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How CBIT therapy has helped me

Posted Wed 13th Jun 2018 at 09:52
by David Griffiths


In this great blog, David Griffiths reflects on having CBIT therapy, the commitment needed for it to work, and the payoff its given him.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be referred for CBIT therapy (Comprehensive Behavioural Intervention for Tics) for my Tourettes, through a consultant at The National Hospital for Neurology in London. I didn’t know what to expect, as other forms of therapy I had tried before didn’t really help me. Despite this, I tried to start the CBIT therapy with an open mind. Again, I was lucky that I didn’t have to wait very long before starting the therapy. I can’t remember exactly how long I had to wait, but it was quick.

I was allocated quite a few sessions. I had a two-hour session each week, for a couple of months. It was more effective to have the sessions weekly, as the therapy was more consistent. To get the most out of the treatment, it was important that I practised the techniques that I had learnt, every day. You need to be committed to doing the homework with CBIT, as you need to get used to using the techniques in everyday life.

In the first few sessions, I started trying to recognise the premonitory urge, which is the sensation or urge you feel before you tic. It took a while for me to be able to properly feel the physical sensation of the urge, but once I could, it felt like a type of pressure or tension. To feel the premonitory urge, I had to suppress my tics first so I could notice the sensation before the tic with more awareness. The tension or pressure was different for each tic. For example, the urge my neck jerking tic was like a dull, tense ache. It is quite difficult to do this at first, as I'm sure a lot of you who are reading this know how hard it is to suppress tics. However, going back to what I mentioned earlier, with daily practise, I got more used to just sitting with the urge and not tic-ing for short periods of time.

In my opinion, one of the great things about this therapy is that it teaches you to control your tics when you want to, especially in certain situations. For me, I have found it very useful when I'm on the train going to university when it is usually very busy. It doesn’t help that I am also quite a tall, large framed guy, so often end up being squashed by other people whilst sitting down, making it hard to move without affecting the other passengers. These sorts of situations are great for putting the CBIT therapy into action. I should also mention that this therapy doesn't require you to constantly suppress your tics, as that would be near impossible! It is for situations where you would feel that controlling your tics would benefit you, like my example above.

I started off trying to suppress my milder tics, such as blinking and eye movements and worked up to suppressing my more severe tics, such as stomach tics and neck jerking. This gradual way of doing it made the process a bit easier. At the end of the sessions, I could control both my vocal and motor tics for short amounts of time. My motor tics are worse than my vocal tics, so it was more of a challenge for me personally, to control them, but the therapy helped with both. Although the clinical sessions were a few years ago, what I learnt there has stuck with me and almost become second nature in some situations.

CBIT therapy is not easy to do at first, but if you commit to practising it as often as you can and start it with an open mind, it can be extremely useful. As I mentioned earlier, other therapies I had tried in the past weren’t effective for me, so I did have my doubts about this, but I did manage to keep an open mind about it, and it has really helped me.

 Also, remember that everyone is different, and this therapy might not help everyone, but try not to give up hope if this is the case for you. I only say this, as I did give up hope for a long time, and went through an extremely difficult few years. I’ve now been given the great opportunity to study music production at university and believe that I have found my light at the end of the tunnel. A few years ago, I would have never dreamed that I would be where I am now, as I left school at 15, and hadn’t been able to keep a job. But thanks to the kindness and help of others that have inspired me to pursue my love of music, I now feel that I am getting somewhere in life.


David Griffiths.

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