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.
At my request, John Aitken is guesting today. He is a former counsellor who recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and has now retrained as a Reverse Therapist. I think John’s words speak for themselves so I don’t need to add any more.
My belief that I must succeed drove me to illness; and my insistence that I must be self-sufficient at all costs kept me there. My activities became extremely narrow. I was purely focused on training to be a Mental Health Nurse. The more tired I became the more I concentrated on this – reinforcing the problem. In fact one day I remember an old school friend asking me what I did to have fun. I was speechless. I didn’t have any fun.
I slowly became more and more exhausted.
I made an appointment with my GP, who arranged for blood tests and a depression study. These were clear and he diagnosed me (by exclusion) with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/M.E. I was devastated. I had previously made a joke that I was going to start an M.E. support group, but I couldn’t be arsed – that back-fired. At first I couldn’t get out of bed. It was like having a devastating hangover and the flu at the same time. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had always been so active. How long was this going to last for? Would I have to consider being incapacitated for the long term? I looked on Google for more information and was completely overwhelmed – and my symptoms increased. Shit!! I had all the common CFS symptoms and couldn’t believe this was happening to me – I had always been a high achiever
All my dialogue was internal: “I have got to make the best of it” “How come other selfish people get away with it without getting ill?”. In fact since doing a person-centred counselling course, I believed that it was my role to do all the listening. I devalued myself and assumed that it was my sole function in life to be supportive of others.
Then I discovered Reverse Therapy and my life turned around.
This process highlighted the importance of paying attention to my emotional needs and my own personal truths rather than all the rules and expectations that I had inherited.
In summary, I was not expressing my emotional needs and was not having enough fun in my life. Reverse Therapy helped with this by showing me how my body reacts and causes symptoms. It taught me how to respect my symptoms as a clear message that something was not right in my life. That I needed to correct something in order to respond to my body’s needs. I now know how to be well.
I now live my life according to my emotional truths and not the learnt psychological rules that I have assimilated from society in general. I am much happier and stimulated by life again. Like everybody else I have bad days but I quickly bounce back and have more fun.
I asserted my need to be listened to sometimes and downgraded my role as a counsellor (taking on other’s issues). Ironically I am now better able to help people with their issues using Reverse Therapy.
This is Part 1 of a video interview recorded by Chris Jefferson-Jones, introducing Reverse Therapy.
Years ago, before I discovered Reverse Therapy, I wrote a spoof on psychotherapy called The Rasputin Guide to Therapy. The joke was that Rasputin – the so-called ‘Mad Monk’ of legend – might have had something more useful to say about getting people well than po-faced psychologists. In particular I was critical of the tendency of most forms of therapy to focus on Headmind, with complicated theories about why people get broken – not how they can be helped to get well. Specifically, how they can be guided towards connecting to Bodymind and accessing emotions. And then doing something about them.
Although I never published it there were some good things in it. In one chapter ‘Rasputin’ talks about the way people get trapped in convention and can become ill if they lose track of their passion. In another he discusses how so-called ‘intelligent’ people can actually become stupid if they get trapped in the intellect. In still another he advocates teaching people how to dance when they get stuck. In general Rasputin advocates that we will be healthier when we take time out to appreciate the simple things of life: friendship, love, nature, travel. In real life Rasputin once walked 2000 miles from Siberia to Jerusalem, along the way feeling inspired by the sea, the mountains, the lakes and the changing seasons on the way.
Here are a few of ‘Rasputin’s’ tips for a healthy life.
• Never give away your power to another person. This applies to partners, employers, children, parents, teachers and – most especially – gurus who claim to have better answers than you do to life’s problems. As human beings they will be struggling with their own problems and will not know more than you do about your own best way forward in life.
• Trust in yourself. Learn to recognise what is true for you and be guided by your own emotions about things.
• Learn to dance, sing or play music. At the very least you will get an endorphin rush.
• Whatever you do for a living, or if you care for others, then do it with a passion. If doing things is an obligation rather than a pleasure then be sure to balance these chores with other activities for which you do have a passion.
• Never look back. If things go wrong, or if you are sad and disillusioned, then move on and find a better way of life.
• Take risks – often. You will never find out what you are capable of unless you experiment. And the more you move outside the comfort zone Headmind has circumscribed for you the more confident you will become.
• Seek the humour in things. If you are not very good at doing that then spend plenty of time with people who are.
• Make time for people you love.
• Be honest. Don’t compromise on the truth just to keep someone else in their comfort zone. Practice gently opening your heart to others.
• Cultivate enlightened selfishness. If you don’t take a break or go easy on yourself from time to time you won’t be able to care for others. Even Christ and the Buddha needed time off from their mission.
Finally, here are some of Rasputin’s mistakes to avoid:
• Don’t drink too much
• Don’t give away all you have
• Don’t trust strangers who invite you to their house at midnight (they might want to shoot you)
• Don’t get mixed up with the Royal family
- Autoimmune disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Reverse Therapy
- Zen Buddhism