Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Dr Albert Ellis used to be a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. He writes in his book Reason & Emotion in Psychotherapy (1972) about how he used to sit at the end of the patient couch with pen poised waiting for something to happen before he thought ‘there has to be a better way than this before putting the CBT model together.

Ellis says that we have trains of thought going on ALL THE TIME and that we need to find them – identify them! He then says that when we suddenly ‘go downhill’ that we have done this to ourselves by saying something emotional that sends us downhill – that we send ourselves into this negative or ill state. He says:

1. The first step involves learning about and how to notice our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Normally, we simply react to thoughts and feelings rather than notice or question them.
2. Think OK, if I do this to myself I can also UNDO it or learn not to do it in the first place!

Here is Dr Ellis’ good news …

3. If you work half as hard at getting yourself better as you did at making yourself ill in the first place you will get better VERY QUICKLY!

Let’s use a recent example, when you’ve been distressed – perhaps something has happened in the past week or so when you’ve felt particularly anxious, angry, or depressed. What thoughts or images went through your mind just before or during that time? If you had that thought, what did that mean to you, or what did that say about you or the situation? If your thought was a question, try to answer it. What disturbed me?

What distressing emotion/s did you feel? What else? For example, anger, anxiety, terror, rage, depression, frustration, guilt, shame, irritation …

Practice makes perfect. You WILL be able to do this!

Dr Albert Ellis book is expensive at nearly £20 second hand but is well worth the purchase …

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Sue Washington has dedicated her life to helping people.  From early days as a school teacher she trained psychotherapists to an exacting National standard.  Her thrust in her later years has been to help people realise their power. You can ask her a question directly at

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