'The Philosophical Methods of CBT' by Tim LeBon

This week, Tim LeBon, philosophical counsellor and one of the Stoicism Today team, maps  seven typical errors of thinking, as recognised within CBT, with possible philosophical remedies for each error. The following piece is extracted from Tim’s book, Wise Therapy (2001), and is reproduced with kind permission of the author. The extract is prefaced by a short introduction, written by Tim for this blog, about the overall aims of the book.

Tim Le Bon, Psychotherapist, Philosophical Counsellor and Author of ‘Wise Therapy’

In Wise Therapy (Sage,  2001) I aimed to examine some of the main practical topics in philosophy and explore their implications for psychotherapy and counselling.  The philosophy of well-being, right and wrong,  reason and the emotions and the meaning of life are all surveyed, what I hope to be acceptable conclusions reached, and then, in the final chapter, a counsellor’s philosophical toolbox is created.  Alongside a focus on philosophy,  I also examine the existing philosophically-inspired techniques from a variety of approaches, including logotherapy,  philosophical counselling, existential-phenomenological counselling, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT and REBT often quote the Stoic Epictetus’s dictum that “Men are disturbed not by things, but the views which they take of them” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 5). They have taken this idea and turned it into a technique, variously called thought records, mood logs or cognitive restructuring. The idea is that you notice when you are feeling upset (sad, angry, anxious etc) and try to determine the judgement or thought that lies behind the emotions. I usually recommend clients to imagine themselves in a cartoon with a speech bubble coming out of their head. The trick is to imagine what thoughts or images are in the speech bubble. Once you’ve worked out which thoughts are disturbing you, the next step is to untwist your thinking by looking typical thinking errors that cause emotional problems.  After that, you can come up with alternative (“rational”) responses to help you feel less upset.

In the following extract from Wise Therapy  I first describe some of the existing thinking errors described by leading CBT therapists, and then refine these to include philosophical insights.

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