Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop
Common Obstacles to Doing the Work
Whether it is in therapy or with workshops such as this, it isn't uncommon for people to have some difficulty completing activities for a variety of reasons. Below I have offered common things people say about the problems they have in doing the kind of work you will encounter in this workshop. I have also offered some things to think about if you find yourself struggling.
"It's too much to do. It takes too long. It's too complicated."
Whenever we start doing something new, it can seem overwhelming until we get used to it. You might remember your first day on a new job. Things probably seemed a bit complicated at first. After a time, however, you were likely doing tasks more easily, forgetting that they once seemed difficult. With more time and practice, you probably had to think less about how to do things. Instead, you did them rather routinely, with more skill and effectiveness.
Doing these self-help activities will be a lot like that first day on the job. Things will seem hard at first. It will feel like a lot to keep track of. With some time and practice, however, these activities will seem second nature. Eventually, you will integrate them into your life in such a natural way that you hardly notice you are even using "strategies" anymore.
Try to be patient with yourself, letting yourself accept that these tasks are indeed difficult in the beginning. Give yourself time (several weeks or more) before you conclude they are too much to do. Before you came across this workshop, were things you were doing for yourself working well? Were they improving your life? If your answer is "no," then you might give yourself a good chance to do something that may give you what you want.
"Doing it reminds me of all my problems."
Has avoiding problems really been something that has worked well for you in the long run? The tougher our struggles are, the harder they are to face head on. Avoiding problems has never been an effective way to solve them. Doing so only serves to let the problems become more embedded in our lives. Facing them is the only way to begin managing them.
Yes, it may be painful at first to face your illness and the struggles it has caused for you. However, addressing these things in a straightforward manner will help you feel more in control, give you more self-confidence and offer a sense of achievement, as well as improve practical aspects of your life. Are these things worth it for you?
"I don't believe it will help."
Some of the things we will do in the remainder of this workshop can seem deceptively simple. It is easy to dismiss such things very quickly. However, please remember that these activities are based upon what has been shown to be effective in research on mood disorders. What have you got to lose?
ďIíve tried that technique before, and it didnít work.Ē
Most of the time when people say this, one of several things has actually taken place. One, the technique was not really done properly. It may have been done poorly, or without proper instruction. Two, the technique was not practiced or used long enough to give it a chance to work. It was abandoned prematurely. Three, the technique was not practiced enough before trying to use it in a critical moment. Techniques are skills that must be practiced, much like learning to ride a bike. You cannot go from being able to stay steady on two wheels to racing competitively in a short span of time.
"It's not helping quick enough."
These days, we are very used to quick fixes and easy solutions. It seems we have come to expect nothing less. In many situations it may be reasonable to have this expectation. However, when it comes to something as complicated as depression, such expectations are often inappropriate. They can lead to disappointment and frustration. In short, there are no quick fixes for depression.
Anything we have been struggling with for a long time will take some more time to remedy. You have likely been coping with your symptoms for some time, experiencing many difficulties along the way. It will take a little while for you to have some good results. It's kind of like those fad diets that don't really have any lasting effect. You can lose some weight in the short run, but it always comes back. Sometimes we gain even more weight than we started with. The best way to really lose weight is a steady routine of proper diet and exercise over a long period of time. It may take a lot longer to lose weight, but the results are much more stable and long lasting. Similarly, the activities we will do here will take time to be beneficial to you. The changes that can happen over time for you are much more valuable than any short-term quick fixes will ever be.
"I forget to do it."
Incorporating a new routine in your life does take some time to get used to. It will be common to forget to fill out an Automatic Thought Record or chart once in a while at first. After a time, however it can become a habit. One of the best things you can do to remember to fill in your records/charts is to do it at the same time each day. Pick a time in which you can arrange to have some privacy with no distractions. Allow yourself to have sufficient time so you won't feel rushed and you can be sure to do the exercises properly.
Another suggestion is to pair your recording with an already existing habit. Some people find it convenient to do their records/charts for the previous day while they are having breakfast in the morning. Other people prefer doing them in the evening just before going to bed. So, you could do your records/charts while having coffee, during a regular break in the day, after watching the evening news, before turning the lights off in bed, or with any other habit your already do each day.
You might also put your records/charts and other materials in a place where you have easy access to them. You could carry them in a purse, notebook, briefcase, or book bag that you have with you frequently. If you go into these things regularly, you will be reminded frequently about doing them. You could also put them out in a place at home where you see them easily. Be careful about tucking them away in a drawer, leaving them on a shelf, or otherwise putting them where they are easily forgotten.
"I have trouble with motivation."
You don't have to feel motivated to do your charts. Just do them! I know that may sound a bit harsh, but there is some truth to it. You should expect that you won't feel motivated each time you sit down to complete your records/charts. In fact, sometimes you'll just think it's a hassle. However, when you see your efforts paying off, when you experience your work being rewarded, you will feel better about a number of things, including your motivation. Some of the comments I made above about forgetting to do your charts can help with motivation as well.
"I don't want to have to do this forever."
I hope you haven't assumed that you will have to do these activities for the rest of your life, because that isn't the case at all. You will learn a lot about yourself in keeping these records/charts. You will also learn what works well for you and what does not. When you become adept at noticing these things, you'll find you won't have to lean on your recording/charting nearly as much. You will catch yourself noticing your negative thoughts and triggers quicker, you'll implement preventive strategies without much thought, and so forth. You'll know when you can put your records/charts aside and when you might need to pick them up for review again.