Learning TEAM-CBT Requires Hard Work — But the Results Can Be Amazing!

Learning TEAM-CBT Requires Hard Work — But the Results Can Be Amazing!

This is a terrific email I received this morning.

Hi Dr. Burns,

I first attended your 2-hour workshop at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim in 2013. That got me started!

Then I took your 2-day training on High Speed Trauma Treatment in Pasadena 2015. That got me hooked!

Since January 2017, I’ve listened to your podcasts, each about 4 or 5 times.

I’ve read your Feeling Good Handbook – did all the exercises.

I’ve read your Feeling Good Together – did all the exercises – and my wife is practicing these.

Working through your book, When Panic Attacks, now.

Changed my life! My marriage went from pretty good to perfect! I mean perfect! All the complaints I had about my wife disappeared. She didn’t change anything!!!

What changed?

In my marriage I realized I was creating the problem I was fighting against. Yes, that’s the truth. The Five Secrets showed me my mistakes: 1. Defensiveness 2. Truth 3. Solving the Problem, and others. As a result of the Five Secrets my wife has now become my best friend. I use the Five Secrets at work too and have never felt more confident and relaxed.

My therapy practice continues to change dramatically. Finally, I’ve begun to use the Paradoxical Agenda Setting effectively. This was tough for me to learn. After a few failures, and soul searching, I’m beginning now to truly see and feel the strength and beauty of my clients’ resistance. The energy of our alliance is amazing, and you’re right, when you have that power, it’s a short jump to the elimination of symptoms.

One quick example: An African American woman in 40s had suffered from feelings of inadequacy 100% of the time since she was little. After listing the beauty of her inadequacy, she decided that she was ready to get rid of it. Why? She said it was “a thorn in my flesh.” We used the list of Cognitive Distortions, with positive thought replacement, and the Acceptance Paradox to defeat her feeling of inadequacy.

She realized that she had a choice: Live with trying NOT to be inadequate (“a thorn in my flesh”) or accept feeling inadequate in some things. Upon realizing this, she laughed and said, “I’m not feeling inadequate anymore. Feeling inadequate is normal.” She couldn’t believe it. Her scores on the depression and anxiety tests went to 0, and she left session elated. I also received perfect empathy scores. All of this transformation happened in one (2 hour) session.

I already have 4 or 5 other examples recently.

I am just so grateful to you. You’ve been generous in correspondences as well. You are truly a treasure.

All the best,


(Case study disguised to protect identity.)

Michael Mikulski, LMFT
Director of MFT Training, Pacific Clinics
Pasadena, CA 91107

Thanks, Mike! You’ve “got it,” so to speak, thanks to your hard work and commitment. That’s what it takes to learn TEAM-CBT! Keep up the fantastic work you are doing! I am so glad that at least some therapists are learning these new methods and bring rapid relief to so many people who are suffering!

Your fantastic email also illustrates the importance of Healing Yourself. If we, the presumed experts, can use our techniques to bring more joy and intimacy into our own lives, then we have credibility, and our status changes from technician to healer. That is one reason why I emphasize the importance of doing personal work in my Tuesday psychotherapy training seminar at Stanford, on my Sunday hikes, and at my workshops. It is, to my way of thinking, an essential ingredient of psychotherapy training.

I also want to thank my esteem podcast host, Dr. Fabrice Nye, for making the Feeling Good Podcasts a reality! We just finished another recording session at noon today and really enjoy bring this information to all of you!

All the best,



Therapist Resistance!

Picture 9Hi web visitors,

Here is a self-photo I just clicked working here in my office!

I just got permission to publish an email from a mental health professional who has been listening to the podcasts. I wanted to publish it because his experience is the same as mine when he points out that so many of his colleagues appear to be stuck in their ways and refuse to open up to new, data-based, researched treatment methods that work so much better than traditional endless talk therapy. To me, this resistance to evolution in our field has been a source of ongoing frustration, although I’m sure I have some unenlightened “Should Statements” triggering my emotions!

And clearly, mental health professional ARE hungry, open, and eager to learn new and vastly more effective treatment methods. But when the Copernican Revolution first appeared, there were a hundreds years of oppression and attempted suppression of the new ideas by the established Catholic church, who did not want to be challenged.

At any rate, I have also found, like Ash below, that students who know nothing, as well as members of the general public, are far more open to the new and exciting developments in psychotherapy, including TEAM-CBT, as well as a number of other promising new methods.

So here is his note:

Dear Dr. Burns,

I hope you are keeping well. Your work has been indispensable for my practice. I routinely direct clients to your podcast and have been able to provide very effective counselling that is also efficient and affordable. Moreover, I have been teaching at a local University, as well as joining a local “MeetUp” for T.E.A.M., and spreading the word to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues remain closed to the notion of evidence-based techniques but my clients and students have been much more open-minded!

I did receive an update for the therapist’s toolkit but that was some time ago. I think it might have been 2006. In any case, I wonder if I could get the latest update. I have seen you in person for workshops on three occasions and I love “When Panic Attacks”. Thank you so much for everything.

Warmest regards,


This was his reply to my request to publish his kind email:

Hi Dr. Burns,

My goodness, you’re fast! Yes, by all means, please publish my message. Please feel free to name me if you so wish. We need all the help we can get.

By the way, I’m good friends with Geoff Mudaliar, who has been working very diligently and sincerely to get more people on board. He’s the one heading our local T.E.A.M. on MeetUp.com.

Take care and I look forward to more podcasts and TED talks,

Ashif Kassam MA, RPN, BSc, CCC

780 902-1700, Lumina Counselling Services


Can You Treat an Addiction to Romantic Fantasies?

Can You Treat an Addiction to Romantic Fantasies?

Hi Dr. Burns,

I have really enjoyed your podcasts – they make Mondays the best day of the week!

I am just a lay person but I’m very fascinated with how differently all of our minds operate. One thing you have talked about is treating addiction, and the resistance to treatment. I’m curious if you have ever seen a case where the addict is fixated on a fantasy, an idea in their mind that they perceive to be special somehow, but would be ordinary to any other onlooker. Specifically the example I had in mind was a romantic fantasy.

This type of addiction becomes devastating when the addict becomes aware of the reality and how different it is from their fantasy. Is there any way to cure a person who is addicted to a romantic fantasy? I think there are some who refer to this as “limerence” but I don’t think this is a widely accepted terminology.


Hi Susan,

Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoy the Feeling Good Podcasts, and I hope more and more people will sign up for them. Your support really encourages Fabrice and me!

Yes, I’ve treated many individuals who were addicted to some romantic fantasy, or some other thought or fantasy they were hooked on. You are right to call this an addiction, because the fantasy can provide a kind of mental high.

I cannot do therapy in this medium, but I can give you a general example of how I might proceed to work with someone with this problem. Keep in mind that your specific details will be different, so much of this will not apply to you.

The first thing I’d do, after empathizing for a period of time, so my patient felt completely understood and accepted, would be to help him or her list all the really great things about the fantasy. It is exciting, it provides distraction from other problems that may be causing anxiety, and it lets you hang on to the person you are fantasizing about, without having to let him or her go. It also shows that you have high ideals for your romantic life, care a great deal about others, and value loving relationships. Your fantasies are also a kind of fabulous compliment to the person you are fantasizing about. And, the fantasy may protect you from the problems of dating real people, who can seem pretty darn flawed and annoying in comparison with our fantasies about our ideal partner, who looks fantastic and fulfills our every dream. In addition, you can avoid the whole reality of dating, which can be massively time-consuming, energy draining, anxiety-provoking, and frustrating.

Then I would say, given all these benefits, why in the world would you want to give that up?

Now the ball would be in your court to try to persuade me to work with you, and to try to convince me that you really do want to change. If you cannot convince me, then I would “Sit with Open Hands,” letting you know that it is totally okay with me if you keep fantasizing. As long as you enjoy it, and it doesn’t cause problems, there is really no good reason to change.

But if you did want to change, there are a host of powerful methods we could use, such as Self-Monitoring (tracking each time you have the fantasy, using a wrist counter, like golfers wear on their wrists to keep track of their score), the Devil’s Advocate Technique, scheduled Fantasy Breaks, and more. We could also work on improving your dating skills and relationships with people you are interested in, with Smile and Hello Practice, Flirting Training, Rejection Training, the Dave Letterman Technique, Shame Attacking Exercises, Self-Disclosure, and more.

A business graduate student came to me for help because he’d broken up with his girlfriend, who was now dating another fellow in his class. And he kept having fantasies of the two of them having sex together. This disturbed him greatly, and made it hard to pay attention in class, but he couldn’t shake the fantasies from his mind. He also started driving past her apartment over and over, to see if the other fellow’s car was parked outside.

After trying several techniques that did not help, I suggested he wear a golf score counter, and count how many times each day he had these distracting sexual fantasies of his ex-girlfriend making love to her new boyfriend. I told him that all he had to do was just click his wrist clicker, and then just let the fantasy go and carry on with what he was doing.

At the end of the day, I told him to record the total on his calendar and reset the counter to zero for the next day. I told him to keep it up for four weeks, since the fantasies often diminish in the third week.

For the first three weeks, he averaged more than 90 fantasies per day. Then the numbers started falling, and by half way through the fourth week, they disappeared entirely, along with his depression.

Any one technique like that might, or might not, help. That’s why I developed dozens and dozens of techniques to help individuals who are feeling unhappy, or who are addicted to people or substances that are making their lives miserable.

One woman kept having romantic fantasies after her boyfriend broke up with her. She kept thinking about how wonderful he was and remembering some incredibly loving moment. After spending some time deciding whether she was really motivated to let go of the memories—since that would mean having to grieve his loss and admit he was gone—we tried a number of techniques. The one that helped was Image Substitution. Each time she had some wonderful memory of him, she would switch to some disturbing memory of him—and there were many! That did the trick nicely!

Thanks, Susan for your excellent question. I think many people can identify with thinking we “need” some person or something to feel happy and fulfilled. I could write much more on this topic, but this is already long.

You might also want to read my recent post on “Is Love an Adult Human Need?”