Book Review: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Christine Wilding

You can read as many sports psychology, self-help, and leadership books that you want, but you’ll still be missing out if you haven’t learned about cognitive behavioural therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, does what so many other books try to do - make you happier, more motivated, and successful - but it gets straight to the heart of the matter. That’s why I love CBT so much. To me, it is the most practical form of psychological therapy. The best part about it is that you can learn it yourself! So let me help teach CBT to you by reviewing Christine Wilding’s book, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The premise behind CBT is that by analyzing your own thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and the relationships between them, you can find ways to make changes to them to improve both your mental health and outcomes in life.

Chapter by chapter, Wilding teaches you ways in which you can do this. By the end of the book, you’ll have a toolbox of strategies and coping skills that you can use to solve a variety of psychological and behavioral issues for the rest of your life.

Wilding starts by explaining how our negative thoughts and interpretations of events affect our emotions and behavior. She offers ways in which you can evaluate and challenge your negative thoughts and find healthier, more positive alternative thoughts.

One of the staples of CBT is the use of “Thought Records.” A thought record is a way to “conceptualize” your thinking, to discover the links between events, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. You do this by making a table with columns for events, negative thoughts, possible alternative thoughts, etc. There’s many different kinds of thought trackers that serve different purposes. This may sound simplistic or cheesy, but the act of sitting down and deliberately conceptualizing your mind, and writing it down on paper is actually very helpful. It is too hard to keep track of all of this inside your head. Your mind is too fast paced. You need the help of a structured thought record.

The book offers many ways to dive deeper and use more advanced strategies to regulate your mind, feelings, and behavior. One chapter is about how digging deeper to discover your negative beliefs and chipping away at them and replacing them with more helpful, accurate beliefs can make a big impact on your mental health.

Next, the book focuses on behavioral change. It teaches about behavioral experiments and how guided discovery and graded exposure can help you successfully modify your behavior.

Once Wilding finishes teaching about the foundation of CBT, she then offers a long list of helpful tips that you can add to your CBT toolbox. This list includes things such as mindfulness, exercise, visualization, and symptom relief.   

One of the main themes of the book is the importance of avoiding safety behaviors. Safety behaviors are things you do to reduce anxiety in the moment, but don’t do anything to solve the real issues. In fact, they actually maintain anxiety and can make it worse. Procrastination, avoidance, and substance abuse are all examples of safety behaviors. Wilding makes it clear that the way to actually solve anxiety is to overcome your fears by facing them and learning to tolerate anxiety until it no longer affects you. The toolbox of skills you learn in this book gives you many ways to do this!

Finally, the book tackles two of the most common psychological issues, depression and anxiety. And since anxiety is an umbrella term, the last chapter goes over different kinds of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic attacks, social anxiety, OCD, and health anxiety. In these chapters, Wilding shows which specific tools of CBT are best at treating each disorder.

This is a great introduction to CBT. Once you read it, you may want to read more advanced CBT books or buy a CBT workbook full of thought records and other helpful tools.

People are becoming more and more aware of the importance of mental health, not just as an end in itself, but also for its influence on athletic performance and development. One of my core beliefs is that a mentally healthy athlete is a good athlete! And obviously mental health isn’t just useful for sports. It improves every area of your life, from school, work, to your social and religious life. So if you care about any of these things, take the time to learn CBT!