Yesterday I started a new module, Practices in Counselling and Psychotherapy, it is what it sounds like. It’s learning about the theory behind the use of counselling/psychotherapy, why they use it, how it came about and whether it really works. And anyway, what does “works” mean?
The module assignment is to write a 1,200 words essay on one of 6 topics they’ve given us. We have the option to choose from one of the following: The therapeutic relationship, Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR), Dream Analysis, Transference or Cognitive Errors. I was fairly happy with the variety of different things, but discounted a couple of them immediately… The therapeutic relationship, though interesting, is a little dull and a tiny bit too theoretical for me personally… Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) was another no-go because I spent far too long looking at it during my A Level Psychology course. Dream analysis, as much as I love Freud, I know it would be really difficult to write a decent essay on it…. This left me with three; Congruence, Transference and Cognitive Errors. After researching a bit on transference I decided that it wasn’t something I could write about with any kind of conviction. And congruence I felt was a little bit too closely related to UPR. So cognitive errors it is! Not that I have a problem with that because it is something that I’m really interested in anyway, but I didn’t want to jump the gun without fully researching some of the others.
The reason I spent so long researching the topics and making sure that the one I chose was the one that resonated the best with me was simply because 300 of the 1,200 words has to be a reflexive piece of writing where you talk about why you chose the topic and how you found researching and writing about it. And I figured that being guilty of many cognitive errors (also known as cognitive distortions), that I could not only write a really good reflexive piece about it, but I could also gain something from it – it might be really good for me to be researching these cognitive distortions that I know I make and perhaps even understand where they come from, obviously there’s no guarantee but it’s worth a try.
So… Cognitive distortions. They’re fascinating, and they’re based around automatic thoughts, which is just the way that you respond automatically, not the way that you think you should respond and not necessarily the logical response, but your natural response to something. For example, if someone ignores your message and your brain tells you that the reason behind this is because they hate you and don’t ever want to see you again… That is a cognitive distortion, it’s known as catastrophising. Taking something small and thinking the absolute worst thing about it, thinking that the world might be ending because of one small thing. That is not to say that your thoughts/feelings are not valid. You are entitled to feel these things, but they are horrible things to feel, and being able to identify when you’re catastrophising is half the battle.
Another one is generalising, this is another one I’m guilty of! Though I’m fairly certain that I am guilty of doing all of them, it’s part of the anxiety. This is where you believe one negative event determines all other events, for example, you fail at one thing and you think you’ll be a failure forever.
There are so many others and feel free to click here and find out more about the different types of cognitive distortions!