Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

DIY online brain surgery, a good joke and a trail

Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 22, 2008

A helicopter

A relevant helicopter

As careful readers will have noticed, I’ve been banging on about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy here somewhat (type CBT in the search box). It’s because I think CBT is really important and useful.  It seems common sense to me.  It’s something that we’re able to do naturally (think about how we are thinking) but we can get trapped into cycles of negative thoughts and CBT helps us to stand back from what’s going on and think more clearly about our thoughts and feelings.  (We all get depressed from time to time, but when the cycles get really vicious they can be completely disabling: it’s called clinical depression.)

I’m certainly not a qualified CBT counsellor and I wouldn’t dream of trying to provide counselling using the approach.  But one of the good features of CBT is that you can do it youself.  In fact, there’s some evidence that, in the right circumstances (and clinical depression wouldn’t be one of those), CBT works better when it’s self-applied.  Even when there is a counsellor or therapist in the loop, their aim is to enable the counselee to ‘become their own therapist’.

As I’ve already mentioned, there are some excellent books around on the subject.  (Don’t forget to check Bookbrain for the cheapest online price.)  There are also some very good websites, which will take you through the CBT process.  This one is from the Australian National University and Living Life to the Full is from Doctor Chris Williams, a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at the University of Glasgow, so he should know what he’s talking about.  Both sites are very good and, what’s more, are free to use.

As I say, I think CBT can be helpful to anyone but the old ‘How many Californians does it take to change a light-bulb’ joke springs to mind (only one, but the lightbulb really has to want to change).  You do have to put some effort into it and be motivated to do it, but the potential pay-back, for everyone, is obvious.

I heard a better light-bulb joke from a group of senior naval officers for whom I once ran a workshop.  They had all been helicopter pilots (and most of them were still ‘current’) and were, to put it mildly, great fun.  I staggered off to bed at the officer’s mess we were using for the workshop at 1.00am leaving them singing around a piano.

Apparently Navy helicopter pilots hold Harrier pilots in rather low regard.  To put it crudely, the former think the latter are rather up-themselves.  Their light bulb joke went like this:

How many Harrier pilots does it take to change a light-bulb?

Only one: he stands still holding the light bulb while the whole ship revolves around him!

Some real lateral thinking there!

As I’ve mentioned before, CBT does for feelings and behaviours what my Mindworks Approach does for activities and innovations.  It provides a structure for thinking things through: rather like software for the brain.  Our brains can do this stuff anyway, but can help enormously.   I’ve been thinking about doing what I do online and have realised that the web technology is sufficiently mature that I can provide online coaching very easily.  I’m going to use a combination of specially configured blogs and various other Web2 applications, plus some interesting ways of distributing the physical bits of my kit which can’t be sent electronically.  It will have significant benefits over face-to-face coaching, training and consultancy.  Watch this space for more, very shortly.

Incidentally, the helicopter is relevant in two ways.  I talked about standing back from our thoughts and feelings: in at least one large organisation I know of, the ability to stand back from the detail and reflect is called ‘helicoptering out’.  Helicopter as a verb.  Only in America.

(I first found the two websites above via the Royal Institute of Psychiatrists’ website.)

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