Why CBT Doesn’t Work for Me


CBT is one of the most recognised forms of therapy and one of the only therapeutic modalities offered by the NHS. Considered an evidence-based form of psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. It operates on the principle that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected. By altering one aspect, you can positively influence the others.


In CBT, therapists work collaboratively with clients to identify and challenge distorted, or unhelpful thought patterns known as cognitive distortions. Through various techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, you can learn to reframe your thinking in more realistic and constructive ways. CBT emphasises the importance of behavioural changes. It encourages you to engage in activities that promote positive mental health and well-being. This may involve gradual exposure to feared situations, behaviour experiments, or the development of coping strategies to manage difficult emotions. CBT is goal-oriented and time-limited. A course of CBT therapy typically ranges from a few weeks to several months, depending on your needs and goals.


Do not Trust your Emotions


As Dr. Ellen Vora remarks in her book The Anatomy of Anxiety, CBT broadly says we should not trust emotional reasoning. CBT suggests you should not believe your own thoughts or feelings. CBT says, don’t be so emotional, be objective.


Your feelings, including your intuition, are undeniably valid and represent your subjective experience of the world. Emotions and intuitive insights provide valuable information about your needs, desires, and perceptions. They often serve as a compass for navigating life’s complexities. While your feelings may not always align with rationality or external evidence, they are nonetheless real and meaningful. Your feelings reflect the intricate interplay of your thoughts, memories, and physiological responses within your brain and body.




Society’s Destruction of Mental Health


The dysfunction within our society can stem from the way societal structures, institutions, and norms perpetuate certain behaviours. From a young age, societal norms and expectations discourage the full expression of emotions, labelling certain feelings as undesirable or weak. Society teaches children to stifle their emotions, whether sadness, anger, or fear, in favour of conformity or perceived strength. This suppression can lead to a disconnection from the authentic self and an inability to effectively process and communicate feelings.


As children move into adulthood, these ingrained patterns of emotional suppression can manifest in various forms of psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, and interpersonal conflicts. Emotional suppression on a societal level contributes to a culture of emotional immaturity, where we undervalue genuine expression, and stigmatise mental health struggles.


The opposite improves emotional intelligence, empathy, and vulnerability. This creates spaces where people feel safe and supported in embracing the full spectrum of human emotions. When we validate our emotions, we feel empowered to trust our instincts, make authentic choices, and cultivate deeper connections with ourselves and others. Embracing the validity of feelings and intuition acknowledges the richness of human experience and honours the diversity of perspectives that shape our understanding of the world.





When CBT Works for Me


CBT is not all bad, in some instances it is useful. Your thoughts can take over and influence your feelings. CBT alone doesn’t work for me. Combining CBT with a more compassionate form of therapy that offers time to sit introspectively with a feeling can make all the difference.


Your brain develops in accordance with how you use it. By repeatedly thinking the same thought, you nurture it. Watering the seeds, then the seedling, continuing to feed it as it grows into a sapling. Before long, it’s a mature tree spreading seeds of the same. While validating your intuition and exploring your feelings, you’ll learn what they mean for you. You’ll have the opportunity to work out whether they are old unnecessary patterns, possibly taught to you by others, or worthwhile feelings you need to act on. At this point, you can slowly build in some CBT techniques to address the pathways that no longer serve you.


Your journey through therapy is deeply personal, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. While CBT is widely recognised and often effective, it is important to acknowledge that it may not resonate with everyone. CBT’s emphasis on cognitive restructuring and behavioural modification may feel restrictive or dismissive of your emotions and intuition, which are undeniably valid aspects of your experience.





Honouring your Feelings and Intuition


Dr. Ellen Vora’s insights shed light on the limitations of the CBT approach. They highlight the importance of honouring your feelings and intuition as valuable. Suppressing emotions, as encouraged by societal norms from childhood, can lead to disconnection from your authentic self and contribute to various forms of psychological distress.


There’s hope in recognising that there are alternative therapeutic approaches that prioritise compassion, empathy, and vulnerability. These approaches create safe spaces for you to explore the full spectrum of human emotions, empowering you to trust your instincts, make authentic choices, and cultivate deeper connections with yourself and others.


While CBT doesn’t work for everyone, it can still offer valuable tools for managing thoughts that cloud perception. Combining CBT techniques with a more compassionate form of therapy allows you to sit introspectively with your emotions, nurturing self-awareness and understanding. By validating your intuition and exploring your feelings, you can discern between old patterns that no longer serve you and those that require attention and action. This holistic approach to therapy offers a pathway to healing and transformation, empowering you to blossom into the fullest expression of yourself.




To read more about my approach, please click here, or the techniques I use within therapy sessions here