A new method: Spiritually Augmented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
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spiritually augmented cognitive behavioral therapy
03-23-15 Category: Mental Health

spiritually augmented cognitive behavioral therapy


In the past several years there has been a slight shift in the world of therapy and psychiatry towards the inclusion of spirituality and religiosity into patients’ treatment. This is the result of multiple studies showing the benefits that are reaped from including and using spirituality and religion as part of the recovery method for patients. Adding onto this is the acknowledgment that many patients (68.7 percent) with psychiatric illnesses desire that their therapist should be aware of their spiritual beliefs and needs as they feel it helps them cope. It is this growing knowledge of how spirituality and religion do in truth benefit patients’ recovery that Spiritually Augmented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (SACBT) was developed.

What is it?

Spiritually Augmented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a meaning-based therapy that utilizes a patient’s belief system to help the patient and family cope and improve function and quality of life. SACBT is semi-structured and looks into a large range issues and the uses a range of therapeutic techniques in order to benefit psychiatric patients.

This is a form of therapy that utilizes the principles of Cognitive Behavioral therapy while simultaneously focusing on existential issues such at finding meaning and incorporating and validating a patient’s belief system in the process of treatment. SACBT uses meditation, prayers and rituals and monitors the effect of the patient’s beliefs and their rituals on their symptoms and on the patient’s acceptance of treatment methods.

The main techniques used in SACBT include empathetic listening, facilitation of emotional expression and problem along with emphasizing self-efficacy and exploring meaning in an effort to enable self-therapy. The ultimate goal of this therapy is to rekindle values and resilience that was either forgotten or lost in the period of a patient’s illness, address their setbacks which show themselves as trauma and encouraging purposeful engagement with what life has to offer.

That is a lot for one therapy method to accomplish, true, but SACBT is set up in a way where it is all possible and the benefits for patients are evident.

How does it work?

SACBT uses a manualized form and uses bridging worksheets for patients that allow them prepare for each session. The therapy will occur over 10 to 16 sessions which will each last an average of 60 minutes but at flexible enough to last from 45 to 70 minutes according to the patient’s needs. It will normally start by occurring twice a week for two weeks to aid the building of trust and engagement and will then progress on a weekly basis with termination or booster session needs being addressed later on. It is normally done either at bedside or in a healing environment such as a prayer room, quiet room or chapel and utilizes cognitive and behavioral focuses to accomplish its goals. Cognitive focuses include acceptance, hope, achieving meaning and purpose and forgiveness. Behavioral focuses include relaxation, meditation prayer, ritual exercises and record keeping or taking note of how the prayer and/or rituals benefit patients’ symptoms and acceptance of treatment.

One of the main parts of SACBT, finding meaning and purpose, will occur in five phases:

  1. The patient examines the inevitabilities of life in order to confront and be desensitized to their mortality
  2. The patient learns to let go of the fear and turmoil in their life
  3. The patient examines their lifestyle aspects that avoid confronting their mortality and thereby perpetuate fear and turmoil and plan lifestyle changes to achieve desensitization and a realistic removal of fear and turmoil
  4. The patient focuses on seeking divine purpose
  5. The patient seeks meaning by trying to find meaning in each day by using existential values (experiencing something or someone they value), creative values (finding meaning by becoming involved in a project of their life) and attitudinal values (compassion, virtue, braver, good humor etc)

The benefits of SACBT

Multiple different trials and cases have shown the benefits that SACBT provides for patients. This form of therapy has allowed them to find control in reducing hopelessness, despair and depression while simultaneously improving their quality of life. It also improves the patient’s treatment adherence, lower negative side effects of treatment and lower risk of relapse after a 12 month follow up. Some studies have shown that is also helps decrease anxiety and pain and benefit a patient’s ability to cope. All of this put together shows Spiritually Augmented Behavioral Therapy to be a treatment addition that could and likely should be considered for many patients to help improve their treatment, coping skills and quality of life.

To learn more about different treatment methods for addiction or mental health disorders you can visit prod.sovcal.com or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.

Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Brianna Gibbons

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