019: Ask David — The Defiant Child: A Secret All Parents Should Know

In this short podcast, David and Fabrice address a question submitted by a listener named Preeti who benefitted from his book, Feeling Good Together. She wants to know whether the same EAR techniques described in that book could help her deal more effectively with a defiant, oppositional child. Dr. Burns reveals a fantastically helpful secret that he and his wife stumbled across in raising their own children. If you have ever struggled in your attempts to deal with an oppositional child or adolescent, you will find this podcast enlightening!

018: Ask David — Overcoming the Fear of Death

In this short podcast, David and Fabrice address this question submitted by a listener:

Dear Dr. Burns,

I read Feeling Good twenty years ago. It was a wonderful relief and help to me. Your book has helped me live a better and balanced life. The best part was passing the knowledge on to my daughter. I thought I read a wonderful description of how to handle death anxiety in the book. I was describing it to a friend, but could’ find it in the book.

Is it in another book?

Your reply would be considered an act of generosity.

Thank you! Mary

Existential Therapists believe that the fear of death is universal and is at the root of most emotional problems. Dr. Burns argues that the fear of death is actually quite rare, but does occasionally occur and is extremely treatable. In this podcast, David’s describes his quick, three-part “cure” for the fear of death.

Oddly, every patient he treated in this way insisted at the end of the session that it didn’t help. And even stranger is the fact that 100% of them returned the next week and announced that they actually had been cured and were, in fact, no longer afraid of death!

Taken a listen and see what you think!

017: Ask David — Dare to be “average”—The perfectionist’s script for self-defeat

In this podcast, David answers a challenging question posed by a listener:

Dear Dr. David:

In your Feeling Good Handbook, you suggest that the reader just allows himself or herself to be an ordinary person instead of trying to be perfect. Contrary to your opinion in the book, you’re an outstanding therapist in reality. You’ve studied in one of the world’s top colleges, you’re well-educated with a doctor degree, and successful in your career and life. How can I believe your claim? I’m quite confused!

Sincerely, XXX

David first distinguishes perfectionism from the healthy pursuit of excellence, and then describes a painful incident when he was a Stanford medical student. One afternoon, he attended an afternoon Gestalt encounter group at the home of a friend and mentor in Palo Alto. During the group he was ripped to shreds by the other participants. At the end of the group, the other participants seemed elated, but he felt intensely humiliated, ashamed, and discouraged. This led to an unexpected interaction with his mentor that helped to change his life.

David also discusses his clinical work years later with a depressed and anxious professional who had never experienced even one minute of happiness in spite of a life of fabulous success and achievements.

At the end, David and Fabrice promise a future podcast on this topic: “Self-Esteem: What is it? How do I get it? How can I get rid of it once I’ve got it?”

016a: Special Interview: Can Depression and Anxiety Be Treated in a Two-Hour Therapy Session? with Lisa Kelley

In this Podcast, David and Fabrice are joined by Lisa Kelley, a certified TEAM-CBT therapist and former journalist from Littleton, Colorado. Lisa interviews David about an interview / blog David has just published on this website. For the full PDF of the article, click here.

Lisa begins by asking how people responded to a survey on David’s website asking this controversial question: “Do you believe that a depressed individual could experience a complete elimination of symptoms in a single, two-hour therapy session?” More than 5,000 individuals completed the survey and most were extremely skeptical.

David states that ten years ago, he would have felt exactly the same way, and would have dismissed anyone making such a claim as a con artist. However, he has now changed his mind and believes that sometimes it is possible.

David explains that he has done more than 50 live demonstrations in workshops and other teaching settings with individuals who are struggling with severe feelings of depression, anxiety, shame and anger. Many of these individuals who volunteer to be the patient have experienced horrific personal traumas. This gives David the opportunity to demonstrate how TEAM-CBT works with someone who is really suffering, and not just a role-playing demonstration. Usually, these live demonstrations are the highlight of a workshop because they are intensely emotional and real. Surprisingly, in the vast majority of these sessions, the individuals who were in the patient role experienced a complete, or near-complete, elimination of symptoms in roughly two hours.

David emphasizes that while we would not expect this to generalize to a clinical practice situation, it does seem to suggest significant improvements, or even breakthroughs, in psychotherapy. Many of the new developments have to do with helping patients overcome their resistance to change. Although David makes these techniques look easy, they are challenging to learn, and require a radically new and different way of thinking about why patients sometimes resist change and fight the therapist.

Lisa, Fabrice, and David explain exactly how the new techniques work, using as an example an Asian-American woman who had experienced decades of domestic violence and rape.

016: Ask David — How can I cope with a complainer? How can I help a loved one who is depressed?

In this episode, David and Fabrice bring the Five Secrets of Effective Communication to life, based on a question submitted by two listeners: How can you help a depressed friend or family member? You may be surprised to discover that the attempt to “help” is rarely effective, and may even make the problem worse. In contrast, the refusal to help is nearly always helpful. But to understand that paradox, you’ll have to give a listen to this fascinating edition of “Ask David!”

David and Fabrice also address a related problem nearly all of us confront from time to time: How do you deal with a friend who is a relentless whiner and complainer? When you try to help them or suggest a solution to the problem, they just say, “That won’t work” and keep complaining. You end up feeling frustrated and annoyed, because the other person just won’t listen! David and Fabrice illustrate a shockingly easy and incredibly effective solution to this problem.

Finally, David discusses some disturbing recent research indicating that the ability of therapists—as well as friends or family members—to know how suicidal someone is, is extremely poor. David and Fabrice explain how to assess how suicidal someone actually is, and what to do if you discover that he or she really is at risk of a suicide attempt.

015: The Five Secrets of Effective Communication (Part 2)

In Podcast #14, David and Fabrice discussed the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. You can remember them with the acronym, EAR:

E = Empathy

A = Assertiveness

R = Respect

If used skillfully, the Five Secrets can resolve nearly any relationship conflict and transform hostility, resentment and mistrust into intimacy and warmth, often with amazing speed. And although this may seem easy when you first learn about the Five Secrets, it’s extremely difficult in real world situations.

In this Podcast, David and Fabrice discuss a number of predictable emotional and mental errors nearly everyone makes when trying to use the Five Secrets to get close to someone he or she is at odds with.

014: The Five Secrets of Effective Communication (Part 1)

Practically all of us have a friend, colleague, client, customer or family member we aren’t getting along with very well. Perhaps the difficult person in your life is excessively critical of you, complains constantly, won’t express his or her feelings, always has to be right, or never listens to you. Does anyone come to mind?

In this podcast, David and Fabrice discuss five communication secrets that can rapidly transform conflict and misunderstanding into intimacy and trust. David describes an experience that suddenly changed the direction of his life and career when he was working with an insecure medical student from England early in his career. The Five Secrets of Effective Communication can be remembered using the acronym, EAR:

E = Empathy

  • The Disarming Technique: You find truth in what the other person is saying, even if it seems illogical, self-serving, distorted, or just plain “wrong.”
  • Thought and Feeling Empathy: You summarize what the other person just said (Thought Empathy) and acknowledge how he or she is probably feeling, given what he or she just said (Feeling Empathy)
  • Inquiry: You as gentle, probing questions to learn more about what the other person is thinking and feeling.

A = Assertiveness

  • “I Feel” Statements: You express your own feelings and ideas openly according to the formula, “I’m feeling X, Y, and Z right now,” where are X, Y and Z refer to any of a wide variety of feeling words, such as anxious, attacked, hurt, or sad.

R = Respect

  • Affirmation (formerly called Stroking): You convey warmth, caring and respect, even in the heat of battle

David and Fabrice also describe the Five Secrets of Effective Communication and emphasize the incredible power of the Law of Opposites, with a vignette about a severely depressed patient who told David that he was “too young to be my doctor.”