Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Therapy and Eastern Religion

As I mentioned in the post, Near Death Euphoria and the Link to Suicide, I love www.Reddit.com. On this site, a member asked me about the connection between CBT and Eastern Religions. This was my response:

So, there have been three "waves" of CBT. The first was behavior therapy, the second was cognitive behavior therapy, and the third is mindfulness/meditation related.

The Third Wave CBT approaches are very tied into Eastern religion. The names of the most well known Third Wave approaches are Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; pronounced "act"), Compassion Focused Therapy, and DBT (which I mention elsewhere on this blog). I am a huge fan of Third Wave approaches.

The cognitive Second Wave approaches work on correcting "irrational" beliefs (e.g. I am a worthless person). For instance, we might examine the evidence for and against the argument that you're worthless. As it turns out, once you think about it, maybe you're not really all that worthless.

But the Eastern-influenced Third Wave CBT treatments emphatically do not aim to correct irrational beliefs!

Third Wave approaches mainly focus on noticing thoughts like "I'm worthless" and trying to change one's relationship to the thought, but not the content of the thought itself.
For instance, a Third Wave approach might simply focus on the fact that "I'm worthless" is coming into the mind and that it isn't a particularly useful thought to attend to. The treatment would aim to pull the person out of their head and into contact with the present. So instead of attending to the thought "I am worthless," a person may be encouraged to shift the attention to the breath, for example.

Third Wave approaches offer a lot more than just this, and are very rich approaches, but I think this represents the general idea.

If you're interested in learning more, I highly suggest reading The Compassionate Mind and The Compassionate Mind Approach to Overcoming Anxiety.

For more posts, check out The Psychology Easel and follow me on Twitter at @TaraDeliberto.

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