I don’t currently do therapy and haven’t had a lot of success with it in the past, but I’m very pro-therapy in general. I’ve picked up a collection of therapy tools from CBT, DBT, and various others that are handy to pull out of the toolbox as needed. This post is a sample of a few of them.
These fancy little embeds come from University College London and Think CBT. The vicious flower is a way of demonstrating how mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and OCD tend to be self-reinforcing. Once you’re able to recognize some of the ways your own illness is self-reinforcing, you can start coming up with a plan for change.
Behaviour chain analysis
This strategy comes from dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Sometimes (or even often times), things don’t go all that well. Behaviour chain analysis is about breaking down the individual steps that led up to the outcome, and then identify ways that you could respond more skillfully next time you’re in a similar situation.
Part of this is about realistically identifying vulnerabilities. If sleep deprivation is making you more vulnerable, you’ll need to work on addressing that to help you to respond in more effective ways in the future.
Self-soothing is a distress tolerance skill in DBT. It involves pleasantly stimulating each of your five senses. Putting together a self-soothe kit ahead of time is probably easier to do than trying to wing it when you’re not feeling well.
Decisional balance grid
The decisional balance grid is motivational interviewing’s take on weighing pros and cons. It’s used when trying to decide whether to adopt a new behaviour or continue on status quo.
If you’re contemplating change or in the early stages, the readiness, willingness, and ability change rulers from motivational interviewing can help you see what you need to work on.
The reference point with these rulers should always be 0, not 10. Default mode is the status quo, which is 0-0-0. Anything that’s boosting you above 0 is the good stuff, and that’s what you want to build on.
ACT life compass
The acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) life compass is a way of checking in around whether your actions match up with your values in key areas of life.
If there are discrepancies between how important an area is to you and how much effort you’re putting into that area, consider what you can do to bring you closer to enacting those values.
Leaves on a stream metaphor
ACT is big on metaphors, and one of the common ones is thoughts as leaves on a stream. The idea is that thoughts aren’t a part of who you are; they’re leaves that transiently float past the context of who you are (the stream). ACT says that much of our distress comes from getting overly hooked on our thoughts, and imagining them as leaves on a stream can help with getting unhooked.
The worry tree
The worry tree is based in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Unlike anxiety, worry is “about” something that might happen in the future. It’s kind of like the future-oriented version of rumination, chewing the problem over and over without getting anywhere.
The worry tree is about putting a stop to the endless chewing. Do something about the problem if you can, or put it aside.
The fuck-it bucket
The fuck-it bucket isn’t a therapy tool, but it’s here because I like it. It appears to have originated with humour writer David Sedaris, and there’s a fabulous post on the topic on the Rebelle Society. The fuck-it bucket is multi-purpose. If you don’t have any fucks to waste on something, but it’s niggling away at the back of your mind, chuck it in the fuck-it bucket.
You can also have a 2-part bucket where you throw in things that aren’t worth any fucks and exchange them for things that are a much better use of your fucks, like peanut butter cups.
Or, if there’s a spiteful little bitch lurking inside that should probably stay inside your head rather than unleashing her into the world, give her a fuck-it bucket with a few rubber chickens, dead fish, or toilet paper rolls that she can figuratively fling at people who are sucking way too many fucks out of you. My fuck-it bucket, shown below, contains dead fish for throwing.
Do you have any favourite tools you like to keep handy in your mental health toolbox?
The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.