318: Horrific World Events: Can TEAM-CBT Help Us? Part 2 of 2

Horrific World Events: Can TEAM-CBT Help Us?

Featuring Live work with Meina

Last week, we presented Part 1 of the session with Meina, a young woman struggling enormously because of her feelings about the new Iranian revolution. Following the podcast, Meina got this email from a neighbor who happened to hear the podcast:

“I wanted to take the time to express my honest gratitude. In this time that we have been talking and sharing, I have learned to appreciate and care about you, AND now I can tell you that i admire and respect you more. Thank you for your vulnerability. You are a beautiful human being and I am happy to call you my friend, and not just my neighbor.

“I also want to apologize for not being more curious. With a hand in my heart I offer my time whenever you feel like sharing, if you just need someone to be there for you, please count on me. We have different experiences but I can relate with you in so many ways.

“Thanks again for being you. Sending you a big hug! And if you accept, my friendship “

Very cool, and thanks, neighbor, for your beautiful note. Sometimes, our vulnerability and the feelings we have been hiding can be our greatest source of secret strength, and the most powerful bridge to connecting deeply with others.

One of the members of our Tuesday training group at Stanford, Sara Shane, sent us this email:


“Rhonda and David,

“I listened to podcast 317 yesterday afternoon and I was in tears…very, very touching and heartbreaking! What an amazing sorrowful story. I couldn’t help it but to feel sad, grief, helplessness, and loss, and some anger, too. However, your empathy and compassion with Meina was exceptional (as always), and I felt warm and encouraged. I feel very close to Meina and to you both. I can’t wait to hear the second part of the session.

“Thank you for such an amazing podcast.

“Warmly, Sara”

Today, we present the exciting and unexpected conclusion and follow-up of the incredible session with Meina.

Part 2: The Conclusion

When Meina returned, her mood scores were very similar to what they’d been at the start of the previous session. This indicated that empathy alone was not sufficient to trigger any meaningful changes in how she felt. She said that she’d had some fears about what listeners might think, since, as we mentioned, Meina rarely, if ever, opens up about how she’s feeling inside, so talking openly on the podcast definitely means facing her fears and venturing into some radically new territory.

The ineffectiveness of Empathy alone is important, because she graded our Empathy as an A+. Many therapists wrongly believe that empathy is the most healing tool we have in therapy. This is idealistic, but wrong. Empathy is definitely important, but without the A and the M of TEAM-CBT, very little, if anything, will change.

And, in most instances, patients appreciate good listening, that’s for sure, but they want more. They want tangible changes in how the feel and interact with others.

Today, Meina showed more emotion. She mentioned that she’d been a Michael Jackson fan, and how she wanted to write him a letter to ask for his help to be the voice of oppressed Iranians whose voices didn’t get out of Iran. She was feeling tearful, and angry, and said that currently in her work, her voice was not coming out, and this was a matter of great distress.

She also mentioned that after she cried and expressed her rage about the young woman who was murdered by the morality police, an annoying “eye twitch” that she’d had for six months suddenly disappeared. Meina has also had many experiences in the past of experiencing health anxiety symptoms whenever she’s upset about something and hides or suppresses her negative feelings, like anger.

She had participated in many of David’s Sunday hikes before the pandemic, and sometimes had weird somatic sensations, fearing she had some neurologic disorder, only to have her symptoms instantly vanish when she finally expressed her anger. Many of you will recognize this as David’s “Hidden Emotion Technique.”

She also said she’s afraid she’ll be seen and stereotyped as an “angry woman” if she shows her anger, and said she may even have an Anger Phobia, thinking that anger shows that you’re a “violent person.”

She said that she’s always been quick to get angry, and wanted to focus the session on anger. Her goal for the session had shifted in the two days since we did Part 1, and she now wanted to learn how to express her anger more effectively.

M = Methods

In the rest of the session, we used the TEAM interpersonal model to deal with an intense conflict Meina had recently when she was trying to get her colleagues to issue a statement on behalf of her institution supporting the women in Iran who were protesting, and had partially complete the Relationship Journal in preparation for today’s session.

As you may recall, when you use the RJ, you will discover—and this can be quite shocking—that you are actually causing the very relationship problems that you are complaining about. And this came as a huge surprise to Meina.

The remainder of the session was incredibly inspiring, and Mina did some magical work. I’ll let you listen to the rest of the session to see how the work unfolded. If you’d like to review Meina’s RJ, you can click this LINK.

If you’d like to see her final Daily Mood Log, which she completed after the session, you can click this LINK.

End of Session T = Testing

If you’d like to see Meina’s end-of-session mood ratings, along with her Evaluation of Therapy Session, you can check this LINK.

If you’d like to refresh yourself on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, you can click this LINK.

I was incredibly proud of the brilliant and inspiring work that Meina did during this session. She experienced the “Great Death” of her “self,” along with the “Great Rebirth,” or the “waking up” of the “non-self.”

At the start of this podcast, we asked the question of whether TEAM-CBT could be of help when people are struggling because of events that are both real and horrific. Now perhaps you see my answer: a resounding and unexpected YES. However, there are a couple of disclaimers.

First, the person has to be asking for help, and Meina definitely was. Having an agenda that makes sense to the patient is always, in fact, one of the most important keys to successful therapy.

Second, the therapy will usually be totally unexpected, and the work we do with each person will be highly individual. We’re not in the business of creating simple formulas to deal with this or that problem. Instead, TEAM emphasizes a step-by-step process that will be unique and totally different for every person you work with.

And finally, we have to thank our old friend, Epictetus, for once again reminding us that our feelings do not result from what’s happening, but rather from our thoughts about it. And the goal is NOT to blame you for the way you feel, but rather to give you the key to unlock the door and free yourself from the suffering you’ve endured.

Meina, Rhonda, and I hope the incredible and brave work that Meina did in this session will be helpful for you, too!

Following the session, we received this email from Meina:

I have to report back that I am totally cured after the podcasts. I can now what the news footage without feeling rage and hatred but still feel connected to Iranians who are fighting for their human rights, feel sad, and still involved. I am no longer obsessed with following the news any chance I get during the day and feel like myself again.


And this one, too!

Dear David and Rhonda, Ever since our work, my negative emotions have been negligible and interestingly my relationship with my husband has been fantastic! Kind of weird that we worked on my relationship with a woman at my work in our session but my relationship with my husband got better, too!

In general, I feel more confident and empowered to express myself. Many many thanks for the opportunity to work with you and do the podcast with you and Rhonda.


Dr. Rhonda Barovsky is a Level 5 Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. You can contact her at

You can reach Dr. Burns at

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