• Dr Daniel Farrant

Process Based Therapy: A Foundation for a Set of Life Skills

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

By combining different skills we can build a solid foundation

When I was ten, I did martial arts with my father and my brother, and loved it. I loved learning new skills and practicing with my family. Now, with a young daughter, I have been thinking about it again. I would like to be able to teach her self-defence in future, and it would be a nice way for us to bond (if she is interested, of course!). I detest violence, yet I see martial arts can be helpful for fitness, connecting with ourselves and other people, and of course for self-defence. 

With that in mind, I began listening to martial arts teachers, and two stood out as they detailed their approach to teaching self-defence. Their method is to take people of all ages through a comprehensive set of movements that, if rehearsed, can be put together to deal with many situations. They also spoke of how learning such moves could prevent unwanted situations from arising. This made me think about therapy, and the skills humans need to anticipate and cope with the complexity of life. 

Therapists meet many people experiencing diverse problems, and yet we see common patterns. For the last four or five years I have been contemplating the core skills that therapists teach clients, and what a comprehensive set of skills would be. This is why I use the image of blocks for my skills related blog posts; they represent something solid that when combined build a solid foundation.

Early in 2019 I found a great book for therapists called ‘Process-Based CBT: The Science and Core Clinical Competencies of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ (Hayes & Hofmann, 2018). It focuses on the most useful elements from different types of therapy - the processes that underlie most problems and evidence based procedures (or skills) that can help. Therapists need to identify what processes different people struggle with, and then help them to develop a useful set of emotional, mental, physical, behavioural and situational practices. 

Below you will find a list of the main helpful processes we are likely to talk about in therapy (taken from ‘Process Based CBT’) (Hayes & Hofmann, 2018), and links to related skills I have written about. Later, I will add more links to this list for further reading and practice.

  1. Self-management

  2. Arousal reduction - Breathing, Grounding

  3. Coping and emotion regulation - Validation

  4. Problem solving 

  5. Exposure strategies 

  6. Behavioural activation

  7. Interpersonal skills - Validation

  8. Cognitive reappraisal - Thinking styles 

  9. Modifying core beliefs

  10. Cognitive defusion - Defusion, Thinking styles

  11. Cultivating psychological acceptance -  Acceptance, Mindful Attitudes, The Struggle Switch

  12. Values and choice clarification

  13. Mindfulness Practice (and very importantly self-compassion) -  Mindfulness Course

  14. Enhancing motivation

  15. Crisis management



Hayes, S.C. & Hofmann, S.G., 2018. Process-Based CBT: The Science and Core Clinical Competencies of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Oakland, CA. Context Press.