CBT is a time-limited, present-centered, solution-focused, and goal-directed therapy with one of the strongest evidence bases. CBT has been shown to be effective for a range of mental health issues including, but not limited to, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, eating disorders, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and insomnia. Please see below for some additional information about the use of CBT for perinatal depression.
CBT is based on the theory that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected; in other words, how we interpret events affects how we feel and behave, and vice versa. Our interpretations are typically understandable, and often make sense given our life history, learned patterns, contextual factors, and emotional reactions, and at the same time, may be biased and interfere with our lives. Sometimes accepting distressing thoughts and feelings can be helpful, but other times, changing them, when possible, can also be helpful. Often times we react to our beliefs as though they were facts, when in reality, they are not necessarily factual. One goal of CBT is to gain deeper insight into your habitual patterns of thinking and behaving so you can decide which patterns would be helpful to change in order to enhance the quality of your life. Another goal is to learn skills that will help you challenge unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving, to arrive at more accurate interpretations and engage in behaviors that are more proportionate to the stressor, both of which can reduce the intensity of your emotions.
CBT is structured around your specific goals, which are collaboratively set by you and your therapist. Although there is some variation in the specifics of the CBT treatment depending on the issues being targeted, the core CBT principles and strategies persist across approaches. Out of session practice is a core component of the therapy, to help you see which tools are a good fit for you and most helpful in decreasing your distress, problem-solve any barriers that arise as you are trying out these tools, and strengthen your ability to implement tools across a variety of situations.
If you are interested in pursuing CBT for a specific mental health issue, please contact us and we will let you know whether we have expertise in that particular area. If we don’t, we can offer recommendations for other specialists in the area who may be a good fit.
CBT for perinatal depression
CBT for perinatal depression is similar to other forms of CBT, in that the primary focus is on increasing awareness of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and gaining deeper insight into the ways in which they are interconnected. The process empowers parents to decide which thoughts and perspectives are unhelpful, and gives them the tools to work toward replacing those beliefs with ones that are less harmful, and still based in reality. In this way, parents feel as though their lives are less dictated by their thoughts.
CBT also helps you get to the root of beliefs that underlie some of your thought patterns, differentiate situations that are actually threatening from situations that are relatively safe, despite feeling threatening, and develop new and more helpful perspectives. CBT also helps you develop coping strategies so that you feel more equipped to cope with understandable life stress and reduce distress.
As mentioned above, CBT involves out of session practice. Some people think that asking parents to complete work outside of session is insensitive and unfair, given they are likely busy, exhausted, and emotionally drained. It is a time where coming to session may be a heroic act, let alone completing additional work outside of session. It is true that this kind of therapy is hard work, requires an investment of time and energy, and is a lot to ask. But it does work. We believe in the ability of parents to take on difficult tasks, even in the midst of stress, hardship, and intense emotions of grief, panic, and hopelessness. We wouldn’t incorporate this out of session work if we didn’t believe so strongly in the power of the treatment to improve your life, or in your ability to do the hard work it requires. Out of session work is always collaboratively generated to ensure that it fits within the parameters of your life and is helping you further your treatment goals.
Although CBT is extremely effective, it is not for everyone. Fortunately, there is another treatment that is just as effective for this period – Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT). Elements of Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Mindfulness-based therapy may also be useful, as well as Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, or Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation, or Conjoint Behavioral Couples Therapy for PTSD, if you have experienced a trauma or loss.
If you are a parent struggling with antenatal or postpartum depression, or traumatic experiences during the perinatal period, and aren’t sure which of these treatments might be the best fit for you, please feel free to contact us to talk more. We’re happy to help and want to ensure you’re getting the treatment that most suits your needs.