The left of centre approach
Following a feature in the Independent Higher Education Webinar on Student Service and mental health offered during Covid-19, Akosua Bonsu, Director of Studies for Thinking into Character, writes about the connection of Thinking into Character to positive mental health outcomes.
#MentalHealth is not an add-on
Mental health concerns are likely to emerge or to be compounded in lockdown. Being stuck indoors, being unable to see family members, attempting to home educate children, working in frontline services or the financial strain of being furloughed, all add to an unprecedented cocktail of triggers for anxiety and depression.
In this context, educational institutions cannot afford to think of the mental health services that they offer to students as supplementary or optional. At this time, the mental health and the mental wellbeing of students must feature as an integral part of the service each college provides. At Regent College London, one way we have done this is by embedding Thinking into Character, an award winning personal and professional development programme (PPD), into the teaching and learning for all students.
Personal Development and the methodology of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
We do not usually think of PPD in relation to mental health and wellbeing, so how can a PPD programme like Thinking into Character support mental health?
That connection between Thinking into Character and mental health comes via the methodology of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). NHS England describes CBT as follows:
“Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems”. (NHS, 2020)
CBT is essentially a talking therapy rooted in the view that we can change mental health outcomes by changing the way we think. Thinking into Character adopts the methodology of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The key principle underlying the programme is that we change our results by changing the way we think. To that end, many of the exercises involved Thinking into Character involves shifting thinking, in a manner analogous to CBT programmes.
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