351: Master Class on Perfectionism, Part 2 of 2

A Second Visit to David and Jill’s

Tuesday TEAM Training Group at Stanford

Last week, you “sat in” on our Tuesday training group at Stanford and learned about two of the four most important techniques in the treatment of perfectionism, or any other Self-Defeating Belief. (For a list of 23 common Self-Defeating Beliefs, click here.)

  • The Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA): You weight the advantages against the disadvantages of trying to be perfect.

  • The Semantic Technique, to find out how to word your new belief if you decide that your perfectionism belief isn’t working for you

The purpose of those two techniques is to provide intellectual change. Tonight, you will join us again as we aim for emotional change at the gut level.

This will be our agenda for the students in the class you will observe:

1. Please describe an example of a specific time when you felt upset due to perfectionism. What were your negative thoughts? How were you feeling? What was happening?

2. Downward Arrow Technique: Suppose you weren’t perfect, or you failed or screwed up in some way. Why would that be upsetting to you? What would that mean to you.

3. Externalization of Voices

4. Experimental Technique / Examine the Evidence

5. Feared Fantasy

6. Wrap-up and Teaching Points

Most of the exercises will be performed in the large group, with everyone present and contributing, including one member who is fearful she might not be good enough to be a small group leader, and she is flooded with self-critical perfectionistic thought. The Feared Fantasy will be practiced in the small, breakout groups, and you will have the chance to be the fly on the wall in one of those groups that will be recorded.

Last week our focus was motivational, so we asked: is to your advantage to aim for perfection? How will this mind set help you and how will it hurt you?

Tonight, we will focus on TRUTH: is it TRUE that you need to aim for perfection? In addition, we will go into an Alice-in-Wonderland Nightmare World and meet an imaginary monster who claims superiority and criticizes you relentlessly because of your flaws and shortcomings. This can sometimes help us answer two questions: Is it possible to be a “more worthwhile” or “superior” human being? Would it be desirable if you could?

I hope you enjoyed “dropping in” on my Tuesday training group at Stanford. I apologize that the sound of the participants might not always be optimal, and thank Rhonda for working hard to try to edit it and clean it up a bit for you. I also want to thank all of our participants for giving you this chance to see what our Tuesday group is like, and especially the participant, Jill K, for being so open and real with all of us tonight.

After the group, I received this email from Jill K:

Thank you David for emailing.  I do trust you and Jill L so much.  It was powerful work for me. I’ve felt myself changing over the last year and the fear fantasy is a method I need to get out of my own way so I can try new things. I didn’t realize how much judgement holds me back. It’s as if some more weight has been lifted. In celebration of that, I decided to cut my hair short. I can’t wait to continue to grow and learn and see where life takes me. Thanks also to the group. I encourage everyone to have the courage to work on something that is hindering your development.

Thanks for listening today!

Rhonda, Jill, and David

Our free weekly Tuesday and Wednesday training groups are open to therapists of all persuasions from all around the world. For information including the requirements, you can contact:

Contact Information for the individuals in today’s podcast

Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek and Berkeley, California. She can be reached at She is a Level 5 Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.

You can reach Dr. Burns at

Feedback from the students in the Tuesday group

Positive Feelings during Training

Not at all true Somewhat true Moderately true Very true Completely true N/A
I felt I could trust my trainer. 0 0 0 1 26 0
My trainer paid careful attention to what I said 0 0 0 1 19 7
My trainer critiqued my work in a sensitive manner. 0 0 0 0 19 8
I felt good about the training I received. 0 0 0 0 27 0
Overall, I was satisfied with my most recent training session. 0 0 0 0 27 0

Negative Feelings during Training

Not at all true Somewhat true Moderately true Very true Completely true
Sometimes I felt uncomfortable during the training. 23 3 1 0 0
Sometimes I felt defensive during the training. 27 0 0 0 0
Sometimes I felt frustrated during the training. 25 2 0 0 0
Sometimes I felt anxious during the training. 19 7 1 0 0
Sometimes I felt insecure during the training. 24 2 1 0 0

Helpfulness of the Training

Not at all true Somewhat true Moderately true Very true Completely true N/A
I expect to use these ideas with patients I am now treating 0 0 0 0 26 1
What I am learning seems useful in my clinical training. 0 0 0 0 27 0
My trainer and I are working together effectively. 0 0 0 0 25 2
The training was helpful to me. 0 0 0 0 27 0
I felt I was learning and growing during the training session. 0 0 0 0 27 0

Respectfulness and Safety of the Training

Not at all True Somewhat true Moderately true Very true Completely true N/A
My trainer was sensitive to potentially relevant cultural, racial, religious, age, gender, or sexual identity issues that might impact the therapy. 0 0 0 0 24 3
My trainer created a safe and warm space for all identities. 0 0 0 0 26 1

Difficulties with the Questionnaire

Not at all true Somewhat true Moderately true Very true Completely true
It was hard to be completely honest answering some questions. 27 0 0 0 0
My answers weren’t always completely honest. 27 0 0 0 0
Sometimes I did not answer the way I really felt inside. 27 0 0 0 0

Written Comments 

Please describe what you specifically disliked about the training? What could have been improved? Were there some things you disagreed with or did not understand?

  • n/a

  • Nothing

  • nothing

  • A bit confusing how about how FF is becoming a bit more like EOV as I’ve always conceptualized it as not so aggressive/moving with(vs counterattacking) the critic from hell to reap the full benefits of exposure and expose the critic as being the bigger jerk vs trying to “dominate” them.

  • Nothing, thanks for your great work David and Jill, truly appreciate it!

  • I feel very self critical of my feedback during the meeting, and I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t said anything

  • working with Jill, who didn’t look either comfortable or willing to go any deeper into her fears, let alone to solve them

  • Nil

  • I was excited by the progress Jill was making and I wished she got to continue her feared fantasy. I found it so compelling I would have felt OK with not having small group.

  • Nothing

  • N/A

  • nothing

  • I think it would have been impactful for many of us to take turns saying the feared fantasy statement to the client especially once she got on a roll and had huge wins.

  • Nothing really. In retrospect, It would have been nice to experience the whole TEAM approach. I surprised myself for volunteering in front of the group.

  • Nothing, amazing as always! I always feel I can use more brushing up on Experimental technique, and other than survey technique which is part of it, I cannot seem to come up with any other type of “experiments” and would love to address this for a portion of the group if possible.

  • None

  • Would’ve preferred more time to do small group practice.

  • I would have loved to have learned more about ways to use the experimental technique, beyond just the survey technique, for defeating perfectionism. Maybe a topic for a future evening?

Please describe what you specifically liked about the training? What was the most helpful? 

  • Enjoyed fine tuning awareness of FF technique

  • everything, the demo, practice, the supportive community, team therapy culture

  • I learned so much from seeing the technique being modeled during the group

  • Perfectionism is a very interesting topic because it affects so many of us. I liked the live example that Jill did and seeing the techniques demonstrated.

  • I am so grateful to Jill for volunteering and the beautiful work she did today. I liked observing David working with Jill K and the opportunity he gave for other therapists to join in – such as during the downward arrow, the survey and feared fantasy technique. I admire the skills demonstrated and also the group leadership and participation.

  • It was good to learn about Fear Fantasy. Jill was vulnerable and transparent and it helped me to see myself. It was like looking at a mirror. It is meaningful to know none of us are alone no matter how alone we feel.

  • People’s energy and enthusiasm

  • Thorough exploration of associated SDBs with perfectionism example and illustration of multiple applicable methods – downward arrow, survey, feared fantasy. I really like how David is increasingly working as a conductor by prompting/inviting/coordinating other group members in a therapeutic symphony.

  • Jill K was so open and vulnerable, it was great. So much there to work with. Going through the steps honestly, and in detail was really informative. Also particularly enjoyed the decision to “go with the energy”, which was clearly the right thing to do. So much better for teaching and learning. Especially liked the Feared Fantasy interaction, ultimate focus on fun as opposed to anxiety.

  • The personal work is invaluable. I am so touched by the people in this group who are willing to be so open. I appreciated Jill Kelly’s vulnerability and I completely resonated with her statement, “I shouldn’t have so many self-defeating beliefs.” Ironically, her willingness to go with the process and explore further really showed her strength and determination to tackle her anxiety and reservations about being a small group leader. I’m happy she didn’t follow her husband’s advice to quit!

  • Big group exercise and demo

  • This session provided a good opportunity to watch David and Jill wrangle a common and difficult set of SDBs. Good to see a number of techniques sampled.

  • A great night. I was really glad that Jill K volunteered, and enjoyed watching David & Jill skillfully guide her. I particularly liked David’s humor, it came in handy quite a few times (and made me laugh too).

  • I loved Jill’s example, she was so relatable and honest during the session. Going over the feared fantasy was very powerful.

  • The large group teaching was really impactful, especially when we used the survey method technique. There was this one moment that stuck with me when Valerie told Jill that she was not a perfect group leader, but she loved being in her group. It felt so genuine and honest, but it actually hurt Jill because it tapped into her perfectionism beliefs. A learning point occurred for me was when therapist Jill asked client Jill does she really want to let go of that perfectionistic belief. That was powerful because it made me realize that sometimes clients want to hold on to certain beliefs because they get some advantages from them, even if those beliefs aren’t really helping them in the long run.

  • I appreciate so much that Jill K. opened herself in the large group and shared her story and SDBs. I feel more connected with the people in the group after Jill Kelly’s work. And I am so thankful that I belong to this TEAM-CBT community and Tuesday group too that is “flawed fun group”. David’s lowering his standard from 100 to zero let me be in this group. Thank you David. Thank you Jill Levitt.

  • I liked witnessing the moment when the client realized she didn’t want to be a judgmental person or want to be with other judgmental people. It was like a “switch” happened at this moment and her confidence increased.

  • I enjoyed the personal work and real examples that were given.

  • Liked learning more about treating perfectionism

  • The most helpful was experiencing the Fear Fantasy from the client’s perspective. It was so powerful. I found myself not wanting to be around the critic (my own judgement). Thank you David for helping me to realize I can have fun being imperfect . It was helpful for Valery to be genuine and honest with me saying I wasn’t a perfect group leader and that wasn’t important for her. It did sting a bit but I also realize it wasn’t the end of the world saying that.

  • It was super informative to sequentially go thru several of the steps of helping someone address their perfectionism. Jill K’s NT’s resonated for me in another situation I’m dealing with that brings up similar thoughts and feelings, so getting to see the process, as she was brave enough to volunteer, really shed a lot of light on the whole process.

  • Clear objectives and adequate time to learn

  • I liked the audience participation for the various techniques!

  • personal share from Jill

  • It was helpful to see hear Jill Levitt state clearly that making Jill Kelly a perfect group leader wasn’t on the menu, but that making her a happy flawed group leader was. Jill Kelly, I could relate to that pain you felt on hearing that you’re not perfect! And it was really moving to see you come to that place of rejecting all the judgment and choosing fun and flaws.

Please describe what you learned in today’s group

  • survey technique, feared fantasy, 5 secrets

  • feared fantasy

  • Working with SDB’s around perfectionism.

  • How to use fear fantasy.

  • how to set up the downward arrow more effectively

  • Perfectionism II

  • Perfectionism seems to be so pervasive and so closely tied to many self-defeating beliefs.

  • How some of perfectionism may be related to narcissistic tendencies

  • Approach to perfectionistic SDBs with Feared fantasy.

  • experimental techniques and perfectionism DML

  • Feared Fantasy and Experimental technique

  • Trust myself and the client and follow the direction the client wants to go in.

  • Tips on treating perfectionism

  • Thank you Jill L for being paradoxical with me. It gave me the motivation to fight for what I want. I appreciated everyone’s input with uncovering the SDB and the role play of FF.

  • That there are multiple directions you can go within, in this case dealing with perfectionism, ie after CBA and possibly experimental technique, SDB’s and FF. Really liked the clarity of the setup for FF, super helpful!

  • Perfection is at the heart of many distorted thoughts and unhappy feelings

  • Learned more about the individual downward arrow, feared fantasy technique,

This is the cover of my most recent book, Feeling Great.

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The kindle, audio and paperback versions are also available.CoverFeelingGreat1

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