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Beyond symptom reduction: Group and individual CBT approaches when the problems are real

Prof. Peter Bieling

Wednesday, 26 February 2025


Clients who struggle with anxiety, depression, and stress are well served by many evidence-based protocols that reliably reduce symptoms.  But what happens when clients in CBT want and need help with real life problems, dilemmas and bring questions about their ever-changing circumstances and difficult decisions to therapy?  And what if the true genesis of the clients’ symptoms is those problems- the toxic boss, the deteriorating marriage, a social media disaster, a fork in the road professionally, or pandemic lockdowns?  This workshop explores how a CBT framework can be best applied to these very common issues; using both tried and true strategies but also considering what additional tools, skills, and therapist interventions can set up our clients for success.

The event will be equivalent to 2.3/4hrs of CPD.


Many works on CBT start with a quote; Marcus Aurelius- Stoic Emperor from Rome is a favourite—“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts” or ““Our life is what our thoughts make it.” However, as a practitioner, the COVID-19 pandemic caused me to re-evaluate a number of assumptions about CBT-- with the world in lockdown, suddenly very real risk calculations, a revolution in the workplace and global politics becoming personal, there was a need to re-think the CBT model when it is confronted with genuine problems and dilemmas. This workshop seeks to create CBT based answers to “real world problems” that can sometimes be context for a client’s problems, as much or more, than their diagnoses. For therapists, doing our best work with these difficulties involve related, and yet slightly nuanced CBT skill sets different from the traditional cognitive and behavioural strategies practitioners are well versed in. This workshop focuses on those issues in both group and individual modalities and asks questions about how to keep the CBT frame, but provide different helpful guidance and direction to our clients.

Learning Objectives

• Overview of the standard CBT model, including areas of opportunity
• Review common “real world” problems that arise in therapy
• Provide options for therapists to adapt CBT in these circumstances
• Examine how therapists own experiences, values, and views intersect with this different focus

Training Modalities

This workshop will include didactics and content created with participants in “group” role plays. Video segments will also be used to seed questions and conversations. Audience participation in the form of client based examples will be encouraged and indeed will be key to much of the content.

Key References

Beck, J.S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C.A. (2016). Mind over mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Nezu, A. M., Maguth Nezu, C., & D'Zurilla, T. J. (2013). Problem-solving therapy: A treatment manual. Springer Publishing Co.

About the presenter

Peter Bieling, Ph.D., C. Psych is a Clinical Consultant for the Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.  Dr. Bieling’s career includes a strong track record of leadership, scholarship and clinical work in CBT for various mental health concerns. Academically, Dr. Bieling's work is concentrated in the area of emerging treatments for mood disorders and quality of mental health services delivery. He has taught psychological intervention, research methods, and quality improvement nationally. He completed his B.Sc, (Hons) at the University of Victoria, M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia and residency at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto, and fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

Who should attend

This event is suitable for practitioners from a wide variety of professional backgrounds with some grounding in CBT for adults. This workshop will be of most interest to clinicians working with clients who, while experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression are attempting to prioritize functioning and quality of life improvements for themselves.

Details coming soon

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