On Saturday, I asked if anyone would be interested in hearing about the CBT app that my therapist recommended to me, and then I was like, Well, I want to write about it anyway. So, by not-popular demand, here’s All About My Therapy App!
Obvious disclaimer: I am not a therapist, I can’t tell you what to do, and the fact that I really love this app doesn’t actually amount to a whole lot more than a hill of beans. Mmm, beans. However, my therapist recommended it and I have found that it’s really amazing. Ask your therapist if this is right for you!
So the CBT Thought Diary is a place to record events that distress you while working through them. It’s kind of like having a therapist on speed-dial, OR, maybe, like the most depressing blog you’d ever want to read. I think the hardest part is that you are prompted to title the event FIRST, and that’s how it saves. It’s often really hard to come up with a title to sum up how you’re feeling right off the bat.
Select which “Emotions” you’re dealing with, and record your “Initial Distress.” I love this part. Identifying my emotions is really helpful, like, amirite? And having to rate my actual distress forces me to calm down a little bit, do you know what I mean? When I’m panicking, of course, I always think: “THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER!” But just having to pause and rate my distress on a scale of ten means taking a minute to put it into perspective. It’s such a small detail that you would never think too much of, but it actually begins the process!
Then, there’s two text boxes: one to describe the situation, and one to record your negative thoughts. More often than not, my “negative thoughts” sorta leak into the situation description, so I’m working on trying to first record a completely neutral description of the situation, and THEN just unload all the negative thoughts.
Now, the fun part! The app prompts you to choose from a list of cognitive distortions. You can pick more than one! So many of my therapy sessions are just me describing an insurmountable problem to my therapist, and then she asks me to walk through a list of cognitive distortions that I may be suffering from. And then, my distress usually falls away. “Oh, of course I was fortune-telling!”
With the “Challenge,” there are a list of suggestions. Here’s my only critique of the app: I wish that you could choose more than one “challenge,” the same way that you can select more than one “Emotion” and “Cognitive Distortion.” I often find that more than one of these “Challenges” apply to the situation, but I always try to come up with one or more of my own suggestions for handling the situation.
Finally, there’s the “Outcome” and recording the “Final Distress.” Here’s where things get tricky. I find that, after using the CBT app for a while, situations will have one of two outcomes:
- After a high initial distress, I come to realize I am being heavily influenced by a number of cognitive distortions, and my problem wasn’t really a problem at all, my outcome is clear, and my final distress is like, a 1. This is where the app is really helpful.
- After writing everything down, I realize that I don’t have a clear outcome, that this problem is bigger than I know how to solve. I have a really hard time coming up with an outcome for myself, and my distress level is still very high. Like, for instance, in this situation.
The latter situation usually means that I need to bring it up with my therapist. Things like the trauma of the election and my ongoing, fruitless job search are not things I can fix quite so easily, and they make frequent reappearances in this app (as you can see from the example).
So talk to your doctor to see if this app is right for you! I think if you’re undergoing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you’ll find it pretty useful on the side. I’m also pretty forgetful: when I get to my therapist’s office, I have a hard time remembering the things I wanted to talk about, so recording them is really useful and ultimately leads to more productive sessions overall. Let me know if you have used this, if this interests you, or if you have any special tools that you use for Mental Health!