The End? . . . or the Beginning?
Rhonda starts today’s podcast, as usual, with a warm endorsement from Sally, a podcast fan who really liked Podcast 355 on the topic of “Relationship Problems: Be Gone!” She said the role-play demonstrations were “incredible” and especially helpful. We’ll keep that in mind and see if we can do some more role-playing demonstrations in future podcasts, along with instructions so you can practice at home, as well.
This can be extremely helpful if you want to master the techniques we describe. They may sound simple, but they’re not! In our recent podcast on free practice groups (put LINK), you can find many virtual practice groups you can join from home to practice many of the techniques in TEAM-CBT with like-minded colleagues and become part of the growing TEAM-CBT community. We now have many excellent and free practice groups for the general public as well as and training groups for shrinks.
Today, Mina returns to the show with a new problem—pre-menopausal symptoms that are scaring her and casting a shadow on her future as well as her marriage with her husband, Maurice.
Menopause is a topic that freaks many people out, due to feelings of anxiety and shame which can sometimes be intense. Today, menopause will be out in the open and front and center. However, Meina is confused because so many problems and feelings are swirling around in her head, and she doesn’t quite know where to start.
At the start of the session, Mina’s Brief Mood Survey indicated mild depression, severe anxiety, moderate to severe anger, and greatly diminished feelings of happiness and relationship satisfaction, thinking of her husband, Maurice.f
If you review Mina’s Daily Mood Log. you can see that the Upsetting Event is irregular periods due to menopause. You can also see that Mina is struggling with fairly feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, inadequacy, loneliness, embarrassment, hopelessness, frustration and anger, and she’s giving herself some intensely negative messages, like “My body is falling apart,” and “My husband will leave me,” and “I’ll get osteoporosis and die in pain like my grandmother,” and more.
During the initial Empathy phase of the session, Mina described quite a lot of personal and professional concerns, as well as somatic complaints of various kinds. Sometimes, in the past, Mina has developed numerous somatic complaints that terrify her, because she has interpreted them as possible serious diseases, like multiple sclerosis. However, excellent physical evaluations rarely or never provide any medical evidence or explanation for her symptoms.
This pattern of obsessing about somatic symptoms is actually quite common. Many general practice doctors report that as many as a third of their patients complaining of pain, dizziness, and so forth do not have any medical disease that could possibly explain the symptoms. In fact, in his classic book, Caring for Patients, the late Dr. Allen Barbour from Stanford reported that about half of these types of patients experience a disappearance of their somatic symptoms when they identify some conflict or problem that they’ve been avoiding, and then take steps to express their feelings or solve the repressed problem.
Pretty much every time, this has been true of Mina, too. It often turns out that she is upset about something she is sweeping under the rug, and the Hidden Emotion Technique has proved extremely helpful in pinpointing the hidden feeling or conflict. Then, as soon as she acts on this information, and expresses her feelings, the somatic problems immediately disappear.
So, our first task in today’s session was to see if the same thing was happening. It turned out that she was quite upset with her husband, Maurice, so we did a Relationship Journal to see if we could get a better understanding of what was going on. Her complaint was that Maurice did not want to talk about “difficult feelings.” Instead, he suggests they go for a nature walk or watch a movie. So, she felt sad, anxious, rejected, hurt, frustrated, and alone.
But, as is the case nearly 100% of the time, when we examined a brief interaction between them—what did he say and what did she say next—it became clear that she was actually pushing him away and putting him down. This was understandably painful for Mina to see, and a bit embarrassing, but she was super brave, and saw how she could use the Five Secrets to respond to Maurice in a radically different and more inviting manner.
As an aside, the person who seeks treatment for a relationship problem will nearly always discover that they have actually be causing the very problem they’re complaining about. If Mina’s husband had come to us for help, he would have made the exact same shocking discovery—that HE was causing the problem he was complaining about.
I call this strange but fascinating phenomenon the “theory of interpersonal relativity.”
Mina feared abandonment, but discovered that her real problem was that she was rejecting her husband, and forcing him to reject her!
Although this type of sudden insight can be tremendously painful, it is also liberating at the same time. That’s because people discover that they have far more power than they thought. Mina felt helpless, but was actually pulling the strings. Once you “see” this, you have the option of moving in a radically new and more rewarding direction. Mina promised to send a follow up once she’s had the chance to try a new approach during her interactions with Maurice. We have our fingers crossed!
In addition, we worked with Mina’s negative thoughts and feelings on her Daily Mood Log, starting with Positive Reframing, which she found helpful. What did her negative thoughts and feelings show about her that was positive and awesome, and how were they helping her?
Then we did several rounds of Externalization of Voices and she was quickly able to knock her negative thoughts out of the park, with incredible results that you can see if you examine the emotions goal and outcome columns on her emotions table HERE. As you can see, there was an immediate and dramatic reduction in all of her negative feelings.
We publish these TEAM-CBT sessions because we believe that the vast majority of mental health professionals do not know how to trigger rapid and extreme changes in how people think, feel, and interact with others. It is our hope that these podcast live therapy sessions, in conjunction with our weekly training groups, will make mental health professionals aware of what’s now possible, and how TEAM-CBT actually works. We try to make it look simple, but it requires tremendous training, practice, and commitment.
Rhonda and I have strong, tender feelings toward our dear colleague, Mina, and we are deeply indebted to her for making herself vulnerable in a public forum so that we can all learn and feel much closer to one another. Personal work is one of our finest teaching tools.
In addition, feelings of respect, love, and connection are so often missing in our embattled and hostile political and world environment these days. We cannot change the world, but we can definitely make our own small ripples in the pond, and work on changing ourselves.
If you’d like, you can take a look at Mina’s Brief Mood Survey and Evaluation of Therapy Session at the end of the session.
Thanks so much for listening today!
Rhonda, Mina, and David
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can reach Dr. Burns at email@example.com