Super Simple CBT by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning provides a quick and easy introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). While it addresses depression and anxiety, it’s not diagnosis-specific; rather, it provides strategies that are useful for dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions in general.
The book consists of six chapters, one devoted to each skill area: automatic thoughts, limited thinking, hot thoughts, relaxation, worry control, and getting mobilized. The introduction explains the basic CBT perspective that thoughts cause feelings, and changing thoughts can produce changes in feelings.
The first three chapters are focused on recognizing and challenging problematic patterns of thinking, and the authors recommended using a thought journal for this purpose (there’s a template on the publisher’s website that can be downloaded for this). The chapter on limited thinking goes through common cognitive distortions that are based on faulty assumptions, like polarized thinking, overgeneralization, mind-reading, and catastrophizing. The book explains how to go through the process of looking at evidence for and against hot thoughts (automatic thoughts that are particularly distressing), coming up with more balanced alternatives, and creating action plans.
The second half of the book focuses more on behaviour. The chapter on relaxation includes strategies like abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to calm down the body. The final chapter on getting mobilized encouraged people who are feeling depressed to push through and do activities that are pleasurable and give a sense of mastery.
I thought the authors did a good job of keeping the book short and to the point, with clear examples. I can see it being easy to follow even if readers have no familiarity at all with CBT. The focus was on things you can do rather than just imparting knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It’s a quick read, with short sections that make it easy to follow along. While the book’s subtitle is “6 Skills to Improve Your Mood in Minutes,” the authors are realistic that these strategies take time to practice in order to get the full benefit.
I can see this book being particularly useful as a starting point for people who are having some mood issues but aren’t necessarily looking to or needing to start mental illness treatment. It really does deliver on the title’s promise of super simple CBT.
Super Simple CBT is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.