Why bore­dom’s my best ther­apy

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - HEALTH BON­NIE ESTRIDGE

FOR A man who worked for 10 years in a fam­ily busi­ness re­tail­ing com­put­ers and cal­cu­la­tors in the 1980s, the leap to be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful spe­cial­ist in the field of ther­a­pies such as Clin­i­cal Hyp­nother­apy, CBT (Cog­ni­tive Be­havioural Ther­apy) and coun­selling has been a re­mark­able one for Michael Cohen.

Cohen’s first book, So­lu­tions to Stress, sold 35,000 copies. His sec­ond, The Power of Ac­cept­ing Your­self, was a best-seller on Ama­zon Self-Help Charts reach­ing num­ber one in Fe­bru­ary 2013. Now, his third book, Re­think it!, has just been pub­lished — which is quite a feat for some­one who suf­fers from dyslexia.

“Be­ing dyslexic cer­tainly held me back when I was at school.” Cohen re­calls. “The way I wrote was un­der­stand­able but my spell­ing was really dread­ful”.

Re­think it! is a lively, fas­ci­nat­ing mix of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with plenty of in­ter­est­ing sec­tions un­der such ti­tles as Be Your Own Best Friend, Five Steps To Chronic Wor­ry­ing and what Cohen calls The Bore­dom Tech­nique, which many peo­ple find help­ful by re­peat­ing a worry hun­dreds of times.

At just 18, Cohen be­came a Sa­mar­i­tan and, by an ex­tra­or­di­nary co­in­ci­dence, dis­cov­ered that he had a rel­a­tive who was a hyp­nother­a­pist. “We got talk­ing and I took part in some hyp­nother­apy which I found ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nat­ing.

“I had en­joyed mar­ket­ing all the lat­est com­put­ers at my par­ents’ elec­tron­ics busi­nesses in Sut­ton and Lon­don but wanted a change and that’s why I de­cided to be­come a ther­a­pist be­cause here was some­thing that in­ter­ested me far more than com­put­ers ever could.”

Cohen went on to train with Bri­tish Hyp­no­sis Re­search, then based at St Ge­orge’s Hos­pi­tal in Toot­ing, South Lon­don, where he gained diplo­mas in such fields as coun­selling and var­i­ous other ther­a­pies.

Over the years he took fur­ther train­ing which led him to be­come in­volved in CBT, which is now a huge and, some would say, fash­ion­able and in­deed con­tro­ver­sial trend.

“CBT has ac­tu­ally been around since the 1950s,” says Cohen. “The founders, El­lis and Beck, are both Amer­i­can and Jewish. I moved into the field of ther­apy in 1986 and have been in prac­tice ever since.

“The psy­chol­o­gist Al­bert El­lis first de­vel­oped his ap­proach to ther­apy in the 1950s which came to be known as Ra­tio­nal Emo­tive Be­hav­iour Ther­apy (R.E.B.T)

“The other is an Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­trist, Aaron Beck, and it was he who de­vel­oped a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, known sim­ply as Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy, in the early 1960s.”

It is true that some psy­chol­o­gists and ther­a­pists dis­miss CBT as in­ef­fec­tive yet as, Cohen points out, there is plenty of ev­i­dence to back it up.

“In com­par­i­son to other ther­a­pies such as con­ven­tional coun­selling or more tra­di­tional psy­chother­apy, this method has be­come ex­tremely pop­u­lar in the NHS sim­ply be­cause it has proven to be so ef­fi­cient,” he says.

“It really can help peo­ple over­come prob­lems such as de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der and var­i­ous pho­bias in a rel­a­tively brief pe­riod of time.

“I com­bine clin­i­cal hyp­nother­apy with CBT tech­niques and have used this ap­proach for many years well be­fore it be­came a pop­u­lar com­bi­na­tion with hyp­nother­a­pists”.

Cohen was orig­i­nally ap­proached to write when a pro­fes­sional in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent field asked whether he might be in­ter­ested in writ­ing a book on man­ag­ing stress.

“Be­ing dyslexic, the idea of this was in­cred­i­bly daunt­ing yet it ap­pealed to me be­cause I do enjoy a chal­lenge.

“So I set about it and man­aged to fin­ish the book in three months. But writ­ing was cer­tainly a bap­tism of fire be­cause of my spell­ing. Even the com­puter spell-check has a job try­ing to de­ci­pher it.”

Cohen con­fides that one of the most im­por­tant rea­sons he spe­cialises in anx­i­ety-re­lated prob­lems is be­cause he has ex­pe­ri­enced the con­di­tion him­self.

“When I present a work­shop on some­thing like de­vel­op­ing self­ac­cep­tance I can still, on oc­ca­sions, ex­pe­ri­ence per­for­mance anx­i­ety.”

“Yet now I know how to cope be­cause CBT gives me the tools to help my­self.

“It is true that there has been con­tro­versy with some pro­fes­sion­als in the field claim­ing that CBT is not as ef­fec­tive as it is claimed to be.

“Of course, ther­a­pies go in and out of fash­ion yet there is ex­tremely strong ev­i­dence that this ther­apy can be just as ef­fec­tive as med­i­ca­tion and is, in fact, now very widely and reg­u­larly used as a tool on the NHS.

“One of the most im­por­tant goals for me is to teach my clients to be­come their own ther­a­pist so that they will be able to learn to teach them­selves to change the way they think, feel and be­have.

“But, for me, it’s a case of: “Physi­cian, Heal Thy­self…”

Re­think it! Book­line&Thinker.com (£7.99)

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