This is the eighth and final post in a series that accompanies each week in my book, Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks. “The Next Seven Weeks” begins on page 202 in the print edition.
For those of you who have completed the CBT in 7 Weeks program, congratulations! Hopefully you’re feeling noticeably less anxious and your mood has improved over the past few weeks. I also hope that CBT has been “demystified” for you, and it’s all starting to make sense.
I expect that most people who complete this workbook will want to see additional improvement once they’ve completed the 7-week program. That’s why I emphasize the importance of gathering up the tools that work best for you and continuing to practice them, particularly over the next few weeks but also throughout your life.
As I note in the book, CBT tends to be better than medication in the long-run for anxiety and depression, and I believe it’s because CBT teaches skills that stick with you. It’s not like having a stent put in or surgery to fix an elbow.
Instead, the tools from CBT are like exercise—as long as we keep using them, we’re likely to see the benefits. No one expects to stay fit from working out for 7 weeks and then stopping. In the same way, 7 weeks is a good amount of time to learn and begin to practice CBT, and ongoing growth will come only from continuing to apply what we’ve learned.
Years ago I had the pleasure of sitting next to a neurologist at dinner who was closely involved in treating depression by “zapping” the brain directly with a small electric current. We talked about how people recover from depression, and she told me something that always stuck with me.
Her observation was that everyone who got the electrodes implanted in their brain experienced a mood boost when the current was turned on. However, only a subset of people continued to stay well after getting the treatment, and she said these were the people who made important life changes that kept them feeling well.
I remembered this point because even when we’re directly shocking the brain out of depression, it’s not the electricity that keeps a person feeling well but rather the activities and routines and relationships and exercising of faith and all the rest. The things we think and do can, indeed, retrain the brain.
At some point the tools presented in this book stop being about “CBT” and are just about guidelines for living well. As I wrote in the first chapter, CBT is based on principles that have been around for a long, long time.
For example, the idea of making and following a plan for staying well is contained in a verse from Proverbs: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways” (4:26). I’m sure the same idea is captured in other faith traditions.
If you do find that you need a “tune-up,” you can always return to the more formal work of this program.
I’m curious to know what your experience was like as you went through the program. I’d love to hear from you, either in the Comments section below or by email.
I’d also be very interested to see the summary that you put together as your plan for ongoing work (see p. 197, “Summarizing What Works for You”). With your permission I can post your summary anonymously so readers can see what others did. I think we can all learn from each other.
It takes a good deal of trust to embark on a 7-week journey without knowing exactly what it will involve. I appreciate that trust, and I hope the time and energy you’ve invested are paying off.
I encourage you to keep investing in yourself, for your sake and for the sake of those you care about.
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I wish you all the best.