354: The Explosion of FREE Help!

Grass Roots TEAM-CBT

Completely FREE Practice / Training Groups

Today we interview four courageous pioneers of free and low-cost TEAM-CBT for the masses, featuring Brandon Vance, MD, Patricia O’Neil, Ana Teresa Silva, DVM and Nicholas Santascoy, PhD.

Many of you are already familiar with Brandon Vance and Heather Clague’s awesome online Feeling Great Book Clubs which will start again, running from September 13, 2023, through December 6, 2023. The book clubs are popular and have gotten wonderful reviews.  They are a fun and engaging way to structure your reading, discuss the book, see demonstrations, practice tools, ask experts questions and connect with others around the world who are working on Feeling Great – and no one is turned away for lack of funds. Sound interesting?

You can learn more and join here.

But you may not be aware of a growing number of fantastic totally free self-help groups springing up for people around the world. These groups offer training in different aspects of TEAM-CBT. For example, Patricia offers DAILY (!) practice sessions that focus on the use of the Daily Mood Journal. You can also join

  • free 5-secrets practice groups

  • groups that focus on changing habits

  • groups that practice a variety of TEAM tools

  • a book club focused on When Panic Attacks

  • and more!

All these groups are free and open to anyone worldwide. To see the growing list, go to This list is invaluable, and check the link from time to time because the offerings will likely continue to expand. Keep in mind that these are NOT therapy groups, but layperson-led self-improvement groups.

Brandon and Rhonda remarked that these free groups are part of a heart-warming movement which continues the culture of generosity that David has created, starting with David’s decades-long free weekly training groups for mental health professionals. The new self-help groups also carry the spirit of relating to others with deep empathy. The goal is to create an atmosphere of giving and support in mutual healing. A second goals is to learn to appreciate each other despite our differences. And so, the ripples that David has created continue to spread, and you can become a part of this process!

Nicholas Santascoy is a research psychologist, academic coach and learning specialist who discovered Feeling Good in 2005.  He found it tremendously helpful and years later, began working with a TEAM therapist who suggested Brandon’s Book Club. When the book club reached the Daily Mood Journal section, he asked if he could start a free DMJ practice group, which he did, and it’s still going on each week, more than two years later.

He was thoughtful about the group’s structure, making it clear to the participants from the beginning that he is NOT a therapist and that this is not therapy. It is simply a place to practice TEAM with support – an important disclaimer for any non-therapist running a practice group.

In his groups, each person spends 10 minutes at the start working on some common task, like describing an upsetting event for a Daily Mood Log, or suggesting positive reframing for a negative thought or feelings, and so forth. Or they might go through a sequence starting with one negative emotion, one negative thought, one cognitive distortion, one positive reframe, and one positive thought. His group has also worked with the exercises described in the two free chapters on habits and addictions offered at the bottom of Dr. Burns’ website.

Nicholas described working with a man with intense performance anxiety who had an upcoming job interview with a panel of eight individuals who were evaluating him. He was intimidated and anxious, but reluctant to give up his anxiety for a number of reasons. First, he was convinced that if he didn’t worry, he wouldn’t prepare effectively. In addition, he was convinced that he needed anxiety to do his best during the interview.

Nicholas encouraged him to test these beliefs with experiments. He discovered, much to his surprise, that he was still strongly motivated to prepare for the interview when he was feeling relaxed and confident. He also recorded his interview and reviewed it afterwards. He was surprised to discover  that his best performance during the interview was when his anxiety had dropped to zero.

Ana Teresa Silva is a Portuguese veterinary doctor who decided she wanted to work with people and became a coach in 2020. Ana Teresa developed a free Portuguese Five Secrets practice group in May of 2021. This quickly became an international group in English, free and open to anyone, and ran for two years and got rave reviews from participants.

After that, she handed over the leadership to Linda Roth, M.Ed. This kind of group, in my (David’s) opinion is incredibly important because learning the Five Secrets is a lot like learning to play the piano. It’s possible to make beautiful music, but the Five Secrets are challenging to learn. Practice, combined with humility and the intense desire to learn, are the keys to learning and personal change.

Patricia O’Neil, a former schoolteacher, loves David’s books like Feeling Great, When Panic Attacks, Feeling Good Together and more. Patricia experienced a very severe, prolonged and immobilizing depression, and tried ALL of the standard medical treatments, even including electroconvulsive therapy, but her depression continued.

She then started reading Feeling Great and joined Brandon and Heather’s Feeling Great Book Club in 2022, and began to pull herself out of depression.  After several weeks she asked if there was a group for people who want to work their way through the book together in-between Book Club meetings, perhaps even daily, to “apply the strategies the best we can.”

Brandon encouraged Patricia to start her own study group.

She did!

And not only that, she started many other groups as well – all completely free – including a When Panic Attacks Book Club, her daily Daily Mood Journal group, an eating healthy accountability chart, a coaches in training group and her own free advanced Five Secrets Practice group for people who have completed a Five Secrets Deep Dive series.

Several of the participants in today’s podcast had anxiety about being on the podcast. Patricia generously volunteered some of her negative thoughts, including:

  • I might not do well. I’m gonna mess up!

  • Brandon might regret asking me to join the group today.

  • My flaws and imperfections will be on display.

She said that these thoughts contained many of the familiar cognitive distortions, such as Fortune Telling, Magnification, and Should Statements, to name just a few. She also described some of the strategies she used to challenge these thoughts, including these positive thoughts:

  • The whole future of the world doesn’t depend on how well I do today!

  • I probably WILL mess up, and that’s okay!

Then she bravely and tearfully described her own battles with depression since her retirement several years ago, and her gratitude at having found so many skills to deal with negative mood swings more effectively.

Her comments were touching and inspiring, and actually embodied the goal of the practice groups that are rapidly emerging. The goals including:

  • provide a structure for free ongoing practice and learning

  • give individuals around the world the chance to join the emerging community of TEAM enthusiasts

  • provide opportunities to connect with others in the spirit of openness, acceptance, and compassion.

Most humans are hungry, even desperate, for love, learning, and relief of suffering, along with a connection with others who also care.

Brandon and his many fans and colleagues are transforming this idealistic vision into a practical reality.

At the end of this moving interview, Brandon mentioned a number of additional groups that are rapidly forming including two Signal text groups created by Derek Gurney.

“Mission Accomplished or Refused,” is a place to “report on plans to tackle aversive tasks” and take accountability – which is an effective tool for changing habits.

He has also created an  “Exposure Celebration” class, which sounds like a terrific chance to do exposure with the support and reinforcement from others. This is something tremendously helpful for people struggle with all types of anxiety.

Again, please click here to see more information about these wonderful and completely free Grassroots TEAM CBT groups! And if YOU have a free TEAM practice group you’d like to start or have started and want to add to the list, please email Brandon Vance, MD (

In fact, I’ve always dreamed of free self-help groups for mood problems, with much the same spirit of lay healing you find in Alcoholics Anonymous. And now, in my old age, it is tremendously encouraging to see this happening. I have to pinch myself, in fact!


Brandon, Nicholas, Ana Teresa, and Patricia!


David 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 reach her at

You can reach Dr. Burns at

You can reach Dr. Brandon Vance at 

You can find the fabulous listing of FREE TEAM practice groups if you click here!

This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great.
It’s on sale right now on Amazon, and it’s ridiculously cheap!
The kindle and audio versions are available now too! Check it out!


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