Book Review: Super Simple CBT

Book cover: Super Simple CBT by Matthew McKay

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.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Super Simple CBT”

  1. Sometimes, CBT and other functional therapies make me angry. Not because they don’t work – they do, some of the time, at any rate. I think, however, they should come with a disclaimer: “not a magic pill and not one and done” or something like that. It’s probably a “me” thing 😒

    1. I’m totally with you on that. CBT has its place, but the overconfidence that it’s the be-all and end-all is definitely off-putting. I just finished reading another book that was mostly CBT-based and there was a lot of “oh fuck all the way off” going through my head in response.

  2. I wish a book would be written about conditions that involve a tumultuous combination of high sensitivity, adverse childhood experience trauma and/or autism spectrum disorder (the latter which, I’ve found, has some symptoms similar to high sensitivity).

    Though it may be clinically labelled as some other disorder, I have a self-diagnosed condition involving ACE trauma, ASD and high sensitivity — which I freely refer to as a perfect storm of train wrecks. It’s one with which I greatly struggle(d) while unaware, until I was a half-century old, that its component dysfunctions had official names.

    Such a book (or books) could also include the concept of high school curriculum that teaches the science of the basics of young children’s developing brains and therefore healthy/unhealthy methods of parental/guardian rearing of children who are highly sensitive. (In 2017, when I asked a teachers federation official over the phone whether there is any such curriculum taught in any of B.C.’s school districts, he immediately replied there is not. When I asked the reason for its absence and whether it may be due to the subject matter being too controversial, he replied with a simple “Yes”. This strongly suggests there are philosophical thus political obstacles to teaching students such crucial life skills as nourishingly parenting one’s child’s developing mind.)

    1. I wonder if high school would be the best place for that kind of curriculum, or if it would have more of an impact in the form of free parenting courses available for adults. As a non-parent, I have no idea if there’s anything like that out there, but it seems like a good kind of thing to have available on-demand.

      1. As high school curriculum, however, it would be mandatory learning, unlike with ‘free parenting courses available for adults’, though the availability of the latter is also commendable.

        Certainly, some people will argue that expectant adults can easily enough access the parenting experience and advice of other parents via Internet literature, not to mention arranged group settings. However, such information may in itself be in error or misrelated/misinterpreted and therefor is understandably not as beneficial as knowing the actual child development science behind why the said parental practice would or would not be the wisest example to follow.

        As for the likely argument that high school parenting courses would bore thus repel students from attending the classes to their passable-grade completion, could not the same reservation have been put forth in regards to other currently well-established and valued course subjects, both mandatory and elective, at the time they were originally proposed?

        In addition, the flipside to that argument is, such curriculum may actually result in a novel effect on student minds, thereby stimulating interest in what otherwise can be a monotonous daily high-school routine. (Some exceptionally receptive students may even be inspired to take up post-secondary studies specializing in child psychological and behavioral disorders.) …

        I feel that by not teaching child development science to high school students it is like we, societally, are implying that anyone can comfortably enough go forth with unconditionally bearing children with whatever minute amount of such vital knowledge, if anything at all, they happen to have acquired over time. It’s as though we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to fully understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs.

  3. “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.”

    This is the DBT skill of the week in trauma art group. So CBT meets DBT to create CDBT or DCBT?

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