I first saw cognitive counseling referred to in my early days in the addiction treatment business, and the reference was in the Big Book of AA.
The idea was that the more I thought about the solution to a problem, the more likely I was to get more solution.
The more I thought about the problem, the more likely I was to get more of the problem.
In this case, the reference was to the 12 Steps of AA. The more one thought about how to successfully handle the Steps, the more likely one was to remain sober.
Not long after that, I came across reference to Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or REBT, which was the brain child of Albert Ellis,MD, with links to the Stoic school of philosophy from Rome and Grecian thinking.
I was very intrigued, but those early studies of mine never were able to determine how often one might need to practice REBT.
Was it, and its cousin, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, developed by Aaron Beck,MD, to be used only when uncomfortable feelings were strong, or should one create a bit of a practice routine for use regularly throughout the day?
Well, I lean to the latter view.
I say that because I think that discoveries like neurogenesis and heart rate variability biofeedback and EEG biofeedback make it possible to practice healthy cognitive counseling in the form of self talk possible.
For example, every five minutes for two heartbeats, I can practice my heart rate variability biofeedback, which involves a cue thought and a breathing technique to make a profound change in my feeling state.
Initially, at least as I read the use of REBT or CBT, I disputed an irrational thought when it happened.
Of course, I need to be aware enough to observe an uncomfortable feeling, or the irrational thought, or perhaps the behavior flowing from the thought/feeling process before any untoward consequences happened, and that is why I subscribe to the regular practice of heart rate variability biofeedback for brief intervals.
That thinking feeling process can happen in 1/18th second, which is about twice as fast as I can blink my eyes, so I think it is important to be in the habit of creating positive cognitive counseling thoughts to create positive feelings, so that I can stop the behavior about to happen, whether that is the drinking or the violence or the hurtful insult, and then quickly, perhaps as quickly as 1/18th second, return to a more comfortable homeostasis.
In the 1960's, Joe Kamiya began to study brain waves and his discoveries about alpha brain waves were picked up by the media and the marketers, and claims about the benefits of sustaining alpha brain waves were made which were not sustainable.
Although the biofeedback field fell into disrepute for awhile, in recent years what I think are significant advances have occurred which I think amplify the concepts underlying cognitive counseling.
EEG biofeedback has been used successfully with addiction clients and heart rate variability biofeedback is in use with many corporations and also used by many golfers for example, so it is possible to make significant efforts to control physiology and heart beat.
Brain waves can cycle from a delta range of 4-7 cycles per second, that is right, per second, to a high beta range of 42 cycles per second, and if your heart beat is 60 beats per minute, that is once per second.
Biofeedback is called biofeedback because the response that I learn is based on physiological feedback from my body, like brainwaves or heart rate variability.
Heart rate variability biofeedback is the tool of choice for me, because the learned behavior is quickly learned, and can be implemented prior to a stressful situation, during a stressful situation, even at a stop light in traffic, and I can feel the very pleasant result of my efforts.
Why not feel pleasant feeling on demand? All I need to do is train the brain in my heart, which no one knew we had not too many years ago, to respond to a cue thought and a breathing pattern to generate a healthy response.
What I am really describing to you is the use of cognitive counseling as a lifestyle tool, to manage my thinking so that I am routinely moving towards my goals, and a side effect of that kind of lifestyle is something we did not know humans could do about 10-15 years ago, and that is grow new neurons.
We call that process neurogenesis, and our body will do that for us if we take care of the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management (heart rate variability biofeedback), and novel learning experience.
So cognitive counseling can be used as either an occasional intervention, or it can be used as a lifestyle tool to enhance cognitive capacities across the lifespan.
Look in the right sidebar for some tools that will enhance your awareness and attention and neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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