CBT in the Workplace: Reprogramming the brain
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy which enables you to learn different ways of thinking and behaving so you can cope with whatever life throws at you. And, now, more than ever, these principles are being applied within companies with very positive results.
CBT is a form of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought are challenged. Traditionally used to help individuals cope with a variety of disorders from stress, depression and anxiety together with a range of emotional problems, CBT aims to look at the connection between how you think, how you feel and how you behave.
So how can an individual’s core beliefs stretching back into childhood effect the way they perform in their job? Is ‘mindfulness; just a new fad or something meaningful that can be offered to staff to motivate and create a positive environment amongst colleagues?
To answer these questions, CBT specialist, Garry Barnett explains how he is helping to transform companies by placing focus on wellbeing. “The growing trend to provide professional help in the workplace has grown out of the media concerns about mental health challenges in all aspects of our daily lives. Work can add to our pressures or even be the cause – either way, employers have an obligation to act and support.
“Companies have significantly improved their Health & Safety record over the past ten years, but the emphasis has been very much on the safety of employees and it is now time to consider the ‘health’ aspects. I have found that, so often, companies who put staff welfare at the centre of their organisation are also the most successful – motivated staff are the essence of sustainability and ultimately profitability.
“An initial companywide CBT assessment can be very revealing – whilst individual confidentiality is paramount, an overview of the collective challenges can assist directors to gain a more empathetic view and act accordingly. Understanding stress causes can allow the directors to put safety nets and practical HR policies in place to find solutions that work.
“Modern living provides so many conflicting demands on life – what matters is our ability to cope and provide support to our colleagues; to learn new techniques to navigate challenges and ultimately to find happiness at work.
“Fundamentally, our core beliefs are simply ‘who we are’ and how we react to situations varies enormously. ‘Targets’ and ‘budgets’ can be positive motivators to some and dreaded millstones to be feared by others. How we present, and the messages we use, can make a difference.
“Understanding CBT language can be particularly helpful. We all want to be good leaders, combining the need to focus on collective achievement with the sensitivities of individuals with their own complex lives. It’s not an exact science and takes practice to understand the relationship between cognitive (thoughts) and behaviours can be really beneficial. Culture and business transformation can then follow.”
For the director of an organisation, CBT can also assist
in helping to cope with the undoubted stress of running
an organisation. Garry continued: “We all tend to think of our staff, our managers and our team. But directors also benefit from counselling and a 40-minute session once a month can be invaluable in understanding personal anxiety and finding ways to work through problems in a positive and constructive way.”
One particular case that Garry was involved in was with a female director who was a high achiever with a brilliant track record within her organisation. “She presented as a confident, strong leader and communicator. However, CBT sessions actually revealed a low-self-esteem which gave her sleepless nights and a bullying boss certainly added to her stress. She was gradually experiencing the early stages of depression.
“With regular CBT, she was able to work through her anxiety and found ways to be more confident when dealing with the MD. Rather than looking for another job, she began to enjoy her time at work again and work on her negative feelings. Eventually she was able to contribute even more and was instrumental in adding to the company’s expansion. Her knowledge of the principles of CBT also made her an exceptional manager of her own team.
“The issues around mental health are not going to go away. It is clear that health and safety legislation will be tightened to encourage companies to consider welfare issues in a more holistic way. But why wait?
“If CBT can provide motivation and guidance to staff and that, in turn, creates positive behaviours why not seek help to apply CBT in the workplace now? ‘It’s good to talk’ as our mothers used to say and right now we all need an outlet for our issues and that can only produce a positive outcome.”