Lately, I have been hearing about cognitive behavioral therapy all over the place. From a close friend, HSPs who’ve emailed me to talk about it, in blog posts, and more. A friend told me in detail about her experience in cognitive therapy sessions, and I was fascinated. It made so much sense, and sounded so helpful for anyone who engages in damaging negative self-talk.
I was hesitant to bring up this topic on the blog because I am not a therapist, psychologist, or a mental health professional. I don’t have any right to talk about this stuff as if I’m an authority. But it sounded so interesting and potentially helpful that I wanted to share it with you. Please view this as a discussion you might have with a friend–not an expert on the subject. I urge you to do more research if you are interested in cognitive therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a “relatively short-term, focused psychotherapy for a wide range of psychological problems including depression, anxiety, anger, marital conflict, loneliness, panic, fears, substance abuse, and personality problems.” (source: cognitivetherapynyc.com)
Now, we know that high sensitivity is not a psychological problem. I’m not saying that it is. But the techniques in cognitive therapy can be applied to the challenges of being highly sensitive.
Here is a brief summary:
Our feelings are the results of our thought patterns, which are sometimes subconscious. What happens in negative self-talk (and depression) is that our way of thinking becomes distorted. For example: “I made a mistake, therefore I am a complete failure and no good at anything.” This statement is totally flawed and illogical.
So how it works is recognizing these distorted thoughts, identifying why they are wrong, and talking back to them. You learn to identify the types of distorted thoughts and techniques for changing them, as well as guilt, anger, procrastination, perfectionism, need for approval, and more. This is just scratching the surface.
Here’s an example. Imagine you are going to a social event that will be loud and crowded with strangers–an environment that could easily overwhelm you. But you want to go because there is a guy/girl you like that you want to see. Before you leave, you feel anxious and doubt if you should even go at all. When you realize you are having these feelings, you decide to dive into your thoughts and find out why you are feeling this way.
You might have been thinking things like: “I’ve been to events like this in the past and had an awful time; this is going to be the same. I’m too easily overwhelmed; I’m going to freeze up and be antisocial and not talk to anybody.”
Then you begin talking back to yourself: “I may have had bad experiences in the past, but why should I not have a good time tonight? I know I can get overwhelmed, but I can always take a short break by myself or leave if I need to. If I don’t talk to that many people, so what? My goal is to be around one person, not be the life of the party.”
And just like that, you’ve used a logic smackdown on yourself.
So that’s it. My little spiel on cognitive behavioral therapy. Fascinating stuff!
Nice! It sounds like it is basically mindfulness – being mindful of your thought patterns and feelings and then being able to think about them rationally.
Great post Kelly. I am a qualified therapist who specialises in working with HSPs. I am also HSP myself. I have developed a model of practice that I use with many people that adapts CBT for HSPs that works really well. Thanks for the article.
I have struggled with depression all my life. I’m 65 years old. The absolute most helpful type of therapy has been Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I got my first book by Dr. David Burns in the 1980’s. I’ve worn out several copies of the book. I’m also an HSP, and it has often been difficult to find a helpful therapist. This book still helps me…the concepts help me every day. I often use ideas and concepts from CBT when friends turn to me for support during difficult times. Thank you to Kelly for the excellent blog post.
I have used CBT and worked with a CBT therapist, it was very helpful.
I would also recommend the Work of Byron Katie, which has been even more helpful for me.
The smells i can relate to, and the tomato timer is a great idea. I will buy your book asap, love the podcast and everything that makes me feel better that other hsp’s are out there. Thank you, Jeff.
Regarding podcast #40 ..:)
It is such a relief to just understand that I am not unique. Now, what to do with that information? I have just started your book. I would like to share a few of my experiences.
– Starting as a very young child, my confidants and protectors were dogs. I could a book of wonderful interactions with cats & dogs.
– My father believed in physical punishment. I lived in the Deep South & then Miami, Florida. I turn 70 this year so this was not that unusual. I am the only child of nine who was not spanked. When he was about to when I was 7, he looked at my face and didn’t. Another time he was about to when I was 15, my large chow got between us & told him not to touch me. I still found the spankings (beatings to my brain) of my siblings horrible!! Though I did not see them, I could hear them.
– School was always a emotional challenge though I excelled academically. But someone always stepped up to protect me from bullies. I don’t know why but my grandson says I definitely do NOT have a poker face.
– My 30 year marriage was an ordeal. He knew if he persisted in a fight long enough, he could get his way. I couldn’t take the stress. My adult daughter does the same thing.
write a book that is. I don’t know how to edit my post.
Hi Charlotte, thank you for sharing! What to do with the information? For me, just accepting that the way I am isn’t “wrong” or “weird” was a big weight off my shoulders. I was able to start identifying ways in which my sensitivity was actually a benefit. It feels so good to stop being so hard on myself. 🙂 I hope this information helps you, too!
Thank you. The first therapist, 25 years ago said, “Quit shoulding all over yourself.” The second helped me leave my husband who had be come abusive. I am retired and relaxed with my 2 dogs.
Wow, super interesting read. I’m definitely still having to take in some of the information provided as it is all in depth and detailed! Seriously wonderful post though, I had no idea what cognitive behavioral therapy was before this post! Thanks so much for sharing!
Hi all, I haveb spent 26 years as a psychotherapist Masters level PhD candidate…dissertation is is all but defended. Now I also want to let you know I am also a HSP. I also became a Master Life, transformation and Wellness choach about 10 yeasr ago who specialized in working with people like myself who are HSP’s.
I am a firm beleiver in the connectedness of the mind body and spirit and come from a very strength person centered approach.
CBT is a great tool….there are many. I encourage this to be used in combonation with an individualized plans with….and working with someone who is willing to include the the most important expert is vital….FYI: That expert is YOU!
Hi Saya! Thanks for the comment! Great to hear from a therapist who knows about HSPs and supports them!! 🙂