Mr James, a chartered psychologist, author and broadcaster, delivered his argument to the CBT industry at the Limbus Critical Psychotherapy Conference in Devon last November.
He and other psychotherapists are calling on the Government and policymakers to refocus funding into alternative talking treatments, such as psychodynamic therapy (Mr James’ preferred form of therapy), which focus on addressing the root cause of people’s cognitive problems.
While I agree that you can’t fix everything with one tool, and I welcome the idea of having a range of therapies to call upon, I take issue with much of what the Daily Mail is attributing to Oliver James.
Firstly, I doubt whether he ever called CBT a scam. I would attribute those words to the Daily Mail’s interpretation of what Mr James said and call it a highly sensationalised interpretation.
Oliver James is a professional and he ackowledges that many people have benefitted from CBT, albeit short term.
The fact that there is a benefit in CBT, regardless of the fact that some would suggest that the benefit is short term, rules out any suggestion of it being a scam — a word the dictionary defines as ‘a dishonest scheme’, or a ‘fraud’.
I’m not a qualified psychotherapist, but I have been involved with CBT since 1997. My own experience with this therapy is, just like many other things in life, it doesn’t work for everyone. I acknowledge that CBT has its limitations. The old adage: ‘one man’s floor is another man’s ceiling’, seems appropriate here.
But, CBT is not, as has been suggested in this article, a ‘talking therapy’. It is a thinking therapy. The CBT therapist takes on the role of a facilitator and an educator, not a therapist in the same way as someone who uses psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy.
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy the therapist is teaching you techniques that you takeaway to use in your daily life. CBT is a method of challenging your own negative thinking patterns — a method of balancing your thoughts.
It’s not a matter of thinking positively as some would suggest. Much mental distress stems from the way we think about things. CBT aims to achieve a state of balanced thinking in a patient by challenging unhelpful thought patterns.
I liken CBT to physical exercise, albeit for the brain and not the body. If you do physical exercise for a period you will feel fitter, stronger and better. If you then stop the physical exercise you will lose strength and become less physically fit. CBT is the same: It is something that you have to incorporate into your daily life in order for it to have a long-term positive effect.
In the article, Mr James goes on to say that:
‘CBT is largely ineffective for the majority of patients. It is in essence a form of mental hygiene. However filthy the kitchen floor of your mind, CBT soon covers it with a thin veneer of ‘positive polish’.
I see your point Mr James, but, my argument is that you don’t clean your kitchen floor once in your life time and then forget about it. You have to clean it regularly if you want it to stay clean.