Posts About Cognitive Distortions

Feeling Good

109: David’s Top 10 List!

109: David’s Top 10 List!

A fan named Tanuj asked:

“I’ve heard Dr. Burns mention that he is most proud of a few of the techniques he’s developed, and he mentioned that the Disarming Technique would be near the top of the list. I believe he said there were three or five of them. I was wondering what the others were. Does he have a top 5?”

Thank you, Tanuj. I got to thinking and actually came up with 10. Fabrice and I will briefly discuss each one on today’s podcast. So here they are!

  1. The list of Ten Cognitive Distortions that I created for my first book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. This list has been reproduced enormous numbers of times in the media and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
  2. The Disarming Technique and Law of Opposites. This means that you can nearly always put the lie to a criticism by finding the truth in it. However, this can be difficult because it requires the death of the ego, or self, the so-called “Great Death” that the Buddhists have emphasized as a key to enlightenment. This method has transformed my clinical practice and personal life and has been very helpful to many of my patients as well. However, it is not easy to learn, in part because it does involve the death of the “self.”
  3. The Externalization of Voices plus Acceptance Paradox. This was one of the first cognitive therapy techniques I developed, and I have used it more than any other technique during my career. It’s totally mind-blowing.
  4. The two classic Uncovering Techniques: the Individual and Interpersonal Downward Arrow. You can use these techniques to quickly pinpoint the Self-Defeating Beliefs that trigger painful mood swings, such as Perfectionism, Perceived Perfectionism, the Love Addiction, and Brushfire Fallacy, and more.
  5. The Feared Fantasy and Acceptance Paradox. This is a powerful and innovative exposure technique that can help people overcome the fear of being judged or rejected. It can also help people modify Self-Defeating Beliefs like Perfectionism and the Achievement Addiction, and the Approval Addiction.
  6. The Experimental Technique for extremely rapid treatment of patients with Panic Attacks. With this technique, you can sometimes—often—cure Panic Disorder in a single session. But this requires great courage on the part of the therapist and patient, and a great therapeutic alliance with lots of trust.
  7. My published research with colleagues in the mid-1970s did not support the popular notion that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. In other words, we found that depression probably does NOT result from a deficient of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Although we published this research in the top psychiatric journal, it was largely ignored for 25 years because people were so hooked on the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression. Now the study has been quoted frequently, and most neuro-scientists no longer give that theory a great deal of credibility.
  8. Brief Mood Survey. I believe I was the first, or one of the first, therapists in the world to require testing of every patient at every treatment session. I started with the Beck Depression Inventory, but have since developed briefer and more accurate scales that patients can complete in the waiting room before and after every sessions. These scales indicate the severity of symptoms such as depression, anxiety, anger, suicidal urges, positive feelings, and relationship satisfaction or conflict. Patients also rate therapist empathy and helpfulness after each session. This simple procedure has revolutionized treatment, because therapists can now see, for the first time, how effective, or ineffective, they are in every single therapy session. The testing has also made data-driven, science-based psychotherapy possible. However, it requires courage on the part of the therapist because the information will often be surprising to the therapist, and disturbing!
  9. Positive Reframing, and all of the new, paradoxical Agenda Setting techniques have made super-high-speed TEAM-CBT treatment methods possible. I now see recovery at speeds I would have thought impossible 20 years ago.
  1. The use of extended, two-hour therapy sessions rather than weekly 50-minute sessions has also been huge. That’s because I often see a complete elimination of symptoms of depression and anxiety in a single extended session of TEAM-CBT, as opposed to months or even years of conventional treatment. Many of my students are reporting similar results. This,  I think, is truly revolutionary!

Well, that’s it. That’s what I’m the most proud of! I suppose I could also include my first book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, which has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, and has helped many people recover, as well as the development of TEAM-CBT.
Thank you again for your question, and please accept my apology if I am bragging too much, which can be really offensive. However, my mother once said, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else is going to toot it for you,” so hopefully the podcast and write-up will be okay.



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Coming Soon!
October / November / December 2018–
Cool Workshops for You!

TEAM-CBT Methods for the Treatment of Relationship Difficulties

Step by Step Training for Therapists

by David Burns, MD and Jill Levitt, PhD

Sunday October 28th, 2018 (9 am-4 pm PST)

Live in Palo Alto plus online streaming

Learn how to reduce patient resistance and boost motivation to change. Master skills that will enhance communication skills and increase intimacy with loved ones. This workshop will be highly interactive with many case examples and opportunities for practice using role plays.

Join us for a day of fun and inspiring learning on site in Palo Alto
OR online from anywhere in the world.

Learn from David and Jill–a dynamic teaching duo!

6 CE*s. $135

To register, go to the Feeling Good Institute

or call  650-353-6544

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Rapid Recovery from Trauma

a two-day workshop

by David D. Burns, MD

October 4-5, 2018–Pasadena, CA


November 1-2, 2018–Woodland Hills, CA

The November workshop includes Live Streaming
if you cannot attend in person)

For further information, go to http://www.IAHB.org
or call 1-800-258-8411

Register Now!

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Powerful, Fast-Acting, Drug-Free Treatment Techniques
that Defeat Anxiety & Worry

a 2-day workshop by David D. Burns, MD

November 29 and 30, 2018–San Francisco, CA (in person only)


December 3 and 4, Portland, Oregon (in person and live streaming)

PESI is proud to offer an exciting workshop by David Burns, M.D., a pioneer in the development of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Achieve rapid and lasting recovery with all your anxious clients, just as Dr. Burns has done in over 35,000 therapy sessions with severely troubled clients. Become skilled at treating every type of anxiety without drugs.

In this unique 2-day certificate course you’ll master more than 20 treatment techniques to help your clients eliminate the symptoms of anxiety quickly – even your most challenging, resistant clients.

Dr. Burns will illustrate concrete strategies that provide rapid, complete recovery and lasting change for your patients. You’ll learn…

  • How to integrate four powerful treatment models to eliminate symptoms.
  • How to enhance your client’s engagement in therapy.
  • How to develop a treatment plan that specifically targets each client’s unique problems and needs.
  • …and so much more!

David will provide you with guided instruction and share powerful video sessions that capture the actual moment of recovery. You will take away practical strategies to use immediately with any anxious client. Leave this certificate course armed with tools you can use in your very next session!

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of America’s most highly acclaimed psychiatrists and teachers!

Sponsored by PESI

To register, or for more information, call: 800-844-8260

103: Ask David–How do you deal with harmful, intrusive memories . . . Is depression transmitted by the family?

103: Ask David–How do you deal with harmful, intrusive memories . . . Is depression transmitted by the family?

How do you deal with intrusive thoughts about bullying or a cruel ex-lover?

How do you treat cyclothymic patients?

Where do distortions come from? And more . . .

Today we answer six questions submitted by listeners like you:

  1. Harald: How can I find the Show Notes for the Feeling Good Podcasts?
  2. Kristin: How do you help patients who obsess about past traumatic events, with intrusive thoughts about a cruel ex-lover or bullying by classmates? These thoughts can feed into the idea that their life is miserable and  they can’t move forward because they feel blocked by these harmful memories.
  3. Valentina: How are cognitive distortions, self-defeating beliefs, and feelings of depression transmitted? What you describe in your books seems to describe my mother’s behaviors when I was growing up? Could it be that depression is transmitted by the family?
  4. Alicia: How would you treat someone with cyclothymic disorder who cycles between euphoria and suicidal depression? He’s happy now, so how do I get him to fill out the Daily Mood Log?
  5. Kathy: I’m a big fan, and I have a question about “bibliotherapy.” What’s the best way to use your books and other materials to help yourself?
  6. Matthew: Do you ever use drugs in the treatment of depression? Are medications sometimes necessary or helpful?




103: Ask David–How do you deal with harmful, intrusive memories . . . Is depression transmitted by the family?

083: Role-Play Techniques (Part 1) — Externalization of Voices / Acceptance Paradox

This is the first several podcasts on the Role-Playing Techniques David has created. They include:

  • Externalization of Voices (with Acceptance Paradox and Self-Defense Paradigm)
  • Paradoxical Double Standard Technique
  • Feared Fantasy
  • Devil’s Advocate
  • Forced Empathy
  • Man from Mars
  • And more

David’s explains that he began developing role-playing techniques in the early days of cognitive therapy because many of the Beckian techniques, such as Examine the Evidence and the Socratic Technique–while sometimes very helpful, were sometimes a bit dry, and he wanted to include punchier and more powerful and dynamic techniques in his therapeutic toolkit. These role-playing techniques are just one part of what sets TEAM-CBT apart from traditional, Beckian CBT.

Today, he explains and demonstrates the Externalization of Voices, which is always combined with the Self-Defense Paradigm and the Acceptance Paradox. He is joined by Fabrice, of course, and “Sarah,” one of the members of his Tuesday training group at Stanford. Sarah has volunteered to use a personal example in the podcast to help demonstrate the Externalization of Voices.

Sarah has brought a partially complete Daily Mood Log to the session. The Upsetting Event was that Sarah has decided to move to Austin, Texas in two weeks. She has many moderately strong negative feelings about the move, including sadness (30), anxiety and nervousness (75), inadequacy (60), loneliness (75), self-consciousness, and discouragement (70). She also felt stuck and defeated (70). The numbers in parentheses indicate how strong each type of feeling was on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 100 (extremely.)

Her Negative Thoughts include:

  • “All of my friends are ahead of me in life (careers and relationships).”
  • “I should be further along in my career and I should be 100% certain this is the best career for me in the long term.
  • “For the most part, I haven’t helped most of my clients very much.”
  • “My anxiety over the past year indicates that I’m in the wrong profession.”
  • “I’ll never get back in the great shape, physically and emotionally, that I was in three years ago.”
  • “Moving to California set my life back by a year.”
  • “I won’t be able to make new friends in Austin.”
  • “I will be lonely and without friends.”
  • “I won’t be able to cope with stress.”
  • “My therapy skills aren’t good enough,”

and more.  Her belief in many of her Negative thoughts is quite high, in the range of 70% to 100%. However, her belief in one of them, “Moving to California set my life back by a year,” was only 20%.

Although David did not intend this to be a live therapy session, but rather a practice session to demonstrate how the Externalization of Voices works, David does some brief paradoxical Agenda Setting first, since Sarah’s example is real, and not made up. David uses several techniques to melt away Sarah’s Outcome Resistance, including:

  • The Invitation
  • The Miracle Cure Question
  • The Magic Button
  • Positive Reframing

During the Positive Reframing, David asks Sarah two things about her negative thoughts and feelings:

  1. What does each negative thought or feeling reveal about you and your core values that is positive and awesome?
  2. What are some advantages, or benefits, of each negative thought or feeling?

They come up with a list of ten positives, including these: “My negative thoughts and feelings show that

  1. I’m realistic and honest.
  2. I’m thoughtful.
  3. I’m committed to self-care, since I want to have good mental and physical health.
  4. I’m motivated to grow and improve my therapy skills.
  5. I have compassion for my clients and want to give them the best care that I can.
  6. I’m honest about my shortcomings.
  7. I’m humble.
  8. I have high standards.
  9. I want to connect with others.
  10. I’m committed to my career.

They conclude the Paradoxical Agenda Setting with the Magic Dial. Sarah decides to lower her negative feelings f to much lower levels, in the range of 5% to 15%.

Then, David asks Sarah which Negative Thought she wants to work on first. She chose the thought about never being able to get back into top physical and mental shape again. They identify the many cognitive distortions in the thought, such as All-or-Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Mental Filter, Discounting the Positive, Fortune-Telling, Magnification and Minimization, Emotional Reasoning, Should Statements, and self-Blame.

Then David explains how the Externalization of Voices works, and they launch into the technique. David starts out as the “Negative Sarah,” and attacks her with the Negative Thought she wanted to attack first, using the second-person, “You.” Sarah responds in the role of the “Positive Sarah,” using the first-person, “I.”

Sarah fairly quickly knocks the ball out of the park, and easily crushes the Negative Thought David has attacked her with. Then David attacks Sarah with the rest of her Negative Thoughts, one at a time, doing occasional role-reversals to illustrate different ways to attack the thought. They continue doing role-reversals until Sarah described her victory over each Negative Thought as “huge.”

This only takes a few minutes. Then Sarah re-rates her negative feelings on the Daily Mood Log, and nearly all have been reduced to zero. David cross-examines Sarah to find out if this amazingly rapid and dramatic change was real, or if she was just being “nice” to try to produce a good role-play for David!

Fabrice raps up the podcast with his (as usual) great interview with David and Sarah, bringing out many of the teaching points during the session. He emphasizes that you can actually use many of David’s 50 Methods when doing Externalization of Voices, and points out the power of “Let’s Be Specific” that David demonstrated during the role-playing.

Next week: The Paradoxical Double Standard Technique!

Coming Soon! Advanced, High-Speed TEAM-CBT for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety 

We warmly invite you to attend this fabulous, one-day workshop by Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt on Sunday, May 20th, 2018. Click on the link above for registration and more information.

  • 6 CE Credits
  • The cost is $135
  • You can join in person or online from wherever you live!

You will enjoy learning from David and Jill, working together to bring powerful, healing techniques to life in a clear, step-by-step way. Their teaching style as a team is entertaining, funny, lucid, and inspiring. This is a day you will remember fondly!

In the afternoon, you will have the chance to do some personal healing so you can overcome your own feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. David and Jill promise to bring at least 60% of the audience into a state of spiritual and psychological enlightenment, WITHOUT years of meditation. That’s not a bad deal at all!

You will LOVE this workshop. Seating for those who attend live in Palo Alto will be strictly limited, and seats are filling up fast, so move rapidly if you are interested.

Jill and I hope you can join us!

Fabrice and I hope you like our Feeling Good Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and five star ratings if you like what we’re doing!


At least one listener has had problems leaving an iTunes review from his i-phone, so Fabrice has created some simple to follow instructions if you need help.



103: Ask David–How do you deal with harmful, intrusive memories . . . Is depression transmitted by the family?

082: Neil Sattin Interview — Change your Thoughts, Change Your Life!

In this podcast, David and Fabrice feature David’s recent interview on the topic of “Change your Thoughts, Change Your Life!” The interview was first published on Neil Sattin’s highly regarded Relationship Alive Podcast. Although some of the material may be familiar, there’s much that’s new, and you will enjoy the chemistry between Neil and David as they discuss each of the ten cognitive distortions and raise many challenging questions, such as:

  • Is it really true that only our thoughts–and NOT external events–can change the way we feel?
  • If someone has the belief, “I’m unlovable,” isn’t that type of thought immutable? How could you possibly change or modify a thought that may be rooted in traumatic experiences and so deeply embedded in a patient’s psyche?
  • Should we try to change other people’s cognitive distortions, or just our own?
  • How can we challenge each of the ten cognitive distortions?

And much more!

David’s first interview with Neil received more than 25,000 downloads in the first month, and this riveting interview promises to be every bit as popular. If you want to download a transcript of this exciting interview, you can do so at http://www.neilsattin.com/feelinggood2.

Coming Soon!

Next week we will begin an exciting series on the powerful role-playing techniques in TEAM-CBT, including

  1. Externalization of Voices (with Acceptance Paradox and Self-Defense Paradigm)
  2. Paradoxical Double Standard Technique
  3. Devil’s Advocate
  4. Forced Empathy
  5. Man from Mars
  6. And more

These episode will feature students and teachers in David’s Tuesday training group at Stanford, so you will get a taste of what an actual Tuesday group is like and see, first hand, how these methods work. They are unique to TEAM-CBT, and most have been created by Dr. Burns. We will also devote one episode to live Shame-Attacking Exercises, featuring the master of Shame Attacking, Dr. Joseph Towery, and we will all be out on the street doing Shame Attacking ourselves.

These episodes will be designed for therapists as well as your patients, and of course also for the general public.

Also Coming Soon!

May 20th, 2018  Advanced, High-Speed CBT for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety A one day workshop by Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt. 6 CE Credits, $135
You can join in person or online from wherever you live!

You will LOVE this workshop because you will learn and practice techniques you can use in your clinical practice, but you will also have the chance to do your own personal work! And you will also have the unique opportunity to experience the tag-team teaching of David and Jill working together!

Fabrice and I hope you like our Feeling Good Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and five star ratings if you like what we’re doing!


At least one listener has had problems leaving an iTunes review from his i-phone, so Fabrice has created some simple to follow instructions if you need help.



103: Ask David–How do you deal with harmful, intrusive memories . . . Is depression transmitted by the family?

080: Ask David: Where Do Negative Thoughts Come From?

“I’m a loser. . . I’m a failure. . . Where do my negative thoughts come from? “

In this podcast, David and Fabrice answer several fascinating questions submitted by listeners:

  1. Jackie asks where our distorted thoughts come from, since they are so often irrational and distorted, and inconsistent with the facts. Why do we sometimes beat up on ourselves relentlessly with negative thoughts?
  2. Tyler asks if it possible to do TEAM-CBT in conventional, 45 minute sessions. And if so, how? It seems my patients are just warming up by the end of the session, and then we have to start all over again the next week.
  3. Jess asks if it is possible to use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication in non-therapy settings. For example, if you are in a position of authority, like a high school teacher, will your students lose respect for you if you use the Five Secrets? Could you use the Five Secrets if you are working with violent gang members?

Two Cool Upcoming Workshops for you!

March 22 and 23, 2018 Rapid Recovery from Trauma, (David D. Burns, MD) J&K Seminars, Lancaster, Pa 15 CE credits, includes live evening demonstration on the evening of day 1.
You can join in person or online from wherever you live! 

May 20th, 2018  Advanced, High-Speed CBT for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety A one day workshop by Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt. 6 CE Credits, $135
You can join in person or online from wherever you live!

Fabrice and I hope you like our Feeling Good Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and five star ratings if you like what we’re doing!


At least one listener has had problems leaving an iTunes review from his i-phone, so Fabrice has created some simple to follow instructions if you need help.