The ABC of CBT
Self-care tools to help you manage negative thoughts.
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a form of talking therapy that is most often used to help people who are suffering from anxiety or depression. It can also help with many other issues including (but not limited to) sleep disorders, phobias, grief or chronic physical symptoms.
CBT helps you to examine your thought processes and notice unhelpful patterns of thinking that may be having an impact on the way you feel or behave. In turn, it teaches you coping mechanisms and ways to deal with these thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Though it may be surprising, many self-care apps incorporate aspects of CBT such as mindfulness, logging and labelling your thoughts and noticing behaviours throughout your day. These are just some of the techniques that cognitive behavioural therapists often teach.
The following three apps all cover areas of CBT. They are not a replacement for a qualified professional, but they could help you implement some of the practises used in CBT and provide tools to aid your journey towards a clearer mind.
A: Talk it through
Woebot is a chatbot created by clinical psychologists who worked at Stanford University in the USA for more than 10 years. The bot is your coach and it checks in with you every day for a quick chat.
In a study, Woebot has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression over a two week period.
It will ask about your mood and the activities in your day and, based on your answers, will encourage you to consider what you are feeling and offer techniques to help you deal with specific problems, such as sleep or negative thinking.
The beauty of Woebot is that it’s on hand whenever you need it – even in the middle of the night – so you can talk to it any time and as much or as little as you want.
Woebot - your self-care expert
CBT for anxiety & depression
B: Re-think negativity
CBT and mindfulness are not the same thing, however many cognitive behavioural therapists will use mindfulness in conjunction with CBT. This is because it can help with recognising unhelpful or negative thought processes and becoming aware of stress triggers.
Within Headspace you will find meditation courses that are designed specifically for these purposes. Its Letting Go of Stress course, for example, will help you learn “how to reframe negative emotions”.
The app also teaches you helpful basic tools such as the “body scan”, which is very similar to a CBT technique of progressively relaxing the body, a muscle at a time.
Headspace: Meditation & Sleep
Stress relief: breathe, relax
C: Reflect on life
Journaling is an important part of CBT. It is a time to write down thoughts you’ve had during your day.
The aim is that while you write these thoughts down, you have a chance to think about how strongly they affected your moods and behaviour.
Reflectly is an app that gives you a space to make note of thoughts. It will prompt you to consider what happened in your day but will also ask you further questions to help you journal more broadly.
By doing this, you will tap into key CBT techniques, such as identifying what triggered your thoughts and examining whether they represented reality, or fell into “traps” such as overgeneralising. (For example: “My colleague said my presentation could have been clearer, so that means she must think all my work is terrible.”)