I was lucky enough to get along to a special event hosted yesterday by the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) down at the University of Bath. The theme of the event was Revolution in Mental Health Service Delivery: The Evolution of Low Intensity CBT. All of that is most definitely quite a mouthful, and you might be thinking I could be forgiven for drowning in big words and acronyms and subsequently running away as fast as I could.
But I didn't. I stayed. And boy was it worth it.
I first came across CBT or to use its full term Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, back in 2013. It was already a fairly widely used intervention at that point, but my perception and I can only assume that of most people was that it was a dark art reserved for use by clinicians with lots of letters after their name, for the treatment of individuals with serious and complex mental health illnesses. Plus it was therapy for gods sake, that just made it even more terrifying, and therefore of no relevance to me.
Or so I thought.
As I became more and more familiar with CBT, slowly I realised that this was a powerful toolkit, that used effectively had application for a much broader spectrum of the population than I ever thought possible.
So what is this thing?
The BABCP describes CBT as a talking therapy based on the theory that thoughts, feelings and how we act are all interconnected, and if we change one we can alter the others. When people feel worried or distressed we often fall into patterns of thinking that can worsen how we feel. CBT works to help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better. (Credit babcp.com)
So now I'm interested. We all think and feel all the time, not just when ill. The difference between stress and distress can be quite a fine line. And some stress in life is frankly unavoidable, even healthy. The key is managing it well. We all have times where we don't manage it well, and it spills over into bad stress or distress. What if we already had the tools to help us deal with it and diffuse it. I don't want to be learning new skills at the point when the crisis has hit, I want that in my arsenal beforehand.
So that takes me back to yesterday. CBT has come on in such leaps and bounds in terms of how it is accessed and the way it can be delivered, there is a real opportunity to demystify it and turn both it and closely associated practices into the cornerstone of wellbeing for everyone.
Low Intensity CBT (which the evidence base says is no less effective than High Intensity) is designed to be delivered in sessions lasting a mere 30 minutes. cCBT or Computerised CBT is changing the way CBT is access and delivered. Self help content online, access to wellbeing practitioners via Skype. Machine Learning and AI has also joined in as the Health Tech revolution really gets going. One key insight from yesterday was that CBT lends itself perfectly to short targeted sessions, delivered in person or remotely, guided or self paced. Whatever you need there will soon be a CBT recipe for it.
The Low Intensity workforce, the amazing people that deliver this new brand of therapy, clearly have the skills and passion to make this happen. In a short space of time they have revolutionised the delivery of the services in clinical settings.
For me the next stop is schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. If I had to invest 30 minutes a month for each member of my team to access some form of CBT either remotely or in the office, I would be signing up. If I wasn't giving my employees the tools they need to protect themselves when the going gets tough, as it sometimes can, how can I in good conscience say that I am doing the best I can for them.
Over the last few years there has been a massive uptake in the number of trained Mental Health First Aiders in this country, as MHFA England have engaged heavily on this key area. This week it was announced half a million people have now been through an MHFA programme, that is 1 in every 100 adults.
I think Low Intensity CBT can catch up and surpass this, and I think it should. That is the challenge before us and I think we all need to rise to it.
Thank you to the BABCP.