Using CBT Techniques for Social Change

Here at ICE we’re really pleased to be currently working with Liverpool PCT on the Liverpool Alcohol Outreach Project –engaging in communities across the city to help them rethink their relationships with alcohol, and to provide support for those at risk from alcohol-related harm.

Our Intervention Team go right into the heart of local communities, talking to people face-to-face, using motivational interviewing to probe the basis behind drinking behaviours –helping people to challenge assumptions about why they drink in the way they do.

To help the Team get a deeper understanding of the underlying psychological factors that can influence behaviour, we held a day of discussion around Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) last week, led by the Manchester Centre for CBT.

The Team worked through several exercises to drill down to the core of our assumptions around why we think or act a certain way, and why we react in particular ways to situations, whilst challenging our own perceptions of ourselves.

The Team found the day incredibly useful, and the learning points will really help them to help even more people on the project. The use of Socratic questioning, and the ABC technique –the process of probing individuals’ perceptions – will be useful to the Team whilst they are working with local people.

On a wider level, some points came through that we feel, as an organisation, will really help us understand why people and organisations can be resistant to change.

One of the most valuable insight and engagement tools at our disposal is the focus group. These techniques will help us to dig deeper to understand the basis for behaviours, and maybe challenge them in the process. Some of the most common answers we hear when we ask “Why do you do a certain thing?” or “Why do you think such a thing?” can be “because I just do” or “that’s what I’ve always done”. Using CBT techniques will help us to understand the basic psychological influences on behaviour that can sometimes be elusive.

In our role as a “change agency”, understanding these very basic and elusive details of why a person, department, or organisation does something that “they’ve always done”, can have a wide use in helping to prepare the ground for change, and adjusting to new processes, and ways of thinking.

In an age of “more for less” in public services, it’s crucial for us to understand these perceptions in more detail so we can approach each challenge with a fuller picture. In understanding this deeper level of detail, we can work more closely with communities and organisations to design services that get to the heart of the challenges they face, and deliver sustainable social change, for individuals, communities and organisations. This is what drives everyone at ICE.

Our thanks must go to the Manchester Centre for CBT for their input. But what do you think? How important is this level of detail in promoting long term social or organisational change?

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