Stop Hating on the Counselling Service for using CBT

SUSIE COOMBS speaks up for the practice of CBT at the University Counselling Service.

anxiety cbt counselling depression eating disorders health mental health ucs university counselling service

The University Counselling Service comes under a lot of criticism. Most recently for their alleged over-reliance on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of students suffering from mental health related issues.

Many people see therapy as sitting on a couch talking about how the loss of your goldfish aged 8 has caused all your life problems. CBT is not like this. CBT is a talking therapy that teaches you to manage your problems and to change the way you think and behave. The sole focus isn’t why you feel what you feel but how you can change it. As someone who has had CBT, I can’t praise the University Counselling Service more for offering it to students.

The National Institution for Clinical Excellence recommends CBT as a form of treatment for a plethora of conditions; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, self harm, generalised anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessional compulsive disorder, a wide range of phobias, drug misuse and depression. CBT has been demonstrated time and time again to help people with mental health issues return to being happy and healthy.

Not like this. Not like this at all.

Not like this. Not like this at all

I underwent CBT for a period of 8 months, slightly longer than the guideline 4-5 months, for an eating disorder. When I tell my friends about how I suffered from an eating disorder, the most common reaction is shock, because they know me as a body-confident, un-anxious, and just all around happy person. I have CBT to thank for that. I’m not saying it was an easy or enjoyable process; in fact it was pretty damn hard for me and my family. But I can only think how much worse it would’ve been, and still would be if I hadn’t gone into therapy.

By the end of my treatment not only was I cured of an eating disorder, but I had increased self-confidence, had learnt how to deal with anxiety and pressure, knew a lot more about nutrition than any of the A-level biologists, and was just so much happier. Now, when friends are in essay panics or think the world is ending because they got with someone from college in a drunken haze, I help them deal with their anxiety and put their problems into perspective.

CBT isn’t just something you go through and then leave behind, but I genuinely practice it every day. When I’m in Topshop and a size 10 pair of jeans just won’t do up, when I argue with a friend, when my supervisor tells me my most recent mock result and when I just really miss my mum, things I’ve learnt from CBT help me deal with the problems and then move on from them. One thing that I will say about CBT, is it works better when you want to get better. Its an active process, it takes effort and time, and if you don’t commit then I don’t think it can be as successful.

Living the dream: not having to worry about what you did at bop last night.

Living the dream: not having to worry about what you did at bop last night

From both a personal and evidence-based perspective I would say that the University Counselling Service’s provision of CBT is one of the best things they could have done for students. Especially because so many mental health issues, particularly eating disorders and anxiety, are common in high-intellect perfectionists, a breed which basically makes up 99% of the student body.

To anyone suffering from a mental health disorder I would recommend CBT. The Counselling Service is ensuring that others who were in a similar position to me will be able to have the same help as I did. And hopefully have the same extremely positive results.