Meet the Therapist: Benjamin McMahon
What attracted you to become a therapist?
From a young age, I've had a keen interest in understanding how the mind works. As I grew up, it became apparent to me that I wanted to not only build a career that aligned with this interest, but do so in a way that helped others. Mental health difficulties were experienced by those I cared about during my adolescent years, and it felt important to me to further my knowledge in psychology, in a way that would enable me to help others experiencing similar challenges.
Where did you train?
I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology with Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, which included a year long placement in an NHS setting. I graduated with 1st class honours in 2017.
I then began my formal training in cognitive behavioural therapy in 2021 at the University of Hertfordshire, graduating with a Distinction.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My approach to the treatment of mental health challenges is underpinned by cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented form of treatment that is made up of a combination of behavioural and cognitive techniques.
These approaches are based on the theory that our thoughts, feelings, what we do and how our body feels are all connected. If we change one of these, we can alter the others.
CBT works to help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better.
How does CBT help with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety?
CBT helps individuals recognise and understand their negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions, which often contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. By becoming aware of these thoughts, individuals can start challenging and changing them. Furthermore, CBT encourages individuals to actively test their negative beliefs and thought patterns through experiments.
These experiments involve real-life situations where individuals gather evidence to challenge their cognitive distortions. For example, if someone believes they are inherently unlikable, a CBT therapist might encourage them to engage in social activities and gather feedback to challenge this belief.
Finally, CBT involves practical problem-solving exercises. Clients learn to approach difficulties in a structured way, breaking down complex issues into manageable steps and making informed decisions.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with all individuals aged 18 and above, across a wide variety of disorders that CBT has been shown to be effective in treating. These include depression, low self-esteem, generalised anxiety, social anxiety, health anxiety, OCD, phobias, to name a few.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I think in more recent times, seeing people place greater emphasis on the management of variables that contribute to their wellbeing, is something that we are beginning to see more of.
For example, historically it might have been the case that someone who only slept for five hours a night, because of their unrelenting commitment to their employer, business, or other pursuit, might have been commended for their efforts and encouraged to continue in this fashion. Nowadays however, we pay more attention to the fact that whilst the above mentality might yield positive results in the short-term, it is likely to create burnout and an unsustainable amount of stress in the long-run.
With this in mind, I think people are more likely to give themselves permission to prioritise their own wellbeing, and spend more time doing the things that contribute positively to their mood.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I really enjoy seeing first-hand the positive changes people make in their lives through their engagement with CBT therapy. I think people often surprise themselves with how much they improve in a reasonably short space of time, and being a part of that journey means a lot to me.
Being someone people feel able to trust and confide in is also really important to me, as it aligns closely with my own personal values.
What is less pleasant?
Given my answer to the previous question, I always feel a little bit sad after completing therapy and parting ways with a client, having built a positive rapport with them over the previous few months!
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
As I’ve only recently signed up it’s early days, but so far so good! The booking system is a great facility, and I think having a therapist matching service will be really helpful for clients who want help but aren’t sure where to start.
What you do for your own mental health?
When it comes to my own mental health, getting out in nature in some form is always high on the list! Whether it be a long weekend in the Lake District, or a 15 minute stroll round my local park, I feel that this always helps me to relax and unwind. It can also be quite fulfilling completing a long hike!
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
One of CBT’s core principles is the role of collaboration in therapy. With this in mind, I think it would be really helpful for all those pursuing this type of therapy to be ready to make a real commitment to their sessions, as well as all the tasks and techniques that might be recommended between sessions.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
During the process of CBT ‘formulation’, we explore the client’s core beliefs about themselves, other people, and the world, and the subsequent rules for living or assumptions that result from these, when navigating day to day experiences.
Having built an understanding of how to enable this formulation process for my clients, I’ve naturally been able to identify many of my own beliefs, assumptions, and rules etc. This has been an interesting experience, as I feel it’s increased my own self-awareness and prompted me to apply CBT skills in ways that are helpful to me!