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How Are Behavioural Experiments Used In CBT? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.



How Are Behavioural Experiments Used In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

After a hectic week and the release of a brand-new clinical psychology book, we’re going to be talking about one of my favourite aspects of psychological therapies. We are going to be talking about the amazing, the impressive and seriously interesting topic known as Behavioural experiments. This is a brilliant cognitive intervention you can do with clients and I flat out love learning about this topic. Therefore, in this clinical psychology podcast episode, you’ll learn about what are behavioural experiments, how they’re used in the real-world and why they’re effective psychological interventions. If you enjoy learning about clinical psychology, psychotherapy and cognitive techniques for mental health conditions, then you will love today’s episode.


This podcast episode has been sponsored by CBT For Depression: A Clinical Psychology Introduction To Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Depression. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.


What Are Behavioural Experiments In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? (Extract from CBT For Depression. Copyright Connor Whiteley 2024).

This chapter covers another type of cognitive intervention that I absolutely love because Behavioural Experiments are so cool, amazing and just flat out brilliant. I love learning about them and if you ever find a good video of these being done properly or you get to use them or see them in real life, you’ll realise how amazing they are too.


However, for the sake of clarity, a behavioural experiment are:

“Planned experiential activities, based on experimentation or observation, which are undertaken by clients in or between sessions” (Bennett-Levy, J., Butler, G. Fennell, M., Hackmann, A., Mueller, M. & Westbrook, D., 2004).


As well as these are very powerful to combating safety behaviours and their design is directly generated from cognitive formulations of presenting problems. In other words, behavioural experiments are done to counteract the client’s presenting problems as seen in a hot-cross-bun formulation, for example.


Why Use Behavioural Experiments? 

Personally, I would say why wouldn’t you use them, but as great as thought records are because they allow the client to become more aware of their thinking and patterns of behaviour, and even come up with their own alternatives to these thoughts and behaviours. The person can still not be fully convinced that the alternatives are true.


As a result, behavioural experiments can:

·                 Test a client’s unhelpful existing beliefs.

·                 Test out their new and more helpful beliefs

·                 Collect information to help develop the formulation further

·                 They enable experiential learning. Basically learning by doing.

·                 Allow clients to test out theory A versus Theory B


One of the ways and something that is very common in CBT is that a client will argue forever that they know what you’re saying and the alternatives are true at a logical and fact level and they “feel it in my heart” and they “know it in their head” but they still refuse to believe it.

That’s why behavioural experiments are very powerful ways to get them to see what happens when they drop their safety behaviours.


Of course, I’m not saying that behavioural experiments are easy for both the therapist and the client. Since the therapist needs to design behavioural experiments so, so carefully because if one of these experiments goes wrong then you have basically just confirmed outright a person’s biased cognitive errors and beliefs. That isn’t what you want.


Additionally, these can be difficult for the client because your therapist is basically making you confront something you absolutely hate.


However, I know this doesn’t directly apply to depression but if you ever see get a chance to see these experiments in practice as a student then definitely watch them. Since the one I watched was with an anxious woman who believed she would have sweat pouring off her, she would be violently shaking like an earthquake and she would be tomato red when she had to talk to a stranger so the therapist filmed an interaction and it turned out the woman was completely wrong.


She wasn’t bright tomato red, she wasn’t shaking (you really couldn’t tell she was shaking at all) and no visual sweat was coming off her. This made the woman very surprised and happy and the therapist got the woman to do the experiment twice, once with safety behaviours and one without.


And you know what happened?


The woman admitted she looked so much more personable, likeable and human when she did the experiment without her safety behaviours.


It was a very powerful and fascinating thing to watch and enjoy.


On the whole, the purpose of behavioural experiments is to get new information so the client

can test the validity of their existing beliefs and cognitions. This includes them testing the content of these beliefs and cognitions and seeing the effect of their maladaptive processes. As well as behavioural experiments allow clients to create and test new, more adaptive beliefs and cognitions.


Finally, if we apply this information to depression (the entire purpose of the book) then these experiments allow people to get new information to test the validity of alternative explanations of depression through behavioural activation and associated symptoms.

 

If you want to learn more, please check out:


CBT For Depression: A Clinical Psychology Introduction To Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Depression. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.



Have a great day.


Clinical Psychology References



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