I just received this wonderful email after the second of the three Marilyn live therapy podcasts, and reproduce it here with permission from the author, and want to thank Jennifer for writing it! I also want to thank Marilyn for her incredible contribution to so many of us, and also my wonderful co-therapist, Dr. Matt May, and fabulous host, Dr. Fabrice Nye!
Subject: Marilyn Podcast
THANK YOU to you and Marilyn and Matt. And Fabrice!
The podcasts with Marilyn were powerful! Just finished the second part and had to write. I live in New Orleans and so am unable to attend all your wonderful Tuesday night Stanford training groups we hear about, so to have this podcast is pretty significant and wonderful 🙂
I immediately felt connected to Marilyn during the first episode, feeling her emotions right long with her, like I was able to experience what it may be like to have this diagnosis. And felt sad when it was over and could hardly wait to hear the next week. So I had to be with that discomfort . . .
Among other profound ways she helped through sharing her experience, she is teaching us the great lesson of impermanence, as the Buddha taught. Such a valuable teaching she gives by sharing her experience!
And this week was amazing, I was trying to pay close attention to the brilliant work of you and Matt. He is just SO GOOD! It was such a great learning experience!! I felt like I was realizing and discovering right along with Marilyn.
My heart is filled with love and pure compassion and deep appreciation for the three of you for sharing this with us. I want each of you to know what a tremendously beneficial learning experience this was for listeners and that I will undoubtedly use this in my work (mainly with folks from LGBTQ / POC and other marginalized communities, often dealing with addiction). I am hopeful it will directly impact my ability and skills in helping others. Ripples . . .
I have been training in TEAM since 2013 but I’m a slow learner and have mastered nothing about it (yet). However, the timing of this podcast was perfect so that I have learned enough that I was with y’all every step of the way, listening, experiencing, and perhaps absorbing it in a new way. It brought some clarity to the process and flow.
Pardon my rambling praise but I am filled with gratitude and awe and looking forward to the next one!
If you can pass on my thanks to Marilyn and Matt and Fabrice (if you’re still reading this!) – thanks.
Live Session (Marilyn) — The Hidden Side of Depression, Anxiety, Defectiveness, Hopelessness and Rage (Part 2)
We nearly always think about negative feelings, such as moderate or severe depression, as problems that an expert must try to fix, using drugs and / or psychotherapy. There are a multitude of theories about why humans become depressed, including, but not limited to:
We get depressed because reality sucks. We believe our mood slumps result from the circumstances in our lives, such as being alone following a rejection, experiencing the loss of a loved one, not having enough money, education or resources, social prejudice, or (as in Marilyn’s case) facing some catastrophic circumstance, such as severe illness.
We get depressed because of insufficient love and nurturing in childhood, or because of traumatic childhood experiences.
Biological factors. We get depressed because of our genes, or diet, or because of a chemical imbalance in our brains.
Certainly, there can be some truth in all of these theories. Reality does kick us all in the stomach from time to time, and the pain we feel is understandable. My wife and I lost her father to Parkinson’s Disease a few years ago. We loved him tremendously, and his loss was extremely painful for everyone in our family.
And most of us have experienced less than ideal circumstances when growing up, and many have even been victimized by horrific and tragic circumstances, such as child abuse. And clearly, some severe psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia, do result from some kind of brain abnormality.
But the problem with all of these theories is that they put us at the mercy of forces that are largely beyond our control—since we often cannot do much to change reality, rewrite our childhoods, or modify our brains short of taking this or that medication.
In this podcast, Matt and David take a radically different approach, and argue that Marilyn’s intense feelings of depression and anxiety are not “mental disorders” that reflect some defect in Marilyn, but rather the expression of what is most beautiful and awesome about her. They also argue that there are large numbers of advantages, or benefits, of feeling the way she does, using several Paradoxical Agenda Setting techniques such as the Miracle Cure Question, Magic Button, Positive Reframing, and Magic Dial. The results are stunning and unexpected. Or, as Marilyn put it, this portion of the session was “mind-blowing.”
The third and final podcast next week will include the M = Methods phase of the session along with the end-of-session T = Testing and wrap-up, including Relapse Prevention Training.
Live Session (Marilyn) — The Dark Night of the Soul (Part 1)
The first live therapy podcasts with Mark (the man who felt like a failure as a father: podcasts 29 – 35) were enormously popular, and many people have asked for more. David and Fabrice were delighted with your responses, so the next three podcasts will feature a therapy session with Marilyn by David and his highly-esteemed colleague and co-therapist, Dr. Matthew May. These three podcasts will include the entire session plus commentary the session unfolds.
We are extremely grateful to Marilyn for her courage and generosity in making this extremely private and intensely personal experience available to all of us. I believe the session will touch your heart, inspire you, and give you courage in facing any problems and traumas that you may be struggling with.
According to the theory behind cognitive therapy, people are disturbed not be events, but rather by the ways we think about them. This notion goes back nearly 2,000 years to the teachings of the Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, who emphasized the incredible importance of our thoughts—or “cognitions”—in the way we feel. Fifty years ago, this notion gave rise to a new, exciting, drug-free treatment for depression called “cognitive therapy,” which was based on this basic notion: When you CHANGE the way you THINK, you can CHANGE the way You FEEL—quickly, and without drugs. That’s why I wrote my first book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, because I was so excited about this notion and the powerful new “cognitive therapy” that was rapidly emerging.
The idea behind cognitive therapy is simple. When you’re upset, you’ve probably noticed that your mind will be flooded with negative thoughts. For example, when you’re depressed, you may be beating up on yourself and telling yourself that you’re a loser, and when you’re anxious you’re probably thinking that something terrible is about to happen. However, it may not have dawned on you that your thoughts are the actual cause of your negative feelings.
In addition, you’re probably not aware that your negative thoughts will nearly always be distorted, illogical, or just plain unrealistic. In Feeling Good, I said that depression and anxiety are the world’s oldest cons, because you’re telling yourself things that simply are not true. In that book, I listed the ten cognitive distortions, such as All-or-Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, and hidden Should Statements, that trigger negative feelings.
In the years since I first published Feeling Good, my list of cognitive distortions has gone worldwide, and is used by enormous numbers of mental health professionals in the treatment of individuals struggling with depression and anxiety. The notion that depression, anxiety, and event anger result entirely from your thoughts, and not upsetting events or circumstances external events is enormously liberating, because we usually cannot change what’s actually happening, but we can learn to change the way we think—and feel.
But a lot of people don’t buy, or understand, this notion which seems to fly in the face of common sense. For example, you might argue that when something genuinely horrible happens, such as failure, losing a loved one, or being diagnosed with terminal cancer, it is the actual event and not your thoughts, that triggers your negative feelings. And you might also argue, perhaps even with some irritation, that your thoughts are definitely not distorted, since the actual event—such as the cancer—is real.
Would you agree? I know that’s what I used to think! The next three podcasts will give you the chance to examine your thinking on this topic, because Marilyn is struggling with a negative event that is absolutely real and devastating.
As the session with begins, Marilyn explains that she was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 (terminal) lung cancer, which came as a total shock, especially since she’d never smoked. As Drs. Burns and May go through the T = Testing and E = Empathy phases of the TEAM-CBT session, they learn that Marilyn has been struggling with extreme levels of depression, anxiety, shame, loneliness, hopelessness, demoralization, and anger, to mention just a few of her negative feelings.
If you’d like, you can review a pdf of the Brief Mood Survey and Daily Mood Log that Marilyn completed just before the session began. You will see that her negative thoughts focus on several themes, including
Her fears of cancer, pain, and death.
Her thoughts of spiritual inadequacy, doubting her belief in God, wondering if there really is an afterlife, feeling that she’s not spiritual enough, and thinking that she’s perhaps been duped by religions.
Her feelings of incompleteness at never having had a truly loving life partner.
Her feelings of self-criticism, beating up on herself for excessive drinking during her life.
The next Feeling Good Podcast with Marilyn will include the A = (Paradoxical) Agenda Setting phase of the TEAM therapy session, and will include the Miracle Cure Question, the Magic Button, the stunning Positive Reframing Technique, and the Magic Dial. The third and final podcast will include the M = Methods phase, including Identify the Distortions, the Paradoxical Double Standard Technique, Externalization of Voices, and Acceptance Paradox, end of session testing, and wrap-up.
Although the subject matter of these podcasts is exceptionally grim and disturbing, we believe that Marilyn’s story may transform your thinking and touch your heart in a deeply personal way. Because Marilyn is a deeply spiritual person who suddenly finds herself without hope and totally lost, we have called part one, The Dark Night of the Soul.
Fabrice reads a question submitted by a reader on how to handle relapses following recovery from depression. David emphasizes the importance of this question, since there is a 100% probably that every patient will relapse following recovery. And if the patient has not been properly prepared, the relapses can be disastrous. But on the other hand, if the patient has been prepared, the relapses do not have to be problematic.
What is a relapse? David defines a relapse as one minute or more of feeling crappy. Given that definition, we all relapse pretty much every day. However, some people can pop out of a bad mood really quickly, while others can get stuck in these “relapses” for weeks, months, or even years.
David describes the Relapse Prevention Training (RPT) techniques he has developed, but cautions that RPT does not make sense until the patient has experienced a complete elimination of symptoms. If the patient is being treated for depression, that means that the score the depression test has fallen all the way to zero (no symptoms whatsoever) and that the patients feel joy and self-esteem.
There are four keys to David’s RPT, including:
The patient must be informed that relapse is an absolute certainty. The question is not “will this patient relapse” but rather, “when will this patient relapse?”
Patients have to know that the therapy technique that worked for them the first time they recovered will always work for them. It might be the Cost-Benefit analysis, Pleasure-Predicting Sheet, Acceptance Paradox, Double Standard Technique, Five Secrets of Effective Communication, Hidden Emotion Technique, or Experimental Technique, or simply recording their negative thoughts on the Daily Mood Log and identifying the distortions in them.
Patients need to identify and modify the Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDBs) that triggered their depression and anxiety in the first place, such as Perfectionism, Perceived Perfectionism, or the Achievement, Love or Approval Addictions. In several previous podcasts, David and Fabrice have described the Uncovering Techniques that can be used to quickly pinpoint any patient’s SDBs.
Patients need to write down and challenge the Negative Thoughts that will inevitably emerge at the time they relapse, such as “This relapse proves I’m hopeless after all,” or “This relapse proves the therapy didn’t work,” etc.
David and Fabrice illustrate step #4 using a powerful technique called Externalization of Voices. David has patients record this role play procedure on a cell phone or other recording device so they can play it and listen if needed during an actual relapse.
David explains that he used this approach with every patient he discharged, and encouraged them all to come back anytime they had a relapse that they couldn’t handle. In spite of having more than 35,000 therapy sessions with individuals with severe depression and anxiety, David says that he can count on two hands the number who every returned for “tune-ups” following termination of therapy, and in most of those cases, the patients were able to recover once again in just or two sessions.
In the next Feeling Good Podcast, David and his highly esteemed colleague, Dr. Matthew May, will begin their live work with Marilyn, a severely depressed colleague who is facing “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Fabrice, as usual, will narrate and elicit enlightening commentaries on the therapeutic strategies that David and Matt are using as the session with Marilyn unfolds.
Fabrice asks David about the title of his TEAM-CBT eBook for therapists—Tools, Not Schools, of Therapy. David explains that the field of psychotherapy is dominated by numerous schools of therapy that compete like religions, or even cults, each claiming to have the answer to emotional suffering. So you’ve got the psychodynamic school, and the psychoanalytic school, the Adlerian school, the Beckian cognitive therapy school, the Jungian school, and tons more, including EMDR, behavior therapy, humanistic therapy, ACT, TMT, EMT, and so forth. Wikipedia lists more than 50 major schools of psychotherapy, but there are way more than that, as new schools emerge almost on a weekly basis.
David describes several conversations with the late Dr. Albert Ellis, who argued that most schools of therapy were started by narcissistic and emotionally disturbed individuals. Ellis claimed that most were self-promoting, dishonest individuals who claimed to know the true “causes” of emotional distress and insisted they had the “best” treatment methods. And yet, research almost never supports these claims.
David, who is a medical doctor, points out that we don’t have competing schools of medicine. Can you imagine what it would be like if we did? Let’s say you broke your leg, and went to a doctor who prescribes penicillin. You ask why he’s prescribing penicillin for a broken leg, and he explains that he’s a member of the penicillin school. He says he always prescribes penicillin—it’s good for whatever ails you!
That would be like an Alice in Wonderland world. And yet, that’s precisely how psychiatry and psychotherapy are currently set up. If you’re depressed and you go to a psychiatrist, you’ll be treated with pills. If you go to a psychoanalytic therapist, you’ll get psychoanalysis. Or if you go to a practitioner of EMDR, TFT, or Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), you’ll get EMDR, TFT, or RET. David argues that this just doesn’t make sense.
David argues that the fields needs to move from competing schools of therapy to a new, science-based, data-driven psychotherapy. He emphasizes that we’ve learned a lot from most of the schools of therapy, and that many have provided us with valuable insights about human nature as well as some useful treatment techniques. But now it’s time to move on, leaving all the schools of therapy behind. David acknowledges that this message may seem harsh or upsetting to some listeners, and apologizes for that ahead of time.
David and Fabrice also discuss the spiritual basis of effective psychotherapy, and David describes the reaction of his father, a Lutheran minister, on the day that David was born, as well as a tip his mother gave him when he was in third grade.
In the next Feeling Good Podcast, David and Fabrice will describe Relapse Prevention Training, since the likelihood of relapse after successful treatment is 100%. But if the patient knows what to do, the relapse doesn’t have to be a problem.
The Beatles tell us that all we need really need is love, and in her famous song, “People,” Barbara Streisand proclaims that “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” But is this really true?
Fabrice asks David whether love is a human need? David describes hearing Dr. Aaron Beck proclaim that love is not an adult human need, and feeling shocked, during one of Dr. Beck’s cognitive therapy seminars in the 1970s. Although initially skeptical, David did a number of experiments to test this belief, and came to a startling conclusion. David describes the impact of needing love on his depressed and anxious patients, including lonely individuals who were constantly being rejected in the dating scene.
You’ll find this podcast provocative, controversial, and hopefully interesting. We’ll also include a survey you can complete below, indicating your thoughts about this topic!
In the next Feeling Good Podcast, David and Fabrice will discuss Tools, Not Schools, the title of David’s TEAM-CBT eBook for therapists, and the following podcast will discuss Relapse Prevention Training, since the likelihood of relapse after successful treatment is 100%. But if the patient is prepared and knows what to do ahead of time, the relapse, while often painful and disturbing, doesn’t have to be a significant problem.
Warning: This podcast includes raw and disturbing material that may be upsetting to some listeners. If you are concerned that your own feelings may be triggered, it might be wise to skip the program.
Fabrice begins with another question on OCD—if you successfully extinguish the symptoms with Exposure and Response prevention, would they just resurface in some other form, such as worrying, or some other anxiety disorder. David agrees, and describes the solution to this problem.
Then David describes his treatment of a pregnant woman with OCD who was afraid her baby would be switched at the hospital so that she’d end up with the wrong baby. Although she rationally recognized that this fear was irrational, she could not shake it from her mind, and obsessed about it constantly.
After trying more than 30 CBT techniques that did not work, David used the What-If Technique to pinpoint her deepest fear, which turned out to be quite shocking, to say the least. He then encouraged her, with some reluctance, to confront this fear using Cognitive Flooding.
After describing the surprising outcome, David and Fabrice discuss the fact that 75% of American therapists are afraid to use Exposure Techniques because of the fear that the patient is too fragile, or they will re-traumatize the patient. David reminds us that this is “reverse hypnosis,” where the patient hypnotizes the therapist into believing something that is not true. If the patient is successful, and the therapist agrees not to use Exposure, the prognosis for effective treatment is quite poor. David gives an example of a therapist who was afraid to ask an OCD patient to drink one ounce of coca cola—something the patient feared would drive him into insanity!