Why Cognitive Behavior Therapy doesn’t work
Many people with M.E. will know that they are continually being pushed towards Cognitive Behavior Therapy as the treatment. You may even have been told: ‘nothing else works’ or ‘this is the only thing that has any scientific evidence going for it’.
Er…well, the problem is that there is no real scientific evidence that CBT works for anything. There have been about three worthwhile studies on CBT for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome published in the UK and only one of those produced any evidence at all that CBT could be effective in reducing symptoms. Yet even that one study compared CBT with relaxation techniques which (as anyone with CFS will tell you) are practically useless. I wonder how CBT will look when it finally goes head to head with a really effective contender like Reverse Therapy?
Cognitive Therapy, as I never tire of reminding people, was developed to treat Depression. Since M.E. is not depression why should anyone assume that it will work for that condition? Cognitive Therapy works on changing peoples’ thoughts, beliefs and expectations. But since Chronic Fatigue symptoms are not created in the head there is no reason to believe the belief that changing beliefs will make any difference.
In fact, about twenty years ago it was realized that changing thoughts doesn’t make much difference to Depression either. Or Anxiety. Or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or anything else. That was why Cognitive Therapy was merged with Behavior Therapy – because it began to dawn on one or two minds that getting someone to change their thoughts about their problems isn’t going to make any difference until they do something about them. The truth of the matter is that it is probably the ‘B’ part of the process that is effective for a few people, not the ‘C’ part.
Unfortunately for the moguls that run the National Health Service there is no evidence that CBT is effective for anything else either. In one recent study in Scotland over 1000 patients who had received CBT years before were followed up. Of the 489 who could be bothered to talk about the therapy (were the rest too ill to come to the phone?) over half of them were still unwell and 30% of them still had severe symptoms. That means – in plain terms – that less than 10% of the original number were reporting any benefit at all. If you were a taxi-driver and only managed to get 1 out of 10 passengers to their destination you’d soon be out of business. Yet the current Government wants to spend £600 million pushing CBT on the rest of us. With the absurd claim that it has all been scientifically proven.
So why is Cognitive-Behavior Therapy the number one most used therapy in the UK and the United States? Well, folks, the main reason is that it is promoted by the Psychology industry, which is now well-embedded in the universities, the health services, in business, government and the press. And because it fits in with what the powers-that-be think people should be like: rational, reasonable, normal workers who can control their thoughts, act sensibly and not get over-emotional. In that sense what someone who goes in for CBT is really getting is an indoctrination in mainstream psychology. Don’t forget, nearly all the research that has so far been carried out on CBT has been organized by – you’ve guessed it – other psychologists. This is one reason why most of the research is unbelievably biased.
Here are a few reasons why Cognitive-Behavior Therapy won’t work for M.E.
No evidence exists that CBT can eliminate symptoms, only that it can reduce them.
CBT has a high initial drop out rate. Over 20% of people with M.E. do not go back after their first session.
M.E. symptoms are not created by thoughts so changing thoughts won’t make any difference.
Sufferers who have headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, IBS, sleeping problems, etc feel insulted by the suggestion that they can get better through positive thinking. Another reason they are unlikely to go back.
Forms. CBT makes people fill out endless forms, questionnaires and journals. Doing which not only creates frustration but triggers brain fog too
Since symptoms are created in the brain, glands and nervous system only an approach – like Reverse Therapy – that recognizes and works with Bodymind has any chance of reversing the condition.
This in turn means recognizing that the symptoms are created because the organism – the body – is in crisis. And that we have to address the organic cause, rather than the negative beliefs that people have developed after becoming ill.
When CBT does help in reducing symptoms it is not because CBT is effective but because it is accidentally – and without realizing what is happening – encouraging the client to try new activities that reduce Bodymind’s need to create symptoms as a warning call. But Reverse Therapy does that anyway.
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