Bring your emotional experience to a better baseline.
  • Best for: Those whose emotions interfere with healthy functioning.

Exposure Therapy

  • Helps you: Overcome your fear or anxiety by doing exactly what the name suggests: being exposed to its source.
  • Best for: Those with intense phobias or other anxiety disorders.

Mindfulness/Meditation

  • Helps you: Foster nonjudgmental awareness of the present, yourself, other people, your thoughts, and your emotions.
  • Best for: Those wanting to keep their mindset in the present and manage stress.

Somatic Therapy (Exercise/Yoga)

  • Helps you: Set your focus on the body and movement. “Physical exercise is probably one of the most powerful stress relievers and anti-depressants,” says Lazarus.
  • Best for: Those wanting to improve their mind and body as well as their mood.

Social Skills Training/Communication Training

  • Helps you: Better interact with those around you by developing skills like active listening and assertive expression.
  • Best for: Those working on sociability or suffering from social anxiety.

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Psychoanalytic Therapy

Also known as: psychodynamic therapy

The oldest (and perhaps now antiquated) technique, it involves tackling unresolved conflicts in your past and gaining insight through psychoanalysis. If a therapist uses the word analysis in his or her online profile, this is what you might be getting, says Lazarus. Think Freud, couches, and discussions of your childhood. Really, it’s still a thing.

Best for: The overly introspective, intellectuals.

Humanistic Therapy

Also known as: person-centered, existential, gestalt

Popular in the late ’50s, this practice focuses on providing a safe and supportive environment to explore your thoughts and feelings. The therapist won’t challenge your ideas or give you any recommendations but will instead listen and allow you to work through your issues verbally.

Best for: People who want passive, nondirective, sounding-board therapy.

Source: Which Form of Therapy Is Best for You?

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In this Your Health segment, William Regenold, MD, CM, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and psychiatrist at the University of Maryland Medical Center joins Donna Jacobs, senior vice president for community health, University of Maryland Medical System, and Jamal Lewis, a former NFL running back, to focus on men and mental health and why men may be hesitant to seek help when it comes to their mental health. For more information, go to: umms.org/communityhealth

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7 Ways To Become More Mentally Immune And Emotionally Resilient

Mental immunity is the foundation of emotional resilience.

The same way in which a cold or flu can derail the health of someone who is already ill, a small setback or troubling thought can do the same to someone who is not “mentally immune.” Mental immunity is what happens when we condition our minds to not only expect fearful thoughts or external challenges, but to tolerate them when they arise. It is shifting one’s objective in life from avoiding pain to building meaning, recognizing that pain will be some part of the journey regardless.

Mental immunity is not being able to resist or deny negative thoughts, it is being able to observe them without acting on them, or automatically believing they represent reality.

uncaptionedWhen we have mental immunity, we are able to become a third party observer to our thoughts and feelings. We can identify what we need, what we don’t want, and what really matters to us. Through the process of reintegration – or nonresistance – we become more capable of tolerating thoughts that scare us. The less reactive we are to them, the more we can learn. Frequently, there is an unhealed root association with recurring thoughts we have, or feelings that keep coming up. Being able to process these uncomfortable sensations will not only help us overcome singular issues but progress our lives forward in other ways, too.

So, we know that mental immunity is good, but when we are in the thick of our suffering, how do we begin to build it?

Today In: Leadership

1. Adopt an attitude of progress, not perfection.

Aiming for even a 1% improvement in your behavior or coping mechanisms each day is more effective than trying to radically revolutionize your life for one reason only: the former is actually attainable.

2. Be careful not to identify with that which you struggle.

A lot of people who have spent their lives struggling with anxiety begin to assume that it is just part of their personality. “I am an anxious person,” or similar phrases, are common but not necessarily true. Adopting an idea about yourself into your identity means that you believe it is who you fundamentally are, which makes it significantly more difficult to change.

3. Stop trying to eradicate fear.

Expect the fearful thought, but recognize that it is not always reflective of reality.

4. Interpret “weird” or upsetting thoughts as symbols, not realities.

If you are afraid of driving in the car by yourself, or losing a job, or being stuck in some kind of natural disaster, consider what that could represent in your life (perhaps you feel as though you are disconnected from loved ones, or that you are “unsafe” in some way). Most of these are trying to direct you to make a change, so honor them.

5. Be willing to see change.

When people struggle with something for long periods of time, there can be a resistance to seeing anything change, simply because of the length of time it has been going on. The willingness to see something change actually begins to change it. If you can do nothing else in a day, say out loud: I am willing to see this change. 

6. Imagine what you would do with your life if fear were no object. 

That is what you should be doing now. Focusing too much on trying to “get over” something actually reinforces it. It keeps us in the space of being broken. Learning to refocus on what matter is what actually gets us to move on.

7. Be present.

Everything in your life that is sabotaging you is the product of being unwilling to be present. We shop, spend, eat, drink, dream and plan our way out of the present moment constantly, which means that we never confront the feelings that we are carrying around. Being present is essential for developing mental strength and emotional health, because it allows us to actually respond to our thoughts and feelings in real time, and to confront that which unnerves us before we adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms to eradicate it.

The subconscious mind believes whatever it feels to be true. Therefore, it is easy for us to program ourselves to be subconsciously convinced that we are inadequate, in danger, or unloved. Mental immunity is what happens when we bring those ideas to the forefront of our consciousness and debunk them by marrying our feelings with reason.

Consistently reminding ourselves that a spectrum of feeling is healthy and helpful and letting go of the idea that overcoming something means eradicating it, rather than learning to act in spite of it, will help us to inch toward the lives we aspire to, rather than succumb to being victims of our own minds.

Source: 7 Ways To Become More Mentally Immune And Emotionally Resilient

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Regular Exercise ‘Best for Mental Health – BBC News

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Regular physical activity lasting 45 minutes three to five times a week can reduce poor mental health – but doing more than that is not always beneficial, a large US study suggests.

A total of 1.2 million people reported their activity levels for a month and rated their mental wellbeing.

People who exercised had 1.5 fewer “bad days” a month than non-exercisers, the study found.

Team sports, cycling and aerobics had the greatest positive impact.

All types of activity were found to improve mental health no matter people’s age or gender, including doing the housework and looking after the children.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, is the largest of its kind to date but it cannot confirm that physical activity is the cause of improved mental health.

Previous research into the effects of exercise on mental health have thrown up mixed results, and some studies suggest that lack of activity could lead to poor mental health as well as being a symptom of it.

Exercise is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Adults taking part in the study said they experienced on average 3.4 days of poor mental health each month. For those who were physically active, this reduced to only two days.

Among people who had been diagnosed previously with depression, exercise appeared to have a larger effect, resulting in seven days of poor mental health a month compared with nearly 11 days for those who did no exercise.

How often and for how long people were active was also important.

Being active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day came out as the optimal routine.

But there could be such a thing as doing too much exercise, the study concluded.

Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said: “Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case.

“Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health.”

He said the positive impact of team sports suggested that social sports activities could reduce isolation and be good for resilience, while also reducing depression.

Complicated link

The findings back up government guidelines recommending that people should do 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

But the study has some limitations. It is based on self-reporting, which is not always accurate, and there is no way of measuring physical activity.

Dr Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and honorary research associate, from the school of psychology at Cardiff University, said the link between exercise and mental health had been difficult to pin down but this large study “strongly suggests that there is a definite association between the two”.

“However, the nature of the study means it’s difficult to say more than that with any real certainty,” he said.

Prof Stephen Lawrie, head of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, said it indicated that social and “mindful” exercise is particularly good for mental health – but not if it is overdone.

“I suspect we all know people who seem ‘addicted’ to exercise and if this starts to impact on other aspects of life – like foregoing social activities because one has to be up at the crack of dawn to run several miles – it might actually be bad for people,” he added.

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