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  • Writer's pictureBen R

A Part of the Mental Health Equation

Tuesday, I wrapped up my three week Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) class online.

I’m very glad I was able to get in for this therapy course. As I stated on my Facebook and Instagram pages recently, it’s definitely worth taking, even if you don’t suffer from a persistent mental health condition.

Each day we learned a new coping skill, and while some are probably common, such as problem solving and mindfulness, others such as Psychological Acceptance and Functional Analysis are likely not so.

Each day was three hours long with a break roughly every 50 minutes.

We began each class with a self-assessment check in. So what was included on the self-assessment you might be asking?

You were to come up with three goals each day to work on. Common ones for me were to:

  • work on limiting my social media digestion,

  • exercise

  • walk Hazel

  • check in on someone through text/phone.

Due to my time in therapy running through Christmas and New Years, we had my parents over a couple of times, so my goal that day was to practice mindfulness (a skill I’ve used often) as one of the three.

I would say I probably hit my goals 75% of the time. The times I didn’t hit a goal was when I was simply lazy or didn’t manage my time well.

I think it’s safe to say we all struggle with those at times, right?

People’s goals varied, from today I’m going to shower to I need to spend more time with my kids, but I really struggle with my anxiety.

I should probably give you a picture of what the class looked like. There were usually 6-8 participants on Zoom, with two program therapists on as well. Ideally, for me, I would have preferred class in person, but it’s nice to be able to not have to jump on until the last minute.

Works well for a guy with a history of being late! Haha

So after the goals (on the self-assessment sheet), you would rate on a 1-10 scale things such as:

  • your appetite for that day

  • your mood

  • your sleep in the last 24 hours

You would rate your mood and then describe your emotions. There was also a 0-5 scale for desire to live and die, urge to self-harm, and urge to use substance.

I remember joking with my partner that I drank alcohol a couple of times (not during class) during the duration of the three weeks, and admittedly never did ask them if that is considered substance use for this particular purpose . I don’t think it is, because I’ve a number of times, before any therapy appointment, filled out a questionnaire that asks about the usage of drugs, NOT including alcohol or smoking.

I wonder where marijuana/cannabis falls? It’s become more accepted for medical use.

Wrapping up, we would list three things we were grateful for then.

About half the time, we ended up going over class rules for anyone new, as people consistently rotate in and out of the program. They have a great thing on everyone’s last day, where the therapists and participants go around, wishing the departing participant good luck and sharing what they appreciated about the person. Most people told me that they liked my openness and optimism on the topics on hand and for generally being always willing to respond in class.

It’s kind of funny when I think about that. Growing up as a shy kid, I almost never participated in “raising my hand” in class. I absolutely HATED when you would have a teacher who loved to randomly ask students a question to quiz them.

Now, literally every time I could feel myself wanting to participate, but one of the rules was not to overtake discussions. I’m usually OK with silence, but I did find it a bit awkward when people would just sit there and not unmute to talk. You would think not being in person would make it less anxiety-driven, but maybe not?

Overall, people were good about participation. Well, that was a rule of the program anyway. Why would you sign up for group therapy if you weren’t planning to participate?

Now that I’m done, my future homework from therapy is to narrow down to implementing three coping skills that I feel will be most beneficial to me, moving forward. This is a specific goal I told my class therapist that I want to work on to put into my overall Mental Health Toolbox.

I’m not sure on what yet and will likely reassess them from time to time. All of them are effective to review, but I know mindfulness is something I’m particularly good with, so I won’t pick that one for my top three. As I mentioned earlier, some are more in depth. They are really good for dissecting down an issue you are going through, might go through in the near future, or want to better understand where your sticking points lie.

My 3 main goals for the class were:

  • Learning new ways of dealing with negative emotions

  • How to communicate with my mother about her own mental health/dads progression (topic for a later time or video I’ve been wanting to do as we get more into the new year).

  • Time Management Skills

I’m hopeful for the future now that I have these tools at my disposal. Again, I’d highly recommend taking the class if you have time.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

- Ben

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