Stories and Analogies in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
An accessible guide to employing stories and metaphors within cognitive behaviour therapy, which will aid clinicians in providing effective treatment for their clients
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Paul Blenkiron’s Stories and Analogies in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an excellent, stimulating book and a delightful one to read. Anyone expecting another dry, medicalised tome will be pleasantly surprised. Blenkiron approaches his subject with clarity, humanity and even, at times, humour. Although Blenkiron’s target audience are clinicians, I feel that, with a bit of interpretation on the behalf of the reader, this book could also serve quite well as a self-help manual. Refreshingly jargon free, this book is readily accessible to a wide readership. Throughout, Blenkiron’s tone is straightforward never patronising or pompous. He doesn’t “talk down” to his readers, but instead engages them in a lively discourse on the benefits of using stories etc within CBT. They can even be used to ascertain if a person would benefit from CBT and are an essential part of tracking change and progress within the therapy.
Blenkiron places the term story in its true context as a tale to be told for the purposes of entertaining, explaining a situation, elucidating meaning, to enable understanding and an attempt to clarify. Stories, analogies and metaphors are interwoven into the very fabric of our lives from childhood onwards. Here the author explains how figurative language, and the telling of meaningful stories, can be used in the therapeutic environment to enable clients to understand and, hopefully, alter their perspective; thus allowing them to change unhelpful beliefs about themselves, the way that they behave and think. Blenkiron explains the therapeutic use of stories in the CBT setting. He explores the risks, and benefits, of using figurative language and the need for a therapist to be flexible in their approach and be “in tune” with their client. As he explains, “CBT is about focussing on what matters to the clients as much as what is the matter with them.” Ideally, a good therapeutic story should be one which aims to improve the quality of a person’s life.
A plethora of useful stories and analogies are included. All of them clearly linked with the types of mental distress for which they will be appropriate. Blenkiron gives a compelling argument for the use of stories/analogies in a wide range of mental, and physical, problems including: depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, psychosis, anorexia and cancer. He is realistic in his acknowledgment about the complementary use of medication and diagnostic labels within the CBT pool. This is not a book which dismisses the use of medication, but instead embraces it as a means of stabilising a person so that they are able to engage with CBT.
The book is extremely well researched. This is evidenced by the quantity, and quality, of Blenkiron’s range of stories, analogies, metaphors and similes. In addition, he employs a lavish sprinkling of quotations and proverbs from sources as diverse as Roman philosophers, political figures, writers and even Groucho Marx! They are a helpful, enlightening and often humorous condiment to his text.
It’s an excellently structured piece of work. Each chapter gives a brief overview of the topic to be discussed which is then elaborated in more detail. The text is interspersed with tables, pictures, diagrams, graphs, quotations and case histories. While he debunks myths about what CBT isn’t, he explains what it is and how it can be effectively used in a therapeutic relationship. He gives clear guidance on the “dos” and “don’ts” of using CBT including the possible pitfalls for therapists. This includes boxes of “How not to do CBT” which should enable the therapist to identify problem zones. He also gives advice for trainees and supervisors. Useful stories are offered for each “diagnosis” in addition to case histories and practical help for the client. Each chapter concludes with a summary and a table of key points. In his appendix, Blenkiron lists the stories/analogies which appear for each chapter/condition enabling the reader to access them quickly. Even
What Is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?
Ten Common Myths about CBT
Stories from the Wider World
Using Stories in CBT
PostTraumatic Stress Disorder
Creating Personalized Stories and Analogies
The Evidence Base
DEVELOPING THE PLOT STORIES
Three Layers of Thinking