March 2, 2016

A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Group for Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours

If you’re familiar with, or at least have had an introduction to cognitive-behaviour therapy(CBT), then you might have an idea on how some of its techniques can enable clients to better their picking and pulling patterns. These techniques are what the highly skilled and experienced psychologists and therapists at Archways Centre for CBT in London, Ontario use, helping those who struggle with repetitive behaviours that negatively impact their daily lives.  

Known as the group of conditions that can be treated very effectively with cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs) is a pattern of behaviours where individuals engages in grooming behaviours to the point of causing significant physical damage. Some examples of this behavior that our team of psychologists encounter include hair pulling (Trichotillomania) and skin picking (Excoriation).

Archways Centre for CBT offers cognitive behaviour therapy sessions, starting by providing psychoeducation to the clients about how BFRBs develop and what maintains these repetitive behaviours. Assessment and treatment includes recognition of their condition, acceptance of the problem, and then addressing long-standing patterns through a specialized type of CBT called Comprehensive Behavioral (ComB) Treatment for BFRBs.  

Group treatment can provide an opportunity for individuals to meet and discuss common problems and goals allowing each participant to feel less isolated and alone. Once you have been assessed by a psychologist or therapist, you can engage in a discussion to determine if group or individual therapy is best for you.

Cognitive behaviour therapy conducted at Archways Centre for CBT has proven to be especially effective when addressing mood and anxiety disorders, as well as for BFRBs. Our team of adult and child psychologists offer their extensive skills to adapt treatment to the individual’s unique patterns and circumstances.

Is CBT Proven to Be Effective Against Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors?

In the case of BFRBs such as trichotillomania or skin picking disorder, CBT aims to identify triggering situations, emotions, or distorted thoughts that fuel these compulsive behaviors. Through techniques like comprehensive behavioral (ComB) treatment and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), individuals develop a better understanding of the components that contribute to triggering a pulling or picking episode. Strategies are then developed to interrupt these behaviours before they take over.

Some findings have shown significant reductions in BFRB symptoms following CBT interventions.  

However, it is crucial to note that the effectiveness of CBT may vary depending on individual factors such as severity of symptoms, motivation for change, and therapeutic alliance established between the client and therapist. But overall, CBT demonstrates promise in addressing body-focused repetitive behaviors through its comprehensive approach to understanding and modifying maladaptive thoughts and actions.

CBT vs Medication: Which is Better?

When considering which approach is better between cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or medication in treating body focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs), it ultimately depends on the individual client's needs and preferences. CBT is often recommended as a first-line treatment due to its effectiveness in helping clients to gain insight into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors surrounding BFRBs.  

Through CBT techniques such as ComB, ACT, and sometimes exposure and response prevention (ERP), clients can learn coping strategies, identify triggers, and develop alternative behaviors. However, in some cases where BFRBs are severe or accompanied by co-occurring conditions like anxiety or depression, medication could be considered an additional component of treatment.

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have shown promise in reducing symptoms associated with BFRBs. Nonetheless, it is important for professionals to assess each client individually and collaborate with them to determine the best course of treatment that aligns with their unique circumstances and goals.

Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Group

Clinical Psychologist and Director of Archways Centre for CBT, Joanna Jeffers, M.A., C.Psych. has been helping those who struggle with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours for over 20 years. As a Certified Cognitive Behaviour Therapist and an Honored Professional Member of the Trichotillomania Learning Centre, she has an excellent track record of making a difference in people’s lives through treatment at Archways Centre for CBT in London (Ontario). She has been involved in training other therapists at Archways, and supporting them to pursue specialized training in this field which currently lacks skilled therapists.  

Archways Centre for CBT is always ready to serve new clients that are suffering from Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours. Engaging in group or individual sessions gives clients the opportunity to learn to manage hair pulling and skin picking behaviours --- not only will they gain greater control over their behavior, but they will also be immersed in psychoeducation on the disorder, demystify and destigmatize their conditions, and the clients will be given a sense of direction on where to go from there, and ultimately for the client to be given peace of mind and to live a fuller life, free from unwanted and damaging repetitive behaviours.

Typically group sessions consist of up to 8 participants, who are all encouraged to share their experiences, learn behavioural strategies, and work towards their individual goals. Each session is 2 hours in duration with the same group participants each week. The program lasts for 9 weeks or about 2 months with optional follow up sessions should the participant want to bolster their resolve after a month or two.

Next Steps

Your initial assessment will determine what form of treatment will suit your needs and concerns best. We will be able to recommend either group or individual sessions based on your situation and needs. If you are interested and prove to be a good candidate for the group therapy sessions, we will add your name to our Interest List, and notify you once we have enough participants signed up to start the group. Setting up an appointment with us is the first step to recovery. Our BFRB treatment providers at Archways are here to help you get started on your journey to managing your BFRB and engage in life to the fullest.

For more information on Archways Centre for CBT, visit

For updated information on the group, call 519 472-6612.