A fruitful mix
CBT, ACT, CFT, EMDR—what?! Here's some acronym-busting explanations, examples of how these approaches could be of help to you, and how we could integrate them into our teamwork, to help you heal, grow and thrive.
CBT approaches & why they work well
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an umbrella term for several approaches that have a very strong basis in up-to-the-minute research, such as:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT for short)
Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT)
Mindfulness Based CBT (MBCBT)
Behavioural Activation (BA)
Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP)
(to name just a few I have trained in!)
All models under the CBT umbrella have developed out of evidence about what really works to help people positively change, adapt and move forward.
The different approaches all have different strategies, techniques and key points of focus to offer you. Where they all unite is that they are all designed to help you develop the necessary tools and core skills to constructively respond to the challenges you’re facing, and to achieve greater wellbeing throughout your life. They are all specifically aimed at helping you in three key areas:
develop helpful thinking towards yourself, others and your life
respond constructively to difficult feelings and emotions
take empowered action to approach things differently in daily life
Mainstream CBT, Mindfulness Based CBT and contemporary approaches such as ACT, CFT and FAP all work because they significantly increases your awareness of both unhelpful and helpful patterns of thinking and responding, to help you step out of autopilot and default reactions. They help you make more insightful choices that generate better outcomes for yourself and others.
Outcome studies consistently show that these models highly effective because they are constructive and practical: they help you learn skills and strategies to handle difficult emotions, situations, and relationships in a way that is responsive to real life.
ACT, CFT, FAP, MBCBT, Schema Therapy and specific CBT models to help diagnosed difficulties such as depression, OCD, GAD, health anxiety, social anxiety and insomnia are all designed to be applied strategically and flexibly. This means you can adapt CBT tools to really suit the different contexts, challenges and changes in your life.
And, good news, you know the kind of deep childhood patterns that some people say CBT doesn't address? Well, not true! Schema Therapy and CFT work really well together by help people compassionately address shame, self criticism and survival beliefs that might have been around for as long as you can remember.
As long as you live, keep learning how to live”
Examples of CBT, ACT & CFT working
Are thoughts or feelings leading to problems in your confidence, mood, or decision making?
All of us are subject to a regular barrage – and long history – of wildly unrealistic but commonly accepted misinformation about what we should be doing, thinking and feeling! A scientific understanding of body-brain evolution, and how our stress-hormone system works can quickly change that. I've worked with thousands of people who've got into vicious cycles by trying to eradicate and suppress certain thoughts and feelings, simply not having been taught how to work with, through, and around them in a more discerning way.
I really like how all mainstream and contemporary CBT approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Compassion Focussed Therapy encourage therapists to be transparent about all their methods and share relevant research with their clients. It's brilliant to see the lightbulb effect of a crash course in relational neuroscience for example! Instead of unworkable ideals, I can help you learn methods to look at situations from balanced and expanded perspectives, and to regulate your emotions, moods and stress levels in ways that look after your whole wellbeing.
I use CBT, ACT and CFT to help people cultivate a new attitude towards their body-mind-brain, a new way to "think about thinking", and a new way to respond to their feeling-states. Many people tell me this is a huge relief. I teach people how to develop a stronger, more grounded stance, from which to respond more flexibly and spontaneously to life’s complexity. I can teach you how to spot when your thoughts are beginning to operate through tunnel vision or biased filters, and how to rapidly put on the brakes and shift gear into a clearer, calmer, wiser thinking state.
Learning to train your ability to focus on what’s actually happening in the present moment, is very helpful in stepping out of repetitive worry, over planning, or over-analysis. You can super-charge literally thousands of hours of thinking time by learning creative strategies, to prevent your mind and brain struggling more than it needs to!
Have you got stuck in habits that are backfiring on you or affecting your opinion of yourself?
If you’ve got into a compulsive habit such as over-eating, binge drinking, smoking, overspending, drug use, or hair pulling, I can help you gently and precisely gain insight into what's keeping you stuck. CBT, ACT, CFT and Schema Therapy are all really useful models for this. My clients often discover that their habit is in part fuelled by subconscious beliefs and repetitive conditioning, and in part, a quick fix strategy to "override" or "deal with" several unmet needs; the natural need for validation, reassurance, encouragement, celebration, soothing, rest, energy, or a breathing space, for example.
Once we understand your actual needs, I will then help you steadily cultivate more healthy, stable habits for taking attuned and caring action towards yourself and your body. I can help you overcome avoidance, get out of “autopilot”, and into making more purposeful, motivated, meaningful and conscious choices. Learning how to positively keep yourself on track and to quickly re-route when you start heading off course is especially important. Tackling things in a manageable and encouraging way with a concrete plan, and tool kit for handling life’s multi-challenges, is core to success.
I’ve spent many thousands of hours helping people develop personalised strategies to handle tricky feelings, uncertain situations and specific scenarios with new resources rather than old habits. I also use CBT, ACT and CFT to capitalize on the wisdom and confidence you can gain to break out of old patterns, by shining the torch on your inner attributes and developments - so easily overlooked in the fast pace of the day playing out, and the mind’s negative bias towards things not accomplished (…yet!).
Are you getting negatively affected by someone else's attitude or behaviour?
I can use CBT, ACT, CFT and Schema Therapy strategies to help you notice your mind’s assumptions, and separate fact from interpretation. Having a scientific awareness of the natural vulnerabilities and self protection modes we humans share (a lot due to evolution) can usefully balance the minds’ tendency to assume it’s all personal!
Learning rapid self-calming techniques, so you can quickly “drop an anchor” in the face of your own waves of emotion, or someone else’s storm can have huge knock on benefits. I can help you in developing astute and centered ways of responding flexibly and spontaneously as the moment unfolds - rather than reacting in ways that you later regret.
Developing thoughtful insight into the many human needs we all have in common, and how to mediate between your own priorities and other peoples’, are powerful interpersonal skills. I can teach you how to rapidly adopt a place of wise advisor towards yourself and others in difficult dynamics. Rather than just suppressing or acting it out, my approach to CBT, ACT, CFT and Schema Therapy can help you get a happier balance between regulating intense emotion for yourself, as well as building bridges with others - even when you’re both really struggling. This could be to raise difficult issues and make requests for change, with a healthy, hearty style of honesty and assertiveness. I really like helping people increase the chances of win-win, rather than win-loose!
Would you like to enhance the quality of your relationships or communication style?
Taking the time to look at ways to best navigate the unique and multi layered dynamics of each individual relationship is often essential. Better communication and connection in our relationships needs a thoughtful consideration about the specific skills with which to nimbly respond to all those subtle shifts that take place in any human interaction, moment-to-moment. This could include helping you build greater listening skills, openness, and bravery to be genuine, and to demonstrate more active empathy, understanding and appreciation, which has a great bounce back and ripple out when other people feel more cared about and open to reciprocate more fully.
A key challenge for us all is how to develop a mature kind of faith in human nature. Faith that also makes room for the inevitability of change, uncertainty, disappointment and loss, as well as letting go into shared tenderness, joy and compassion. I can help you fine-tune your attentiveness, emotional intelligence and courage to navigate the intricate complexities of being more intimate sexually and emotionally, with others.
Find and express your authentic self. I can help you…
stop pretending to be who you aren't, and allow your genuine qualities to come through
be more assertive and reliable with your boundaries and commitments: Make your no mean no and your yes mean yes
be more realistic: perfectionism can be tweaked without loosing your standards
Build deeper connection with others. I can help you…
shift out of defence, into empathic and powerful communication
create relationships that feel safe and supportive to yourself and others
be more attentive, expressive, and demonstrative to show you care
…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are like messengers that show us with marvellous clarity exactly where we’re stuck! Rather than being squeamish and backing away, we could instead perk up and take a jolly helpful look!"
— Pema Chodron
…I thought no one was talking to me and the others thought I wasn’t talking to them"
— Jeanette Winterson
I initially came to Eleanor seeking help with my fear of public speaking but her warm and approachable personality very quickly transformed our sessions into a safe space, where I was able to open up and talk about my other issues... it has been a profound journey for me, where I have learned so much. Eleanor has helped me deal with my past traumatic experiences, perfectionism, self-criticism, and low self-esteem. She has exposed me to different soothing techniques, shared her wisdom and broaden my horizons, she also challenged me to “go out” and practise what I have learned at our sessions. For the first time in my life I am genuinely happy, accept myself and appreciate my life. I am so grateful our paths have crossed, it's been the best investment in myself.”
Life long positive impact
Cognitive Behavioural Therapies are recommended as the number one choice for “talking therapy” in national clinical guidelines because extensive research shows that CBT really does work. Not only for swifter outcomes, but also for long term psychological flexibility, to help you adapt to future challenges, and to maintain your wellbeing in the face of inevitable change.
As long as you’re willing to actively participate in your own process of self-help, research demonstrates that CBT approaches are very effective for developing your long term strengths, as follows:
resilience to stress
recovery after trauma or loss
balanced self image
problem solving and decision making skills
ability to learn from experience more rapidly
ability to adapt to change
confidence and self esteem
assertiveness and clear communication skills
awareness, empathy and compassion
sense of purpose and meaning to your life
clarity and commitment to your personal values
positive sense of identity
A key advantage is that both "diagnosis specific" CBT and contemporary integrative approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) are very practical. CBT, ACT and CFT recognise that living, relating and “being human” will always be complex for all of us. These approaches and their techniques have been developed to help you in the actual context of any life area, in a realistic way for the whole of your life journey.
Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings…”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
By applying CBT, ACT & CFT to your life, you can expect to see long lasting change:
effectiveness and confidence
improved health and wellbeing
increased life satisfaction
I'm kind of loving EMDR! That might sound like a weird thing to say about therapy for trauma and grief, but Eleanor, you sure have a whole range of super cool techniques that make therapy really hilarious sometimes, and, whether I’m laughing or crying, sessions with you are always really liberating for me
About EMDR and its power to truly heal
EMDR = Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (erm, catchy??!) and it’s a therapy that has been helping people overcome the impact of trauma and symptoms resulting from stressful life events, since 1987.
EMDR is recommended by both the World Health Organisation and the National Centre for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as the number one treatment of choice for trauma, alongside Trauma Focussed CBT. This recommendation has come out of strict meta analysis of research data although in practice, I think EMDR is the best for healing in swifter and much less painful way, and who doesn’t want that?!
Of course, it won’t be the right option for absolutely everyone, but to date, my clients consistently tell me how powerful EMDR is for healing past pain and hurt, reoccurring symptoms in the present, and fears about the future—at a deep level. Such good news! I find it has the power to help people heal and truly release painful feelings, images, thoughts and triggers related to disturbing life experiences of any kind. This can include one off incidents to repeated stressors, traumas and/or experiences that might be hard for people to say "that was a trauma" but sure were distressing or overwhelming.
The EMDR research!
There are now more than 72 randomised controlled trials that have investigated EMDR and all demonstrate EMDR's effectiveness in reducing/eliminating trauma and PTSD related symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance, hyper-vigilance, dissociation, nightmares.
In wide-scale international research EMDR appears to be significantly healing for people affected by traumatic or stressful or disturbing life experiences of any size or kind from any time in their life history.
Contemporary research also consistently demonstrates EMDR as significantly helping/healing the following symptoms that can also be trauma or stress related for some people, and/or a trauma/stress in their own right for others: bereavement and loss, addiction, insomnia, anxiety, recurring panic, OCD, bi-polar, depression, physical pain and medically unexplained fatigue.
When we might use EMDR in our teamwork?
If you’re looking to include healing from deep rooted memories, shame, grief, anxieties or freedom from recurrent panic, insomnia, depressive episodes, OCD, or addictive patterns, I’d recommend we consider prioritising EMDR to help you. I find that Cognitive Behavioural Therapies and coaching strategies are typically much more easy to implement after the deeper healing through EMDR has occurred.
Having said that, of course, it may be better suited to your current life situation and priorities to start off your journey by gaining more practical tools, strategies and insights first and then do a piece of deeper healing work when the timings right for you.
For some people, very understandably, developing faith and trust in my supportive presence and holding space needs to come first before sharing or addressing particularly difficult or personal topics. I truly get that.
Understanding EMDR and why it works so well
Yay—the science bit! Really fascinating and important in my opinion!
EMDR helps the Limbic Brain (Amygdalla and Hippocampus) ie the 'emotional brain' swiftly process old painful memories to a point of 'its truly in the past now', as well as 're-set' old neural patterns of emotion.
Where the mind-body-brain's natural 'alarm systems' have developed 'hyper-vigilance' as a consequence of negative past experiences, it keeps firing off in the brain, getting you to be triggered by these alarms in the present, when is no longer serving you. EMDR can stop this chain of events from happening.
EMDR also helps networks of old painful / traumatic memory forge much stronger connections with useful / adaptive information—i.e. information about your survival skills, resilience and resourcefulness, true strength and worth, becoming a source of support on your ongoing life journey.
Often this is information that other networks in the brain already know, but that your brain needs some help to connect with more easily - particularly in trigger situations: by releasing old patterns of neural firing and establishing new ones. That's why sometimes you know something to be intellectually valid "rationally I know I'm not in danger any more" but don't feel it to be true on an emotional level “... still I don't FEEL safe”. Old threat-detection and protection systems in the brain are still in hyper vigilant mode and haven't yet been switched off.
EMDR helps different information networks in the brain synch up together on a physiological level, as well as the hippocampus. It ’date stamps’ experiences as having happened in the past, so the mind-brain gets to properly heal — emotionally, psychologically and physically — from the impact of past distressing life experiences.
We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy and more laughter in the world. I think the most important thing is compassion. You understand what it feels like to be on the end of hurt and you want to help. Everything bad that’s ever happened to me has taught me compassion"
— Ellen Degeneres
EMDR a powerful tool:
number one treatment of choice for trauma—recommended by WHO and NICE
effective in reducing/eliminating trauma and PTSD related symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance, hypervigilance, dissociation, nightmares
can significantly help with trauma or stress related symptoms of: bereavement, addiction, insomnia, anxiety, recurring panic, OCD, bi-polarity, depression, physical pain and medically unexplained fatigue.
Emotion = feeling + body sensation + cognitive processes such as belief and image.
EMDR can help all these aspects of emotional experiencing shift and transform into patterns that are far more helpful for you in your life today and for a better response to the unfolding future too.