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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Grief

  • February 26, 2021 4:04 PM EST

    We are posting this information about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on behalf of VetVine Pet Loss Support session Facilitator Dr. Katie Lawlor, Psy.D.  

    Dr. Lawlor indicated, "I usually reference the CBT model in our [pet loss support] groups as I find it can help deliver some immediate, tangible insight and relief without being overwhelming or too complex."


    The CBT Model is the understanding that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interrelatedThat is to say: 

    • THOUGHTS - What we think affects how we feel and behave. 

    • BEHAVIOR - How we behave affects what we think and how we feel. 

    • EMOTIONS - How we feel affects what we think and how we behave.

    - We first need to understand that our emotions are always valid, however they will not change solely based on our desire or determination. If, however, we want to improve our mood, there are effective and immediate psychological methods we can utilize. We start by examining our thought and behavior patterns, then implementing effective changes. 

    - It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy because by shifting what we think about (cognitions) and how we act (behaviors / reactions), our feelings will improve. 


    - Let’s start with our thoughts: it’s possible to lift our mood by reframing the thought patterns that cause us to get stuck in our anxiety and depression. This is because the emotions that cause us the most suffering often stem from beliefs that are untrue (cognitive distortions – e.g., all or nothing thinking, disqualifying the positive, etc.). 


    - Solution: We need to replace our distorted thoughts with more “balanced” ones, those grounded in the facts of the situation (untwisting techniques – e.g., examining the evidence, what you would tell a friend in a similar situation?, etc.). 


    - It is also possible to shift heavy emotions by changing certain aspects of our behavior. When we are feeling depression and anxious, there is often an inclination to engage in behaviors that seem protective and comforting in the moment, but which can actually worsen our moods. For example, staying in bed all day or binging TV may offer temporary “relief,” but ultimately will only exacerbate our symptoms. 


    - Solution: What will help is engaging in a healthy behavior (behavioral activation), immersing yourself in an inspiring / peaceful environment, or doing a kind act for another. 



    Source: Aaron T. Back, M.D., David D. Burns, M.D.