Guest Post

Understanding My Problems: The Power of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Layered Onion Guest Post from guest author Denisha Naidoo on the topic of cognitive behavioral therapy expressed through poetry

A photo of physician, psychotherapist, poet Denisha Naidoo. Denisha is a Canadian author and writer of poetry and poems.

I have been writing since I was six years old and wanted to be “a writer,” although I’m not sure what I thought that was at the time. I was born in South Africa and immigrated with my family to Canada as a child. My parents hoped I would become a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. I took a circuitous route but eventually became a family doctor and practiced for over 25 years. During that time, I had the honour of being a part of my patients’ lives through births, marriages, and deaths. I also learned how often forces outside of a person’s control impact their physical and mental health and sense of well-being.

In 2021, I had a life-threatening accident that left me unable to return to my job as a family physician. After a long, slow recovery, I returned to work in the area of mental health. In the process of this career shift, I completed training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

A bubble image of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Emotions, Throughts, Behaviors. Represents CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy

CBT is a form of psychotherapy based on a five-part model to understand life’s experiences. This is the interaction of our thoughts, moods, behaviours, and physical reactions on each other and the environment or situations in which they occur.

As part of the course I took, I used a workbook entitled Mind Over Mood 2nd edition by Denis Greenberger, PhD and Christine Padesky, PhD. Books like this are tools that you can use to work through a CBT program on your own if you don’t have access to a psychotherapist, although working with a mental health therapist is ideal. In that self-help workbook was a worksheet entitled “Understanding My Problems.” It made me think about the patients in my practice.

The poem “Understanding My Problems” uses a worksheet from the book to illustrate how these types of worksheets can help a person work through their problems and understand how they ended up in their current situation. My poem follows a story that I have heard from different patients over the years.

My hope is that this poem illustrates how complicated life can be and how we end up where we are as the result of many small events in life. This poem is just the start of understanding the complexity of that journey. The solution comes from working through CBT or other mental health programs to begin the journey of many small steps toward healing and recovery.

Three scrabble tiles arranged to spell "CBT" for cognitive behavioral therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy)

      Understanding My Problems

      Environment/life changes/situations:

      Reaching over

                  Reaching over

                              Reaching over

      to pick up a part

      and another and another and another

      over and over and over



      bottom line, no time

                  for a rest

      twenty years gone

                  still standing

                              in the same place

      body worn out

      husband laid off

      mortgage defaulted

      Physical Reactions:

      back pain

      can’t sleep

      back pain


      back pain

      can’t sleep

      back pain

      sleep in easy boy chair


      feeling down

      so much pain

      all the time

      worried, scared

      about money

      have to work



      tried friend’s pain pills

      helped for a bit

      need more

      doctor tells me to get physio

      no money       

      so I get them from somewhere else

      to keep working


      with hubby


      with kids


      with supervisor when he reports me

      for working too slow


      Back is wrecked

      pain forever

      no one cares

      call me an addict

      work doesn’t care if I die

      they only care about making money

                  off my back

      Denisha offers us an insightful and productive way to integrate therapy and art. Something to talk about next in therapy!

      A sign that says "next exit: cognitive therapy" another reference to "CBT" for cognitive behavioral therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy)