Mental and emotional health is something that touches all our lives. In the past I’ve received counselling but it wasn’t until my GP referred me for CBT that I understood more about my thoughts and the changes I could make. A family member is currently on this healing journey and previous therapy didn’t have the impact that his current CBT sessions are having. Last year at school I worked with our link trainee Educational Psychologist to create and deliver a CBT programme for KS2 children.
CBT is a valuable tool for all ages and my guest today, Leigh Adley of Set Your Mind Free, is highlighting how this can help the elderly.
If you’ve always wondered what CBT is or the process that the therapy takes you through, you will be much clearer after reading Leigh’s article.
How Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Improves Quality of Life
As we grow old, our bodies begin to weaken. This makes the elderly especially vulnerable to serious physical diseases and conditions including arthritis, diabetes, cancer, dementia and cardiovascular problems. Often, any prescribed medicines merely relieve the pain and don’t offer a cure. On top of that patients may also suffer from psychological disorders or depression. These factors combined can also make a person feel suspicious or even hostile to others.
Fortunately, there are effective holistic approaches that Long-term Care (LTC) facilities can use to help their elderly patients. One of them is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
It’s a type of psychotherapy that helps patients deal with their problems by tackling their mental, emotional and behavioural issues. CBT is effective because it allows patients to see how their negative thoughts affect their actions.
In CBT, patients will realise the event itself is not the cause of their emotions but how they interpret that event. Take, for example, a patient’s son or daughter who doesn’t call or visit for several days making them sad or depressed. Instead of harbouring negative thoughts, CBT can help them consider other reasons like their child probably has a busy schedule at the moment.
This treatment method helps elderly patients in dealing with two major issues:
CBT can change a patient’s view about pain. The therapy can make them realise that less pain means improved quality of life. This method can also change how the patient’s brain responds to chronic pain. Doctors can also combine CBT with other remedies like medications or physical therapy.
However, some medical studies show that CBT, compared to medications or surgery, is more effective for controlling pain because it has fewer risks and side effects. Furthermore, CBT helps patients to develop a positive problem-solving attitude and useful life skills in dealing with pain and other issues in their lives.
Depression affects all people including the elderly but their symptoms are different probably due to the various illnesses they may have and the effects of the medicines used in their treatment. When the elderly get depressed they face an increased risk of:
- Cardiac diseases
- Death from illness
- Reduced ability to rehabilitate
Because depression has a serious effect on the elderly, LTC doctors and nurses need to address it immediately.
CBT deals with depression through talk therapy, which can work better than medication. For severe cases, however, a combination of CBT and drug treatment can also work effectively.
How does it work?
The patient can meet and talk with a therapist for at least 30 to 60 minutes with CBT sessions often held once a week or twice a month. In the initial meeting, the therapist will determine if the patient is comfortable with the session and if CBT is suitable.
Patients should also expect the therapist to delve into their past and background. Such information is needed by the therapist to understand the patient’s current situation. In every step of the session, however, the patient has full control throughout and can refuse to discuss anything they might feel uncomfortable talking about.
In CBT, the therapist will take the following steps to assist patients in learning about their negative behaviour and how to best correct it:
- The patients will divide each problem into different sections. Also, they may need a diary to identify their emotions, thoughts or actions.
- With the therapist’s help, the patients can examine their behaviour, thoughts and feelings (and how this affects them personally as well as others). Also, if it’s unrealistic or unhelpful, both therapist and patient can find out ways to change that negative behaviour.
- The therapist will assign homework that can make patients ‘forget’ their bad behaviour and reinforce positive ones. These simple assignments give patients the chance to apply the changes to their daily lives.
- If a task isn’t working the patient can discuss it with their therapist in the next session.
- Another advantage of CBT is that it allows patients to continue applying what they learned even after the sessions.
What makes CBT different from other depression treatments?
CBT deploys a short-term approach that requires anywhere between 6 to 20 sessions. In contrast to traditional treatments, CBT also:
- Focuses on changing present thoughts and behaviours.
- Sets goals during every session, including long term ones.
- Lets patients monitor their feelings and thoughts. Afterwards, the therapist helps them deal with them by teaching valuable coping and problem-solving skills.
As LTC professionals we should always strive to look for the best ways to deal with whatever mental, emotional and behavioural issues our residents face. CBT is the right step towards achieving that goal.
Leigh Adley is a qualified clinical hypnotherapist/psychotherapist based
in Milton Keynes. Her site, Set Your Mind Free aims to help people get rid of
their unwanted habits or addictions.