125: Ask David: How Do You Treat Chronic Laziness?

Answers to More Great Questions from Listeners Like YOU!

  1. Kevin asks: After your initial improvement from treatment or from reading your book, Feeling Good, what can one do moving forward to give yourself “booster shots?”
  2. Umatsagir asks a related question: I feel great right after reading your book, Feeling Good, but the effect diminishes over time. What should I do?
  3. Umatsagir also asks: Is there an anxiety masterpiece equivalent of your book, Feeling Good?
  4. Kyle asks: What can I do, as a therapist, about the passive patient who just shrugs when I ask what he wants to work on, and says, “My Mom thinks I should come to see you.” When I try to dig deeper to try to find out what patients like this want help with, I run into resistance and then they typically drop out of therapy. What should I do?
  5. Benjamin asks a somewhat related question: How do you treat chronic laziness? In your book, Feeling Good, you call this “Do-Nothingism,” which is a lack of motivation that you often see in depression. In your book, you talk about ten different types of procrastination, with a different approach for each. If the patient feels overwhelmed by many things he or she is procrastinating on, how can you help that person, since he or she probably can’t do the psychotherapy homework, either! It’s a Catch-22, since they cannot find the motivation to do anything, but have to do the homework to improve!
  6. Jim asks another related question: How about doing a podcast on psychotherapy homework? “What do you have your patients do for homework? This is particularly important since I have 45 minute sessions and can only see my patients for 45 minutes every two or three weeks.”


Dr. Fabrice Nye currently practices in Redwood City, California and treats individuals throughout the world via teletherapy. You can reach him at fabrice@life.net. You can reach Dr. Burns at David@feelinggood.com. If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.

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TEAM-CBT Methods for Anxiety Disorders–

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May 19, 2019

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10 thoughts on “125: Ask David: How Do You Treat Chronic Laziness?

  1. I like your statement that it’s ok to have 2 bad days a week. Lately, I’ve been at 3 days, but trying to reduce that to two seems like an achievable goal. Peace.

  2. Hello Dr. Burns. I have a question if you don’t mind.

    I’ve been going through your 10 days to self esteem program and I’ve been feeling much better about life and myself. The techniques in the book have worked really well (the mood log is pure genius!)

    Since having a bit more respect for myself, I’ve woken up to the fact that a couple of co-workers have been manipulating me for years. Lately they have been really cranking up their methods because, I think, I’ve been less willing to cave to what they want me to do.

    I’m afraid that if they keep up the pressure I’ll cave and go back to the way I was before. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this? Would you recommend that I learn and practice the 5 secrets? Thanks for all you do. Steve

    • Hi Steve, I’d need more information, like what, exactly, did they say, and what did you say next? My book, Feeling Good Together, might be invaluable as a way of learning the Five Secrets, which require quite a bit of practice. There are written exercises in the book. Thanks for your awesome note! So happy to hear that! david

      • Thanks so much for the reply Dr. Burns! I’ll get the book and start practicing. Can you at some point, maybe on the podcast discuss the difficulties you may encounter with other people in your life when you start to change and some solutions to overcome the issues. Thanks again!

      • Ok, there is a girl at work who goes home early all the time. In the past when she would ask if she could go I’d say sure no problem. In actuality is was a problem. When she would leave we would inevitably get busy and to put it bluntly, it would suck.

        Lately I’ve been telling her no and pointing out how awful it is when she leaves. I started telling her no after I went through your book. It wasn’t a conscious decision, the words just started coming out of my mouth. I’m assuming because I have a bit more respect for myself and didn’t like what she was putting me through.

        Anyhow, she has really ramped up her flirting after I started telling her no I assume to get her way. She told me in the past that she flirts with the managers to get what she wants so I’m pretty sure that’s what she’s doing here.

        Another girl I work with came over to me when I was talking to a couple of customers and said right in front of them “Why have you been so weird lately”. It was really random and in the middle of the conversation I was having with the couple. I got really embarrassed and looked at her and she said “oh I was just kidding”.

        The thought that keeps going on in my head is a saying I heard a few years ago that goes “people don’t like when you change because the ways they use to manipulate you stop working”. I’m not sure if that’s life wisdom I should heed or a cognitive distortion that I should try to eliminate. Thanks again Dr Burns, I really appreciate it.

      • Thanks, Steve, sounds like you’re being thoughtful about the situation and setting appropriate limits. Appreciate hearing the story. I am wondering, too, at what point one thinks of firing an employee who is not performing as expected. Attorneys would advise, I believe, that if you consider this at some point–and I am by no means making a recommendation–that things have to be carefully documented and handled in a specific way to avoid subsequent legal liability from a disgruntled employee. I am just thinking out loud and have no experience in management, so apologize if I’m way “off base.” But I do think some people really ARE manipulative and it can be pretty annoying! Perhaps an example of healthy anger? david

  3. FYI, my question on laziness was first responded to in episode 53 ( https://feelinggood.com/2017/09/18/053-ask-david-i-dont-feel-like-doing-it-quick-cure-for-procrastinators/ ). It was, unfortunately, not terribly useful to me.

    I emailed you a detailed response to that podcast episode in October 2018 (yes, it took me over a year to respond. Not really surprising, given the subject).
    If you missed my email, I’d be happy to resend it.

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