MH@H Mental Health

Therapy Tools for Mental Health

Therapy tools for mental health

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.


Vicious flower

The fancy little embeds below 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

Behaviour chain analysis from DBT Skills for Mood Disorders mini-ebook

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.


Create a 5-senses self-soothing box with stimuli for sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell

Self-soothing kit

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 from motivational interview

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.


Change rulers

My change rules: readiness, willingness, and ability

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.


The domains of the acceptance and commitment therapy – ACT - life compass

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.


Acceptance and commitment therapy metaphors: passengers on a bus, tug of war, leaves on a stream, and the chessboard

ACT metaphors

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; and cognitive defusion allows you to see thoughts as transient passengers along the context of who you are (the stream).

The post on ACT metaphors covers some of the other useful ideas, like the chessboard for viewing self as context, and the tug of war to show the power of acceptance and letting go.


diagram of the worry tree tool

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.

the fuck-it bucket: blue bucket filled with dead fish

Do you have any favourite tools you like to keep handy in your mental health toolbox?

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.

Visit the MH@H Resource Pages hub to see other themed pages from Mental Health @ Home.

Therapy Mini-Ebook Collection from Mental Health @ Home
The Therapy Mini-Ebook Collection is available from the MH@H Download Centre.

22 thoughts on “Therapy Tools for Mental Health”

  1. Thank you so much! I am downloading all of these to a folder and will be using some of them, maybe even today(!). I have had OCD for 52 years, but was not officially diagnosed until 27 yrs ago. I was able to join a CBT Group, and use ERP to drastically reduce some of my anxieties. I have also used various grids and exercises with my ADHD therapist (that diagnosis surprised me at the advanced age of 48), and have found the “Mind over Mood” workbook valuable as well. Mainly: Tara Brach & Mindfulness (with some Lovingkindness thrown in) have helped me the most recently.

  2. Very comprehensive list of practical tools! By the way, it’s okay to air out your fuck-it bucket if you have someone to listen and provide nonjudgemental feedback.

  3. My toolbox is fairly full. It’s also highly disorganized, so if there’s a tool in there for a given situation (like mindfulness), I often can’t find it in a timely manner to apply it to the immediate problem. Today you’ve offered me two different tools that I liked and which I will try to put into use on a daily basis.
    The Worry Tree. I once thought I’d go into computer programming and flow charts were of great interest to me. This one seems very doable.
    The Fuck-It Bucket. I LOVE this. The imagery. Throw garbage into the fuck it bucket and get it out of the way. Put in dead fish, rotten tomatoes, fruits and veggies, maybe a wee sack of dog poo and have an arsenal ready to fling. GREAT!

    Thanks!

    1. I very much related to a disorganized tool box. Sigh. They should’ve told me at the beginning organization would’ve been needed. I’d have constructed mental cubby boxes.

  4. That bucket image is hilarious!!

    This is loads of interesting info! With the vulnerabilities, yes, I need good sleep and for ideally nine to eleven hours a night. Last night I slept around eight hours or possibly just under, and I’ve been conked all day. To get my story written over the weekend, I took extra Seroquel (it’s allowed) for days 2 and 3, so I woke up at around 1:00 PM feeling very relaxed and ready to write.

    I also like the concept of problem-solving instead of worrying!! I hate feeling anxious, and problem-solving always helps me feel better!

    Another thing I do that isn’t on the list here is that I’ll lie in bed and get very zen, and then I’m able to slowly process the entire occurrence (If something went slightly amiss in my life) (and yeah, I’m laughing at how euphemistic “slightly amiss” sounds) from start to finish, in a way that I can have greater understanding of what was my fault, what wasn’t my fault, what was no one’s fault (situational), what was the other person’s fault, what I could’ve done differently, and on and on. I also speak with higher beings in my imagination and ancestors and other loved ones who have died.

    Great blog post! Very informative!!

  5. A fantastic grouping and I’ll be sharing it once I skip my way out of the comments. The flower one was very new to me. Toxic flower. I’m going to see if there’s one already done for me to copy on line. Recovery is good, but perfection is always my brain’s default choice. It is a demanding sucker. Which perhaps is why my number one coping behaviour is to wait. To pause. To breathe. To keep breathing as I wait to die, which is what I expect when I don’t give in to my neurotic demands.

    I don’t die. So, for me, breathing and the pause. And then the analysis of the situation. I combine the aspects of CBT and DBT. Mostly, I’m a bit of this and a bit of that.

    I’m not, however, until now, about the fuck-it bucket. I like dead fish, however, you are nicely non-violent. I think mine will have bricks. πŸ˜ƒ

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