By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A Stillwater woman is using her experiences with a form of therapy to educate others of its benefits.
Amy Keith will present her talk, “The ABC’s of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy” at Stillwater’s First Presbyterian Church 7 p.m. Thursday. Keith, a former member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, said she has bipolar disorder. She said she became a member to not only share her story but to give and receive support with what she described as a “real, debilitating illness.”
Keith said bipolar disorder is much like a tsunami in that when it hits you, it turns everything upside down. She said talking to others about it cannot only bring good from it, but can be a healing process.
“My life with bipolar can be divided into two areas of one with my 12 years of not having cognitive-behavioral therapy and from 2006 and on when I discovered CBT,” she said. “It’s like night and day.”
Executive Director of NAMI Oklahoma Traci Cook said cognitive-behavioral therapy is a well-researched treatment for disorders ranging from mood, anxiety and personality disorders to substance abuse and other forms of illness. She said the therapy is treatment that helps examine the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Keith said it’s based on the assumption that you can alter your mood by altering your thoughts and actions.
“That sounds so basic, but thoughts sometimes feel like a compulsion,” Keith said. “They come without us willing them. Negative thoughts can seem especially compulsive if you’re prone to depression.”
Cook said there is a misconception that medication can cure a mental illness.
“There is no cure for mental illness,” Cook said. “Medication can subside some of the symptoms, but until someone develops new thinking patterns and new coping skills, they’re probably not going to have the skill set to fully recover. What we recommend is that yes, pharmaceuticals are good. Some people need them. Some people don’t need them.”
Prior to discovering cognitive-behavioral therapy, Keith would address her bipolar disorder through supervised drug therapy. While she still maintains that treatment, she does it in conjunction with CBT.
“Until I discovered CBT, I didn’t ever have a hope of recovering,” she said.
With it’s help, Keith said she has recovered from chronic depression and hypomania. She hopes to educate others at her talk about what the therapy can do.