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Why CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) Often Isn’t the Answer to Anxiety

I’m often shocked by the number of people that come to see me for therapy that have had previously unsuccessful CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) treatment that was provided by the NHS (National Health Service) here in the UK.

No doubt in some cases, CBT proves useful for some people. However, its very low success rate with many of the conditions it is prescribed for makes me question why it is quite so ubiquitous in mainstream mental health provision.

I’m reminded of the old saying (often attributed to Albert Einstein- perhaps falsely?) about the definition of insanity being ‘to do the same things over and over again expecting different results’.

So now we come to the pressing question…

Why doesn't CBT work very well with severe anxiety?

There is a clue in the first word- “cognitive”. 

Chronic anxiety is not a mental or cognitive problem. It’s not in the mind. It’s in the body.

I highly recommend reading Dr Russell Kennedy’s research on this. In his excellent book Anxiety RX, he regularly uses the term ‘alarm’ to describe the state of alarm that exists within the body of people suffering with chronic anxiety.

CBT focuses on the mind and the processes of the mind. Analysing anxiety and going over negative memories constantly doesn’t solve anxiety– in fact it can aggravate it. Constantly revisiting, going over old memories and then analysing everything without actually processing the emotions can actually retraumatise people over and over again.

You can’t outsmart your body’s innate protection mechanisms with mental strategies.

So many of my clients come to see me after having months of CBT/counselling that simply made no difference to them.

We have to communicate to the subconscious mind (not the cognitive mind) that the chronic state of alarm (designed to be protective) is not actually helping- it’s stopping you from living.

We need a deeper intervention in order to do this and it needs to be on multiple levels.

A great way of releasing the alarm is through the body’s energy system, or meridian system. Modalities such as Thought Field Therapy can allow you to do this remarkably quickly in some cases.

When combined with hypnosis and inner child work, it is very possible to clear anxiety completely with this approach.

Think of anxiety like a car alarm- it’s designed to sound only very occasionally- when it’s absolutely necessary. It’s not meant to sound constantly and if ever it does sound, it is quickly switched off and silence returns.

Chronic anxiety is a state in the body rather than the mind. Worry is fuelled by this alarm in the body- and is actually a coping strategy. Worry then fuels the alarm further and vice versa.

It’s vital to go deeper to communicate to the body and the subconscious that it’s okay to release the alarm. We need to help you create the foundation for wellbeing that you may not have had in your childhood and teenage years and allow you the sense at a deep level that life is not just about survival- you have the permission to thrive.

Contact me to learn how I can help you to overcome chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Sessions are available in-person in Manchester and Wilmslow in the UK, and over Zoom internationally.

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