Therapy Everyday – ABC

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I haven’t had a chance to update my blog recently as I have been abroad for a holiday. My wife and I had an amazing time in Crete, and although I went with great intentions of updating my blog daily while I was their, when I arrived I decided to down tools completely and enjoy the sunshine. I read a couple of books, I relaxed, I ate incredible food, and generally I switched off and recharged my batteries. It was my first time on a proper holiday in Europe since I was a teenager and it was a great experience. The Greek people I met where mostly very welcoming and great fun.

When I returned to the UK last week I started a new post as a trainee tutor at the Centre Of Therapy, an incredible organization based in Glasgow and now Edinburgh. I graduated from the centre two years ago and I have been supporting student therapists since I left, first as a volunteer tutorial assistant, then tutorial assistant, and now as a therapist supervisor and trainee tutor. This weekend was my first weekend as a trainee tutor helping to deliver the course which helped me on my journey to become a therapist and I had an amazing weekend working with the highly skilled and experienced course tutors, as well as all the enthusiastic and engaging students.

One of the valuable aspects of the CBT diploma course run by the Centre of Therapy is the supported practice students undertake as part of the course, and this section of their learning is underpinned by a therapeutic demonstration whereby the students can see the experienced therapists in action during a genuine therapy session,  practicing using the tools and interventions deployed in therapy.

I took part in my first demonstration as a trainee tutor and I was guided through the session by our very experienced tutor Andy Malone. As this was the first therapeutic demonstration of the two year course, I was asked to bring something which had caused me anxiety during the previous week and we used a five factor model to explore the tool. I actually had numerous examples of anxiety provoking situations from the previous week, but I focused on one episode where I was unexpectedly asked to chair a meeting. Five Factors completed as demo for students 110916

As we can see the Five Factors do not take the standard format similar to the previous models I have completed for this blog, but all the information is captured in the same way:

  1. The Situation. 10am, Thursday morning, the administrator at work tells me people are arriving for the meeting (which I know nothing about)
  2. Physical Sensations. Bubbly feeling in lower abdomen. Feel like I need to go to the toilet. Nausea.
  3. Thoughts. “I could kill……” “This is another fucking thing left for me to do…” “I’m not prepared for this….” “I don’t want to make a fool of myself…” “I don’t know if I can cope”
  4. Emotions. Angry/Frustrated/Afraid.
  5. Behaviour. Storming about, throwing bag on the ground in the office, agitated. Running to the toilet.

The order of the factors was decided by the therapist asking me, “what came up for you?”. By asking this question I was able to think back to the slice of time and remember exactly what came first, and the order i remember being affected by what was present for me at the time. As Andy took me through the tool, I was able to remember clearly what was going on for me and describe in detail how I felt, and how I believe I behaved.

Working through the session, Andy asked if there was any work I could do in my own time on anything which came up for me, and I thought I could complete some ABC’s in order to dispute the irrational thinking I was displaying, particularly around the thoughts about my ability to cope, and my fear of others thinking I was not capable.

Irrational belief "I cannot cope"
Irrational belief “I cannot cope”

As you can see from the linear ABC tool I completed, I was able to dispute my irrational belief that I cannot cope and come up with a more rational, realistic belief based on evidence that I have been able to chair meetings at the last minute in the past without any issues or concerns.

Irrational belief "I don't want to make a fool of myself", or "I am going to look like a fool"
Irrational belief “I don’t want to make a fool of myself”, or “I am going to look like a fool”

abc2-110916

Using this tool I focused on the 2nd major thinking error, “I am going to make a fool of myself”, and once again I asked the question if this is really true, and how helpful this thought is. I turn the statement into a question, and then come up with a more rational belief that I have chaired meetings at the last minute before, and things have been OK, so it is wrong to believe I am going to  make a fool of myself. Also, if I explain to people I have been taken by surprise, things will be OK and understanding.

After we completed the demonstration, I promised to follow up my work by completing these ABC’s in my own time, and it is noteworthy that the belief’s which came to the surface in the moment around my capabilities, or looking foolish, are belief’s which I recognise from my past and have I have identified when using other tools to work on my own irrational thoughts.

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