Interview with Psychiatrist Ihuaku Ndukwe

My good friend Ihuaku Ndukwe is a psychiatrist who currently works in Norway. She will give us a quick overview on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and why Aromatherapy can be effective. I have addressed this issue in an earlier post, thanks to the tips this dear friend and excellent professional gave me on the subject.

1 – What has drawn you to study psychiatrics?

Maybe it sounds a bit generic but since I could read, I’ve always been interested and fascinated with the human mind. What makes us do the things we do, our choices, what makes us act the way we act, what makes us think the way we think. So I decided to study it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a career out of it. My first job as a medical doctor was in an acute psychiatric ward and that was when I fell in love with psychiatry.

2 – How does Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works?

The main focus is automatic thinking. For example: if you invite me for a dinner with a group of friends and after accepting the invitation, I call in the last minute to tell you that I can’t join: what’s your first thought when you receive those news? Do you, the invitee, think: oh she doesn’t like me? Oh my dinner plans doesn’t sound exciting enough? Or did I do something wrong that made her cancel? This is a depressive automatic thinking. People who think like this are more prone to depression.

Other people may react to organising an event as “this is not going to turn out well” and so forth, they think a lot and this expresses anxiety! This reaction is seen usually in people who are prone to anxiety.

A healthy reaction would be to accept my cancellation as it is and maybe even ask me if everything is ok. Instead of internalising the situation to being about you the invitee.

Our automatic thoughts vary from individual to individual based on our life experiences.

There is a triangle (you can find it in the earlier post here) that comprises of: thought, feeling, behaviour. It basically shows that how what we think affects, how we feel and how we behave are all interrelated and affect each other in all directions in the triangle. It’s as basic as that! What you think affects how you feel affects how you act!

Cognitive therapy focus on the first thoughts (automatic thoughts) that we get when we hear something, feel something, see something, smell something: when our senses are activated! As I mentioned earlier, automatic thoughts vary from person to person based on our prejudices, upbringing, experiences in life, etc.

3 – How can each one of us apply it to our own lives?

I use it in my everyday life. I’ll give examples! Those thoughts are gonna come automatically, so first instead of acting upon them and giving them importance: think differently! Think about the fact and think about what you’re thinking. If one manages to control that automatic thinking it controls the things happening around them. It’s the power of thoughts! And we’re back to the triangle:

We have the thoughts, we have the feelings, we have the behaviour. They are all connected: all of them. If you can change the way you think about something or the way you feel about something or the way you react about something, you make great changes!

4 – What is the relation between Aromatherapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?

So you can use aromatherapy to relax just like mindfulness practices or hypnosis. To connect to yourself and connect certain feelings to the aroma. And once you do this connection, once you connect a state of being to this particular smell, or once you connect this particular smell to happiness, once you smell this scent you will actually feel happy. You are conditioning once again the way you think, through the way you feel (the smell) using the triangle I mentioned.

5 – How can people use Aromatherapy for their own support?

I personally have no experience with Aromatherapy. But there are lots of therapists who use Aromatherapy with their patients. Connecting certain emotions with the smell is something that will improve people’s mood and emotions and therefore thought and behavioural patterns.

Smell is something we haven’t studied so much in modern science yet, but there are a lot of studies going on in that field, because we know that smell triggers a lot of  memories both good and bad. Smell is very very strong, very powerful and we still have a lot to learn about it and from it!

Skin at Heart thanks Ihuaku Ndukwe for this wonderful and insightful interview in Aromatherapy and its relation with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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