Archive for the 'Cognitive Therapy' Category

Nov 23 2011

Dogs, painful electric shocks, and explanatory style: What does the research tell us about feeling discouraged and helpless? (Part 1)

It’s pretty simple. The research shows us that when people feel discouraged and helpless, they are more likely to become depressed. There are several landmark studies conducted by Martin Seligman and Steven Maier describing the phenomenon of learned helplessness using dogs and the effect of exposing the dogs to unpleasant electrical shocks while in a harness.
Ouch! While it does seem unpleasant to expose dogs to electric shocks,

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Jul 06 2011

Rehearsing: Probably The Most Common Way to Say, “I’m Not Listening to You.”

How do you like it when you are upset about something and your partner won’t even let you finish your train of thought.

They already have their denial or rebuttal already organized and “come at you” with their rationale about why you are wrong.

This is called rehearsal, and it means exactly what it sounds like. The person you want to understand you isn’t really listening.

Rehearsing is a very common listening mistake.

It’s pretty easy to spot too. The listener’s eyes tend to trail off and you can almost see their mind sorting through how they can defend themselves from what they feel is your attack.

Of course, you are only expressing your thoughts and feelings, which ultimately is more important to both of you than who is right.

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Jul 06 2011

Blaming: A Common Communication Mistake in Relationships

If you are blaming your partner, it’s time to find a new way of understanding and explaining your thoughts, feelings and wants.

Blaming damages relationships. It’s pretty simple.

I remember hearing a story about a couple who started therapy. After the first session, the therapist met with each partner individually to get a chance to hear each person’s story more fully.

When the therapist met with the husband, all he could do was complain his wife was the cause of all his problems.

She was “this and that and then some more.”

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Apr 15 2011

Lighting Up Memory Circuits: Exploring the Science Explaining Recovered Memories of Abuse

Recovered memories refers to the phenomenon of human beings forgetting aspects of their personal history, especially related to abuse experiences, then remembering it later, often decades later.

Psychotherapists meeting in the safety of the clinical room have often been witness to the lighting up of a person’s memory circuits when they begin to remember some earlier abuse experience.

It’s a powerful moment for both client and therapist.

A client may become reflective, tuned inward to sensations, images, emotions, then look

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Jan 05 2011

Use of Cognitive Restructuring for Evaluating Alcohol Use

If you are reading my blog or know me, you realize I like to use the cognitive restructuring exercise a lot. It is a great tool to help clients evaluate their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behavior.

It works great in evaluating alcohol problems. Here is how it works…

A- Activating Event: you or someone you know worries about your drinking…this may cause an internal or inter-personal conflict.
B-Automatic Beliefs: so, when you or someone worries about your drinking, you have automatic beliefs that may or may not be rational.

If they are irrational,then they will cause you to continue to behave in the same way over and over.

Your wife may complain about your drinking, especially when you drink and pass out on the couch. When she complains, you may have the following automatic thoughts:

  • I do not have a drinking problem
  • I do not drink any more than any of my friends
  • I don’t drink and drive
  • You (the wife) are hypersensitive about my drinking
  • I am really sick of hearing you (the wife) complaining

As you can see, these automatic thoughts are quite negative and usually lead to one of two options:

  • flight (avoidance, disconnection, running away, discounting, running away from the problem)
  • or fight (yelling back, blaming the (wife) for false judgments, arguing, denial, tons and tons of unresolved fights)

C-Consequence: The consequence is the flight or fight described above…all in all, not a good outcome.
Many people who are confronted about their drinking feel defensive and angry. This often leads to fighting or running away from confronting whether or not there is a problem with their drinking.
D-Debate (with yourself): this is the best strategy. Challenge your automatic beliefs and any defensiveness, anger or other strong feelings you experience.

To make any progress here, you MUST start to be realistic and rationale about the role of drinking in your life.

Go back and do the 3 Step evaluation process…be scientific about this…

Maybe your (wife) is right about this…there are many ways to look at the use of alcohol that may be a source of good information about yourself.

Just because all of your friends will drink 5-8 drinks when out may mean your friends drink too much, not that you are all normal drinkers.
When embrace someone’s concerns for you and really look at the way you drink more objectively, you and your partner are entering into an intimate and helpful problem-solving process.

So,here are some of the key questions you can use to debate and challenge yourself:

  • What is the role alcohol plays in your life?
  • Why do you drink?
  • Are you able to stop drinking easily or does one lead to more?
  • What would you miss if you stopped drinking?
  • How would your life change if you stopped drinking?

E-Effective Plan: Answer these questions as best you can, and then develop an action plan with more effective coping behaviors to address this issue.
For example, if your drinking is not a problem, you will have plenty of evidence to argue your case.
If you need to reduce or cut back, you can work on a strategy to do this.
Maybe you need to stop completely…again, you can develop a plan that fits you.

Approach this scientifically, using research based methods. It will help.

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Nov 29 2010

Communication

We all make many, many mistakes in the way we communicate.

Unless these mistakes are corrected, we can go through life fighting all the time,or avoiding and ignoring each other.

Either way, it can be pretty unpleasant.

In the next series of posts,  I will begin to explain all the
mistakes we make so anyone who is willing to spend a few minutes each
week can become more knowledgeable and effective in helping their
relationship be a little warmer, friendly and fun.


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Jun 23 2010

Balancing Joy and Conflict in Marriage

Making marriage work these days is a complicated balancing act. It takes time to communicate, resolve conflict, raise children and manage the challenges of busy careers.

Marriage and family researcher, John Gottman, PhD and his research colleagues have had a huge influence on the course of marital and family therapy over the last twenty years.

I use many of the marital satisfaction surveys they have created. They are very helpful to couples trying to identify and work on their problems.

His research has compiled huge amounts of data and increased our understanding of what helps and what hurts marriages.

Rather than try to research a specific therapy method or style of marriage or family life, Gottman studied many marriages and families over several decades. He was able to begin to see what really worked for couples and their families.

The results of their research is found in Why marriages succeed or fail…and how you can

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Jun 19 2010

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Jan 26 2010

What is the Mankind Project (MKP) and the Victories of the Heart (VOH)?

To the critical eye, there are many similarities and differences between these two men’s programs in purpose, organizational structure and culture, programs, size,  use of secrecy, nudity, forced silence, recruitment of psychotherapy clients as weekend participants, general recruitment, leadership, and impact of programs.

In some ways, comparing these two programs is like comparing New York City and a small neighborhood in western Montana.

MKP’s New Warrior Training Adventure has men’s centers around the world offering experiences to men of all walks of life. VOH offers programs only in Chicago and mostly to white middle-upper middle class men from the affluent North Shore.

MKP has dwarfed VOH in developing successful men’s programming and has an international impact. VOH may have had the same dreams, but they have not been realized, and likely, never will.

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Nov 23 2009

The Neural Bases of Empathic Accuracy: An Article by Psychology Professors Kevin Oschner and Niall Bolger, graduate student Jamil Zaki, and Research Assistant Jochen Weber at Columbia University Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2009

A Columbia University research project using functional MRI scanning has mapped the two brain systems responsible for empathic accuracy, the parietal and premotor cortex.

These two brain systems help humans understand the intentions of simple gestures, interpret the meaning of those gestures and place them into context.

The researchers used a group of volunteers (objects) to talk about emotional events in their lives while being videotaped. Later, these volunteers watched themselves on video and evaluated whether they felt positively or negatively while talking about these live events.

Then, a second group of volunteers (perceivers) watched the same videotapes and were asked to evaluate the positive or negative experience of the initial volunteers as they described their life events while also hooked up to functional MRI scanning devices to measure which brain systems were activated.
When the perceivers were accurate about the emotional experience, the same brain systems, the parietal and premotor cortex were activated.

Interestingly, when the perceivers were wrong, a third brain system was activated that involves the control and management of one’s own feelings.

This suggested to the researchers that a persons attention to their own feelings may cause them to miss the gestures and other behaviors linked to the feelings of others.

Read the summary of the study here.

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