Cognitive Restructuring: CBT vs ISD

(Cognitive behavioral therapy vs Intellectual self-defense) – Published on ZNet, by Mark Evans, Oct 24, 2014.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the psychological intervention of choice, for the treatment of depression and anxiety, by many mental health professionals today. The UK government has initiated the Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme which focuses on the treatment of depression and anxiety using CBT. According to the Department of Health DH: The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme has one principal aim – to help primary care trusts (PCTs) implement National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. At present, only a quarter of the 6 million people in the UK with these conditions are in treatment, with debilitating effects on society//

… Based on a set of World Health Organisation (WHO) studies the British psychologists – Oliver James – identified a set of social values that, if internalised, increase our vulnerability to emotional distress. These values include “placing a high value on money, possessions, appearance (physical and social) and fame” – which, collectively, James refers to as the affluenza virus. According to James, this virus is spread on the back of global capitalism. As capitalism promotes its values we see an increase in vulnerability to emotional distress.

Notice that these social values are exactly the same ones as those being promoted by the UK government – both abroad and at home – as they pay lip service to the psychological well-being of the general public. Also notice how the process of cognitive restructuring could be used as a tool to get people to conform to social institutions that are known to be psychopathological – all in the name of mental health promotion.

It is also important to understand that such pro-capitalist values did not become dominant within society all by themselves. On the contrary! Placing a high value on things like possessions and appearance is the result of massive and continuous propaganda campaigns that serve elite interests. As Alex Cary pointed out in his pioneering work on propaganda managed democracies:

“The twentieth century has been characterised by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

From this I think we can begin to develop a very different understanding of where cognitive distortions, and the resulting emotional distress, may originate. Political and economic elites work very hard to make sure that the democratic process functions in ways that are acceptable to privileged minority interests. Naturally, this psychological manipulation has a massive impact on the general public’s sense of confusion and hopelessness, which in turn can only impact negatively on their mental health. The question now becomes: What kind of psychological intervention can we conceptualise that can begin to address emotional distress from this point of view?

One possible way forward is suggested by Noam Chomsky in his Necessary Illusions, in which he writes:

“My personal opinion is that citizens of democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self-defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for more meaningful democracy.”

This idea of intellectual self-defense (ISD) – a term that is pretty much self-explanatory – could be used to inform a new type of psychological intervention for mental health promotion, as an alternative to CBT. ISD would have a very different explanation for cognitive distortions and the resulting emotional distress, and could be developed as a talk therapy that addresses the issues of elitist psychological manipulation and control head-on. Furthermore, ISD therapy could inform a movement of service providers and users committed to taking back the democratic process as a social intervention for mental health promotion. As David Edwards – of Media Lens – has stated, ISD “threatens to raise the spectre of more sane ways of living”.

(full text).

Related Links:

on en.wikipedia:

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Other Links:

Arun Shourie on China and Tibet, on NITI CENTRAL, Oct 25, 2014;

8 facts about American inequality, on Intrepid Report, by Pierce Nahigyan, Oct 24, 2014;

Putin lashes out at US, West for destabilizing world, on Russia Today RT, Oct 24, 2014;

ISIS brutalities remind of Hindu killings in Kashmir, on NITI CENTRAL, by SIDDHARTH ZARABI, Oct 24, 2014;

Thousands of deaths and a million homeless could have been avoided in Ukraine – Churkin, on Russia Today RT, Oct 24, 2014;

Science and the Left, on ZNet, by Michael Albert:

uploaded by Stop The War Coalition, Oktober 2014:

… et encore ceci:


… and this:

uploaded by Tropical Sailing Life in Indonesia:

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