Posts About Disarming Technique

Feeling Good

182: Ask David: Are Negative and Positive Distortions Bad? Treating an Existential Crisis. Agreeing with Unfair Criticisms.

182: Ask David: Are Negative and Positive Distortions Bad? Treating an Existential Crisis. Agreeing with Unfair Criticisms.

Today, Rhonda and David answer three great questions submitted by listeners like you.

  1. I am confused about the terms, negative and positive distortions. Help!
  2. “How do you treat an “existential crisis?”
  3. Can you use the Five Secrets with someone in a hypo-manic state? Won’t agreeing with their accusations just make things worse? 

1. I am confused about the terms, negative and positive distortions.

Dear Dr. Burns,

I do have one question about terms I have heard on the podcast. The terms that confuse me are “negative distortions” and “positive distortions.” I think I understand that they are both “bad” distortions, but the  positive distortions are distortions related to moods or thoughts that are unhealthily high or “up,” such as in mania or narcissism. And negative distortions are the ones related to lower mood states/depression. Is this correct? I don’t know if it is a brain thing, but even though I think I understand the concepts, my brain still seems to automatically think of positive distortions as good, and so I become quite confused when trying to understand how to fight them or help someone else fight them . . .

Thank you again, so much, for all of your hard work on the podcast, as well as your diligence in training therapists in your TEAM model. I am a super-fan of the model already after only a week or so of listening! And the Five Secrets have challenged me to examine my communication abilities much more honestly and helped me in several important interactions already (even as a novice making many mistakes😬).

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Please also tell Fabrice and Rhonda many thanks for all of their hard work and excellence as well. They both bring such gifts and refreshing honesty, brilliance  and genuineness to the discussions. I especially admire Rhonda for sharing her personal work. Such powerful and transformative stuff! It gives me hope that someday I might be a fraction as brave to DO that kind of work, much less share it openly with others for their benefit. What a generous as well as brave thing to do! I feel so hopeful and encouraged to know there are therapists like you, Fabrice, and Rhonda helping people to heal from vast amounts of mental and emotional suffering. I can’t wait for TEAM to be as commonly known everywhere as CBT is now. Sign me up to volunteer for any promotional efforts if that is ever needed! For now, I will continue to tell everyone, including quite a few other counselor friends, about the podcast and the TEAM model.


A new super-fan podcast listener,

Holly Miller

Hi Holly, Many people are confused, so this is a great question! Rhonda and I will gladly discuss this on our podcast. And thanks for your kind words!


2. Can you use the Five Secrets with someone in a hypo-manic state? Won’t agreeing with their accusations just make things worse?

Hi David and Rhonda,

Thank you so much for the podcast. I have been an avid listener since the early days of the podcast, and it has helped me through very difficult times and still is.

My question is related to my relationship with my future to be divorcee. She is at times in a hypo mania state due to her bipolar illness (which is diagnosed and treated).

Is it possible to use the five secrets of effective communication with someone who is in a state of hypo mania? I feel that agreeing with unreasonable accusations and complains is not helping at all and only causes her to hold to these claims.

I know that you usually like to relate to specific correspondence but it is more of a general question.

I hope you can give me some guidelines on what works and what doesn’t.



Hi Al,

The devil is in the details. Can you provide a specific example of one thing she said, and exactly what you said next, that you need some help with? General questions about the Five Secrets are NEVER productive. Great question, thanks! david

David D. Burns, M.D.

Hi Dr. Burns,

Thanks for the prompt reply.

Well, I was asking a general question if it is possible at all to use the 5 secretes with someone who is totally unreasonable?

She would say “You started to be a father when you decided to divorce” referring to the fact that I am claiming for mutual custody. The fact of the matter is that she has been going in and out of long depression periods and manic periods and I had to take care of the kids, maintain the house and keep a job (working from home).

I would answer that I was there taking care of the kids all the years and now that I decide to break I want to keep my fair share of the time with them.

Prior to that she always claimed that I am not a good spouse although I took care of her during all the years and had at times to reduce my workload in order to be available for the kids and her.

So, the claims and accusations are always discounting what I did for her and the kids. And she is not accepting the fact that she has been ill and that this had a toll on the family. She says I need to look forward even though these episodes on hypo mania keep repeating.

Hope I was specific enough. If you still feel I am vague then it may be that this is not the right forum to ask such questions and may need to get proper consultation.

All the best and looking forward to reading the new book. I already started with the free chapter.


David and Rhonda describe ‘mania” and “hypo-mania” model how to find truth in criticisms that seem irrational, exaggerated, untrue, or unfair. They also discuss the tendency to blame others for the problems in our relationships, and why and how that is rarely or never helpful.

3. “How do you treat an “existential crisis?”

Good afternoon Dr. Burns,

Have you treated anyone that went through an existential crisis before and were you successful? I have a wife that deals with depression and I was in the past able to help her (even though my mind set was “life is awesome. so why or how can you be upset?”)

I have also dealt with my own anxiety and was able to get myself out of that 10 years ago, using exposure techniques. But I have ran into a bit of a wall here with what I believe is an existential crisis. I’ve noticed that I am unable to find anything of that subject in any of your topics.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Burns.

In the podcast, Rhonda and I demonstrate how to respond effectively to someone who is depressed, and why cheer-leading (“life is awesome,” etc.) will generally not be helpful.

Hi Arturo,

There are no existential crises in California at this time, as the Buddha pointed out more than 2500 years ago. However, specific and real problems exist, and once you identify what’s bugging you and you deal with it you’ll find your “existential crisis” has disappeared.

Check out my podcast on the teenage girl who was having an “identity crisis.”

Our podcast on “How to Help” might also be useful to you!

You might also enjoy my book, When Panic Attacks, especially the section on the Hidden Emotion Technique. If you go to my website, you can type any topic in the search box in the right-hand panel of every page, and a lot of useful information, will suddenly pop up.

David and Rhonda


You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. She is a Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.

If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.


Coming up in 2020

I will present two workshops at the upcoming

Psychotherapy Networker Conference!

Saturday, March 21, 2020
Feeling Great—A New, High-Speed
Treatment for Depression

Sunday, March 22, 2020
Overcoming Magical Thinking with the Anxious Client—
A Paradoxical Approach

Plus, my new book, Feeling Great,
will be officially announced with banners and such!


* * *

The Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit:
How to Crush Negative Thoughts

TEAM-CBT includes more than 100 powerful techniques to change the distorted thoughts that trigger negative emotions. But what techniques should I select for my patient who feels depressed, anxious, or angry?

As you know, in my book, Feeling Good, I listed the ten most common cognitive distortions, like All-or-Nothing Thinking, Should Statements, Emotional Reasoning, and more, and you probably use that list all the time in your clinical work. But do you know which techniques work the best for each distortion?

Come to this workshop and find out! You’ll learn with tons of cool techniques you can use every day to boost your clinical effectiveness.

This workshop will be live-streamed (and in person in Palo Alto, CA) so you can join from anywhere in the world! There will be many expert online helpers to assist you with the small-group exercises.

Move rapidly if you want to come. We are already SOLD OUT in person, but there are still slots available online.

There will be many helpers from the Feeling Good Institute to assist and guide you in the small group exercises in person and online as well.  Our last workshop on resistance in February was our most highly rated ever! We hope to make this a terrific and fun learning experience for you, too!

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

May 17, 2020 | 7 CE hours. $135 (online only)

Learn More & Register

* * *

2-Day Clinical Master Class

Rapid Recovery from Anxiety Disorders–
GAD, Phobias, Panic Attacks, Social Anxiety, OCD, PTSD and Health Anxiety

by David D. Burns, MD

June 4 – 5, 2020, Seattle, Washington

* * *

The All-New Annual South San Francisco Intensive!

Enhanced Empathy Training

August 10 – 13, 2020

It’s Going to Be Awesome!

Videos, Live Demonstrations

Small Group Practice with
Personal Feedback and Mentoring,

and Chances for Personal Work and Healing

During this four-day intensive workshop you will learn:

  • How to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with challenging, difficult clients.
  • How to deal skillfully with people who refuse to open up and talk to you; won’t listen; are relentlessly critical, narcissistic or controlling; always have to be right; use, abuse, or exploit you; complain endlessly; are hostile, threatening or violent; as well as clients who are overwhelmed, hopeless and suicidal.
  • How to develop more loving relationships with the people you care about—as well as the ones you don’t.
  • Powerful new techniques to help clients who are struggling with conflicts with loved ones, friends, or colleagues.
  • How to deal with the inner chatter and powerful feelings that make it so difficult to deal with conflict when you feel angry or hurt.
  • How to identify and modify the self-defeating beliefs that make us vulnerable to conflicts with others.
  • How to identify and melt away the intense outcome and process resistance that make the treatment of relationship problems so challenging.

Learn More and Register

* * *

Watch for the Awesome

December Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference

Anaheim, December 9 – 13, 2020

Sponsored by the Erikson Institute

It is always spectacular and I’ll be presenting, too!

Details TBA

154: Ask David–Relationship Problems: What can you do when people “ghost” you? What can I do when my wife doesn’t want sex? And more!

154: Ask David–Relationship Problems: What can you do when people “ghost” you? What can I do when my wife doesn’t want sex? And more!

Ask David Five Secrets Relationship Questions

Kate asks: I love listening to your podcasts and am currently reading my way through your book, Feeling Good. I appreciate that you have written and spoken about relationship problems at length, but in what I have read and heard so far I do not see how this can apply to the current climate of casual dating and hook up culture which is fueled by apps such as Tinder.

I don’t know how it’s possible to build relationships when the dominant mentality is that people are disposable. It feels like no matter how much I find truth in what my date says, stroke them and empathize with them, that they will disappear (‘ghost’) at the drop of a hat.

I think this may be a significant problem for many of your listeners, and would greatly appreciate your thoughts, as well as any practical steps on how to date in today’s world.

* * * 

Eli asks: Your work has helped me tremendously over the past 2 years. However, recently I’ve discovered something about myself that I don’t know how to change. I’d be really curious to hear your thoughts.

For some reason, when it comes to sex, it seems that I have a lot of self-worth wrapped up in my sex drive. I’m realizing when my wife and I have sex I feel like I’m on top of the world afterwards. I feel so positive the following few days and I feel mentally and emotionally healthy. But it’s devastatingly real that the reverse is true as well… when we don’t have sex (and particularly when I reach out and she’s not in the mood) and when a week or so passes that we don’t have sex, I find myself feeling very insecure. I feel ugly, unlovable and generally less valuable as a person.

Is there an exercise you would recommend for me to discover possible hidden thoughts/emotions that could be causing this? Is it possible to change this about myself?

I want to have a close, intimate relationship with my wife (sexually and non-sexually) but I also want to feel valuable and positive whether or not we’re sexually active.

PS – If, by chance, you address this on the podcast, could you refer to me as “Eli” or something else anonymous as you usually do.

Thank you for all you have do!

* * * 

Susan asks: You seem like a good person to ask this question partly because you are a man. Someone I know, I won’t say whom, told me he felt emasculated when I asked him to take my car to the gas station to get the wipers replaced.

He said that he should be able to replace them himself but doesn’t actually know how, so he would prefer if I took the car to the service station. I said that was stupid, granted not very diplomatic, and he said that’s what he gets for expressing his feelings, which I frequently complain he does not do.

To me “emasculated“ is more of a concept or a thought. I will not get into toxic masculinity and the patriarchy, but I am curious what you think. By the way, this person and I have benefited a lot from your relationship journal exercise, thankfully we did not need it this time 🙂

* * * 

Knaidu asks: Here’s a specific example which occurred whilst I was trying to use the disarming technique. It is one where I failed to use the technique.

Anyway, I was meeting a friend of mine, and was a running a few min late for our lunch appointment. I couldn’t send her text to let her know as I was driving. I arrived at least 5 min late. When I arrived she immediately said

“I knew it all along, you really don’t want to meet with me or actually have lunch with me!”

I tried to explain that I was stuck in a traffic jam and couldn’t text, but it didn’t work. Here’s what I said:

 “Please Mrs. X, I was stuck in a traffic jam and that’s why I am late. Have I ever said I don’t want to meet with you? And if I didn’t why have I bothered to arrive at all, I mean I could have just not arrived if I didn’t want to meet you!”

After I said that she stormed off.

I am afraid I could agree with her idea that I didn’t really want to meet with her, because the truth was I did want to meet but couldn’t help being late. I could agree with something that was not real to me and if I did try to agree, I would be lying to her.

Please help me, David and Rhonda!

Thanks for tuning in, and keep the great questions coming!

David and Rhonda


You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com. She is a Certified TEAM-CBT therapist and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. She also does forensic work in family court, but finds TEAM-CBT to be way more rewarding!

If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here

* * *

You may have missed the Calgary and South San Francisco intensives, but there will be two more awesome workshops
for you this fall.

High-Speed Treatment of Depression
and Anxiety Disorders

A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

November 4 – 7, 2019
The Atlanta, Georgia Intensive

Sponsored by Praxis

* * *

I also have a tremendous one-day workshop scheduled with my colleague, Dr. Jill Levitt, that will be potentially life- and career-changing (really!) You will learn powerful skills that will boost your clinical effectiveness and improve your relationships with friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

Advanced Empathy Tools for Connecting
with Challenging Patients,
Colleagues, Friends, and Loved Ones

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

Oct 6, 2019 | 7 CE hours, $135

Do you have a patient, colleague, friend or loved one who:

  • Complains endlessly but doesn’t listen to any of your good advice?
  • Appears irate, but insists s/he isn’t upset?
  • Refuses to express his / her feelings?
  • Never listens?
  • Argues, and always has to be right?
  • Always has to be in control?
  • Is relentlessly critical?
  • “Yes-but’s” when you try to make a point?
  • Insists you don’t really care—or understand—when you think you do?

Then you’re going to LOVE this workshop with David and Jill. You’ll learn about–

  • The Powerful “Law of Opposites”
  • How to find out how your patients really feel about you–if you dare!
  • How to transform therapeutic failure into success
  • How to talk to people who refuse to talk to you

You’ll also learn–

  • Why your worst therapeutic failure is actually your greatest success in disguise
  • The fine points of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication
  • Three Advanced Empathy Techniques: Multiple Choice Empathy, Changing the Focus, and Positive Reframing
  • And more

There will be lots of small group practice with expert feedback and mentoring to help you refine your skills!

Attend in person or
from your home via Live Streaming

Sign up early because we always sell-out for the in-person seats. Of course, there will be lots of skilled trainers to help the online participants with the small group exercises, so you’ll have a great experience either way.

My one-day workshops with Dr. Levitt are usually pretty awesome! It is always an honor to teach with Jill!

Learn More & Register


* * *

Coming up in 2020

High Speed Methods to Reduce Resistance
and Boost Motivation

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

Feb 9. 2020 |  7 CE hours. $135

Learn More & Register

 The Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit:
How to Crush Negative Thoughts

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

May 17, 2020 | 7 CE hours. $135

Learn More & Register


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.



* * *

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

* * *

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!

* * *

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

066: Five Secrets Training–The Disarming Technique

066: Five Secrets Training–The Disarming Technique

With Guest Expert, Helen Yeni-Komshian, MD

In this podcast, David, Helen and Fabrice focus on the Disarming Technique, which is the first of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. The definition of the Disarming Technique is finding truth in what the other person is saying, even if it seems blatantly wrong, or illogical, or exaggerated. And it’s based on David’s Law of Opposites.

David brings the Law of Opposites to life with an example of what was perhaps the most devastating criticism he ever received from a patient. He was angry and defensive, and didn’t want to agree with his patient because he was absolutely convinced she was “wrong.” But on the weekend, while he was jogging, he suddenly saw the truth in her cutting remarks, and when he shared his insight with her the following session, the impact was immediate and dramatic.

The use of the Disarming Technique required the death of David’s ego–and that wasn’t easy, because he felt angry and ashamed. David points out that sometimes our patients (as well as family members or people in general) are trying to lash out at us, and want to hurt us, because they feel so frustrated, alone, and abandoned–and asks if we have the courage to let our egos die for them. Are we willing to listen and to see the world through their eyes? This can be exceedingly challenging, and you may not be able to use this, or the other Five Secrets, effectively unless you have a powerful desire to produce some healing and to get close to the people you’re at odds with.

Helen gives a striking example of the power of the Disarming Technique in a case of family member who was complaining about bad drivers. This annoyed her because she was telling herself, “He shouldn’t complain.  He should keep a pleasant atmosphere in the car and ignore bad drivers!” But acting on this impulse only made the problem worse. She explains how hard it can be to use the Disarming Technique when you’re feeling annoyed, but illustrates the transformative power of a skillful disarming statement.

David says that the Disarming Technique is by far the most important and difficult of the Five Communication techniques, and explains how he worked for thirty minutes a day, for two months, to learn how to do it after he created this technique!

The homework assignment for this week will be to use the Disarming Technique on at least one occasion every day in your interactions with others. You can start out by saying something like “You’re right . . . ” or “I agree with you that . . . .”

He gives an example of how he once did this when riding home from work to on the commuter train when he lived in Philadelphia. He sat next to an exceedingly hostile man who bristling and angry, and complaining bitterly about just about everything.

Fabrice and I hope you enjoy our Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and some 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.


The Five Secrets and Legal Stuff: Shouldn’t I Defend Myself?

The Five Secrets and Legal Stuff: Shouldn’t I Defend Myself?

Hi visitors and FeelingGood.com members,

I will be featuring the Disarming Technique on an upcoming Feeling Good Podcast shortly, along with the other four Secrets of Effective Communication. Most people resist using the Five Secrets, especially the Disarming Technique, fearing they’ll look “weak” or that something bad will happen if they empathize and find the truth in what the critic is saying. So they continue to argue and defend themselves, and of course the conflicts will simply escalate.

Is this concern realistic?

I just got an amazing email from an Ob-Gyn colleague who had to participate in a legal deposition, and he decided to use the Five Secrets. See what you think! He kindly gave me permission to publish it in a blog.

Hi David,

This may be silly but I thought to share!

I have just come from a deposition as a plaintiff’s expert. I have given several expert testimonies before. As you know, depositions can be brutal, particularly in obstetric alleged mismanagement and newborn injury.

In my last two depositions, based on Katie’s (my wife’s) suggestion, I implemented empathy (the Five Secrets of Effective Communication) with the opposing attorney, even though I thought empathy with a lawyer would be more doltish than negotiating with a shark! I had previously thought of the situation as a dichotomy, in terms of me vs. you.

However, the Five Secrets of Effective Communication turned the last two depositions on its ear. I avoided all confrontation and came out feeling confident that my word was a fair representation of the patient’s interest. During the deposition and after, my anxiety was at a 10–15% level as opposed to 95% during previous depositions, and my anger was 0% as opposed to 80% previously.

Hope to see you in 2018, happy holidays!

Mark Taslimi, MD
Obstetrics & Gynecology, MFM

Thanks, Mark, your email was music to my ears!

Of course, Mark has been working really hard to master the Five Secrets, and it’s paying off.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to treat one of America’s top and most feared attorneys. He was a very powerful, but vulnerable and real, individual. He was intrigued with the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. One of the most important techniques is the Disarming Technique, which means finding truth in a criticism, rather than arguing and defending yourself.

Many of my colleagues have asked, “But if I agree with an angry patient, won’t that just open me up to a lawsuit? Shouldn’t I defend myself?” You may have had similar concerns when you felt wrongfully attacked or criticized by a love one, a colleague, or a friend.

So I asked my patient what he thought. Should therapists and physicians use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication and agree with patients who criticize them? Or should we defend ourselves when criticized by angry patients or their families?

He said he’d answer my question if I agreed NOT to tell my colleagues. He said that if physicians and mental health professionals learned to use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, he’d be out of business! He said that patients rarely sue for simple malpractice–they typically sue for one BIG reason: the doctor wouldn’t listen.

He said he had a way of making doctors listen, and emphasized that if therapists and physician used the Five Secrets with skill, compassion, and humility, they’d rarely, if ever, get sued.

He also said that if you were sued, and you were on the witness stand, being cross-examined by an aggressive attorney who was suing you, and you used the Five Secrets skillfully, the jury would rarely or NEVER find you guilty!

So there you have it. Stay tuned for the upcoming series on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. Those podcasts may change your life!


My live FB broadcasts have been moved to 3 PM Pacific (California) Time every Sunday afternoon. I hope you can join us! The show is for therapists and the general public alike. If you cannot join us live, you can download the shows and listen any time that’s convenient for you!

Feel free to submit questions you’d like me to cover in these shows. Your questions drive the discussion each Sunday afternoon!


How to Find My FB Broadcasts

Click on my Facebook tab on https://feelinggood.com/ if you’d like to watch me each week on my Live Facebook broadcast each Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. PST. Make sure to “like” my Public Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DavidBurnsMD/ so you can watch it on my page or yours.

Join me as I answer mental health questions from viewers — therapists and non-therapists alike — from all over the world. Type your question in the Facebook feed and I’ll do my best to answer it.

If you miss the broadcast you can watch the saved videos on my Facebook page! Also, viewers can watch these Live Facebook broadcasts as well as other interesting TEAM-CBT videos on the Feeling Good Institute’s YouTube channel!

The David and Fabrice Feeling Good Podcasts

Fabrice and I hope you also enjoy our Feeling Good Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and some five star ratings if you like what we’re doing! We are already enjoying 25,000 downloads per month from listeners like you. Thank you so much for your support of our podcasts!


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.