146: When Helping Doesn’t Help!

146: When Helping Doesn’t Help!

Hi Listeners:

Most people do not do a very good at helping loved ones, colleagues, or friends who are upset and complaining. Have you ever noticed that when you try to help or give advice they just keep complaining? This can be very frustrating–fortunately there’s a fabulous solution to this universal problem. 

This special podcast features our guest, Dr. Jill Levitt, the Director of Clinical Training at the Feeling Good Institute. Jill is also one of the teachers at David’s Tuesday evening psychotherapy training group at Stanford, as is our esteemed podcast host, Dr. Rhonda.

Jill describes the “helping” errors she made when her son became despondent after some painful foot surgery. Following the surgery, he was in a cast for weeks, and when the cast was removed, he discovered that he could not move or feel his toes. This is common, and results from muscle atrophy when you are in a cast, and is not dangerous.

However, Jill’s son was very discouraged and frustrated, and told his mom that he didn’t feel like going to school and thought he wasn’t ever going to get better. Jill felt exhausted from all the demands on her that day, trying to get him off to school, and trying to get to work on time, and so forth, and gave in to the urge to say things like, “You’re going to be fine,” which were totally ineffective. 

Jill describes a similar error that she made when her mother also complained about foot problems and the need for surgery. Her mother loves to hike and was upset that she’d be unable to hike for some time. Jill, perhaps feeling a little impatient with her mom, suggested other forms of exercise, like swimming, and this simply increased her mother’s complaints.

I’ll bet you’ve experienced this same thing when you tried to “help” someone who was complaining. Even therapists make this type of error all the time. 

Rhonda, Jill, and I discussed the most common errors we all make when we lose patience with someone who’s complaining, and illustrated the techniques that are effective. As usual, they involve the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, especially Disarming, Stroking, and Feeling Empathy, along with some compassionate I Feel Statements.

We also discussed the phenomenon of drifting in and out of Enlightenment, a concept first described by the Buddha. It is easy to drift out of enlightenment when we are rushing around, trying to get breakfast on the table, lunches made, kids to school, and ourselves off to work. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated at those moments.

Part of the process may include forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes, and using the 5-Secrets to repair relationships with our loved ones when we do. In fact, this can even lead to deeper and more loving relationships. 

We also discussed a closely related and possibly controversial theme–is it okay to use the Five Secrets just to get someone to stop complaining, especially if you’re angry with that person and they tend to complain most or all of the time? Do you always have to use the Five Secrets in a totally sincere manner? 

I want to thank Dr. Levitt for joining us in this inspiring and illuminating podcast. Whenever Jill teaches, the heavens open up, and this podcast is no exception. Jill is simply a fabulous therapist, teacher, and human being! 

Click here if you are interested in some online training with Jill!

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.

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

* * *

There will be three awesome intensives
for you this summer and fall!


July 15 – 18, 2019
Calgary, Canada four-day intensive
Sponsored by Jack Hirose & Assoc.


July 29 – August 1, 2019
South San Francisco four-day intensive
Sponsored by Praxis


November 4 – 7, 2019
Atlanta, Georgia four-day intensive
Sponsored by Praxis


106: Ask Dr. David and Dr. Helen — My Husband Doesn’t Make me Feel Loved! What Can I Do?

106: Ask Dr. David and Dr. Helen — My Husband Doesn’t Make me Feel Loved! What Can I Do?

Back by Popular Demand Again–Dr. Helen Yeni-Komshian

This is the second podcast on relationship problems. with Dr. Helen Yeni-Komshian. In today’s podcast, we address four questions from listeners like you:

  1. Our marriage lacks intimacy. What can I do? A podcast fan named David explains that his relationship with his wife is no longer intimate; he complains that they only talk about day to day things on a superficial level. David wants to know if he needs to inject some conflict into the relationship to make it more meaningful or exciting.
  2. Why is my wife so critical of me? David wants to know why his wife constantly peppers him and batters him with critical questions, and what he can about it.
  3. Why is my friend so critical and dogmatic? Rajesh describes a friend who argues endlessly and accuses Rajesh of being irritating. His friend says, “Anyone would be upset when they try to talk to you!” What’s up? Why is this happening? Who’s really to blame?
  4. Adarah feels lonely and tells her husband what he can do to make her feel loved–but it just doesn’t seem to work! Why? And what CAN she do to improve her marriage?

I think you will enjoy the lively dialogue between Fabrice, Helen and myself and see us struggling and making some mistakes, too, when we try to model more effective responses based on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication! We also stress, once again, the importance of Interpersonal Decision-Making any time you run into a conflict with a friend, colleague, or loved one.

For more information on healing troubled relationships, you can read my book, Feeling Good Together, which is available as a paperback on Amazon. In addition, you can listen to our previous podcasts on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, beginning with Podcast #65 (Enjoy Greater Intimacy) and several of the podcasts that follow.


PS Listeners who wish to contact Dr. Helen can do so via email: helen at dryeni.com. You can also visit her website, www.dryeni.com.


Coming Up Soon–

TEAM-CBT Methods for the Treatment of Relationship Difficulties

Step by Step Training for Therapists

by David Burns, MD and Jill Levitt, PhD

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 is 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 by this dynamic teaching duo!

Sunday October 28th, 2018 (9am-4pm PST) 6 CE*s. $135

To register, go to Feeling Good Institute

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Rapid Recovery from Trauma

a two-day workshop

by David D. Burns, MD

October 4-5, 2018–Woodland Hills, CA


November 1-2, 2018–Pasadena, CA

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

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

Register Now!




David and Jill Show #3 Sets Record!

David and Jill Show #3 Sets Record!

Watch the Third David and Jill Show on Intimacy Training!

Hi all!

The third David and Jill Show on Intimacy Training with guest Mike Christensen has set a new record of 1.6 thousand viewers in the first two days alone. You can still watch it!

David and Jill begin by reading a question from a viewer named Don who was having a conflict with his girlfriend. David, Jill, and Mike go review the five steps of the Relationship Journal and show how Don how he can transform his argument into a more open and loving dialogue using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. During the show, Jill notices a live viewer who wrote, “I don’t like Jill” in the comment column. You will LOVE Jill’s masterful response, which illustrates the whole point of the show in real time. Then Mike describes how he bravely handled a painful criticism from his daughter who complained that he sounded phony.

Many people believe that the Relationship Journal is all about learning how to communicate more effectively, but it’s not. It’s really about the “Great Death” of the ego and how to develop interpersonal enlightenment. It’s a spiritual tool, which is exciting, but be careful–the death of the ego can be painful! Of course, the reward of greater trust and love is definitely worthwhile. The third David and Jill Show is definitely a “must see” show, and you can catch it any time that’s convenient for you.

Yesterday’s Feeling Good Podcast–live therapy with Daisy–also drew exceptionally well and was enthusiastically received. During the session, they address the question, “What’s the secret of a meaningful life?” Make sure you catch it if you have not listened yet!

Also, remember to register for the one-day David and Jill workshop on Sunday, May 20, 2018. It’s for mental health professionals. You’ll have a chance to learn the latest TEAM-CBT techniques and work on your own insecurities and feelings of self-doubt as well. We promise to bring roughly 60% of the audience into a state of joyous enlightenment, so don’t miss it!


Advanced, High-Speed TEAM-CBT for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety:
A Workshop for Therapists with Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt


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.


062:  Ask David. Five Secrets of Effective Communication / Psychotherapy Homework

062: Ask David. Five Secrets of Effective Communication / Psychotherapy Homework

Will people manipulate you if they catch on to the fact that you’re using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication? Is it fair to ask depressed patients to do psychotherapy homework between sessions when they’re already struggling with a loss of motivation?

In today’s podcast, David and Fabrice address two questions submitted by listeners:

  1. Robert asks whether it would be a problem if you are using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication (the Disarming Technique, Thought and Feeling Empathy, Inquiry, “I Feel” Statements, and Stroking) with someone who is already familiar with these techniques. Isn’t there a danger that they might see through you and  therefore thwart your efforts and manipulate you?
  2. Avi asks about the importance of psychotherapy homework in TEAM-CBT. He points out that the loss of motivation is one of the central symptoms of depression, so aren’t we in a catch 22 type of situation since patients might not have the strength and perseverance to do their homework?

David and Fabrice love your questions so keep them coming!

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.

How to Leave an iTunes Review of the Feeling Good Podcasts

How to Leave an iTunes Review of the Feeling Good Podcasts

Hi feelinggood.com visitors,

At least one listener has had problems leaving an iTunes review for our Feeling Good Podcasts. Fabrice has created some simple to follow instructions if you need help on this.

Fabrice and I hope you enjoy our Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and some additional five star ratings. I think we’ve gotten all or nearly all five star ratings so far. If you are ever upset by anything we broadcast, feel free to email me with your concerns!

Fabrice and I will be recording a special series on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication tomorrow morning. We plan to publish these podcasts soon. They will include applications for therapists who want to improve their empathy skills with challenging patients / clients, as well as applications for all of us so we can improve our relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues.

We will feature one of the five techniques each week, with “assignments” for you so you can work on each technique for a week, and then the next week you can work on another technique between podcasts. I think it will be fun and interesting for you! The Five Secrets seem simple, but they actually require quite a lot of commitment and practice if you want to get good at using them. In addition, when you use them, you have to speak from the heart, in a genuine way. If you use them as techniques to try to manipulate someone, they will not be effective in most cases.

I’ve had a ton of great questions from all of you recently, so we’ll probably have some more “Ask David” Podcasts. In addition, I’ll be answering questions on my live FB “radio show” which has been moved to 3 PM west coast time. Feel free to join us on FB on Sundays!



If you are reading this blog on social media, I appreciate it! I would like to invite you to visit my website, http://www.FeelingGood.com, as well. There you will find a wealth of free goodies, including my Feeling Good blogs, my Feeling Good Podcasts with host, Dr. Fabrice Nye, and the Ask Dr. David blogs as well, along with announcements of upcoming workshops, and tons of resources for mental health professionals as well as patients!

Once you link to my blog, you can sign up using the widget at the top of the column to the right of each page. Please forward my blogs to friends as well, especially anyone with an interest in mood problems, psychotherapy, or relationship conflicts.

Thanks! David