We are one of the few therapy providers in Sacramento area to practice “Third Wave” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Why is this our preferred treatment? 

Simple: because it works.


As shown above, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the clear standard leader for mental health interventions for conditions such as anxiety and phobia disorders. This is because CBT is the final iteration of talk therapy that has incorporated many of our ideas of cognition (how we think of the world) and neuroscience. The core idea of CBT is that it changes the way we think by physically changing our brain. 


CBT is based on the idea that our brain is always changing.


The idea that is most damaging to psychology and to patient success is the idea that our brains are “stuck” one way or the other, or are static. That once we reach 25 years old, how we are is how we are and how we think is how we think, and that won’t change. Though this idea gives us something to depend on, and may be comforting in a way, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 


Our brains are built to constantly rewire themselves. Just because you think in a damaging way now doesn't mean that you will think this way forever. We have an enormous capacity for rebirth unlike any other creature in the world. This ability to rewire the brain is called “neuroplasticity” and has been researched extensively.


Notably, CBT has been shown to physically rewire our brains as seen in brain scans of patients. [1


Other interventions like basic talk therapies don’t dig deep enough to cause this rewiring. While medications simply reduce activity in the connections that are the problem. CBT goes a step farther which is why it has been so successful  for treating so many mental conditions.


Let’s think of CBT like this:

Our brains are a system of connections (synapses), and any disordered thinking is like a connection that causes harm. So in a way, our mental connections are like roads, and disordered thinking would be like a road with a massive chasm splitting the road and preventing crossing. Cars keep flying off the road and crashing (symbolic of our harmful emotional responses and the actions they cause: addiction, sleepiness, etc.).

Talk therapy and medications in essence reduce the number of cars going down that road, but the problem still remains. What CBT attempts to do is build a new road that avoids the chasm. Now in the short term, medications can help to prevent damage, but while traffic is reduced that new road needs to be constructed by our cognition. Otherwise as the medication loses its power over time (which it does) either more cars are sent down the road and damage is done or the medication is upped, and yet the underlying issue is never solved. 

Whole Wellness Therapy practices "Third Wave" CBT in Sacramento.


In the last decade a new method of CBT has been applied more and more to patient populations around the world to great success. We have seen this success in our own practice, which is why we have made “Third Wave” CBT integral to our practice and our treatment approaches. 


What is Third Wave CBT?

In short “Third Wave” CBT takes the essence of traditional CBT and infuses traditional techniques that have changed our brains and cognition for thousands of years. Three subfields can be used alone or in combination for treatment. These subfields are: mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. 


These new “mindful” additions to CBT make it much more powerful, as these concepts have been proven to enhance our neuroplasticity. A fact that has been widely studied and proven [2]. In this way, the marriage of old CBT with these mindfulness based approaches was inevitable, as they enhance each other in very powerful ways.


What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?


ACT is based on much of the same principles as CBT, however instead of engaging in a lifelong battle with our negative thoughts and emotions it works on building a radically new relationship with our thoughts and emotions. Our mind is a problem solving machine, and so when we encounter difficulties, we often find that we try to “solve the problem.” Instead we have to change our cognition or how we think of the problem. 


 We often ask “How do I stop being depressed” or “How can I stop having panic attacks.” But in many ways this is asking us to do something impossible, akin to asking “How can I never be sad.” Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to be sad, and all of us to some extent experience sadness. And so, when we are sad, we have 3 options, we can either distract ourselves from our sadness, we can try to solve it and argue with ourselves about why we should be happy, or we can accept the fact that we are sad in that moment, appreciate it and move on. 


At first glance, when we hear this we are incredulous. Accept it?? I don't want my sadness to control me, and if I accept it I admit that it does. You’d be right about that too, you don't want to submit and wallow in your sadness, you want to accept it as a thought you are having, but not one that controls you. It’s complicated to understand this radical new approach to our emotions, because we live in our “problem solving” mindset. That’s no surprise, it’s what we know best and it works for us for 90% of our daily issues. 

Here is a common issue our problem solving mind can face:


The lights went out. 

  1. Why did the lights go out? (Our thoughts in ascending order of what is most likely the cause)

    1. I bumped the switch.

    2. The circuit breaker broke.

    3. The lightbulb is dead.

    4. I didn't pay the power bill.

    5. A powerline fell.

    6. The nuclear plant that powers my house just exploded 

  2. Next you investigate each one by one and find the solution.

  3. “I tried a then did b and replaced the circuit breaker.”

  4. You think, “The problem was the circuit breaker this time, I should remember that.”

Here is a common issue our emotional mind can face:


You are at a funeral.

  1. “I can’t believe Grandpa Bob is dead.”

  2. “I still remember how he looked.”

    1. His clothes.

    2. His Jokes.

    3. The way he laughed.

  3. “I remember how he made me feel.”

    1. Happy - always telling jokes.

    2. Uneasy - always politically incorrect, and I never know what was going to happen with him, what he would say next.

    3. Interested - He was always reading and talking about his civil war books.

  4. “I am missing him very much now and I am experiencing sadness.”


Take that last example, funerals are one of the few places that we can openly cry and show our sadness, so most of us naturally accept our sadness here: We already know how to practice acceptance. 


Now imagine that we try to “fix” the sadness. Either of those solutions may start with the thought “Oh I might cry soon. I can’t cry, if I do I will look weak.” So you try to (1) argue with it. “You shouldnt be sad now, you should be calm to help those around you, etc.” or (2) you try to distract yourself, “look at that vase”, “who is that?” 


In either case you inevitably find yourself in a long term struggle  wrestling with those difficult feelings of sadness. The more you struggle, the more you become defined by the emotion you are trying to “solve.” Eventually the only lasting solution is to accept our sadness and come to terms with it in that moment. 


Applying the “problem solving” mind to our emotions is as pointless as applying the “emotional acceptance” approach to our lights going out (uncontrollable sobbing in the dark usually doesn't solve the problem).


Science is proving more and more every day that our emotions are in many ways comparable to quicksand. If we become focused on fighting them, we end up being sucked into their power. If we try to ignore it, we don’t fix the underlying issue. In fact, When it comes to quicksand the correct approach is to lay down on your back to increase the surface area on the top of the pool, and then roll your way out of ithat’s a Snapple ™ fact. 


Similar to quicksand, when it comes to our emotions our entire evolution and mind has evolved to “fight” the quicksand, so accepting the situation and laying down takes an enormous amount of willpower. ACT works by allowing us to think clearly for the first time, develop an accurate understanding of our emotions and help us live life instead of fighting it. 

What the science says about “Third Wave” CBT:


“ACT treatment outcomes are mediated through increases in psychological flexibility, its theorized process of change.“

  • Twohig, M. P., & Levin, M. E. (2017). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a Treatment for Anxiety and Depression. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 40(4), 751–770. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.009 


Looking at anxiety in youth, ACT has greater effect sizes when it comes to quality of life improvement than other interventions.


“Mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) is a promising new approach in the treatment of anxiety disorders.”


“MBT is an effective treatment for a variety of psychological problems, and is especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress.”

Even though the effectiveness of the treatment is proven, we are still one of the few Fair Oaks and Sacramento counselors that are trained in this technique. Contact us today to get started.