Posts About The Disarming Technique

Feeling Good

#179: My Husband is Leaving Me. I Think He Needs Help!

#179: My Husband is Leaving Me. I Think He Needs Help!

Rhonda and David are joined today by Dr. Michael Greenwald, who was in the studio following his recording of last week’s podcast. We address a fascinating question submitted by a podcast fan:

Sally asks” “How can I help my depressed husband who is leaving me?”

Hello Dr David,

My husband is going through severe depression and anxiety. He blames me frequently for all the bad decisions he made, and he says he married the wrong woman.

He regrets almost every decision he made and says he made the decision [to marry me] under my pressure. Our marriage of 20 years is almost leading to separation.

I don’t want to separate, but I don’t know how I can improve the situation. He doesn’t want to go to any doctor.

Do you think if I decide to go to TEAM certified therapist, they can work on me to get him out of his depression? If yes, how many sessions will it take?


David, Rhonda and Michael discuss this sad and difficult situation that Sally describes. Feeling loved and cared about is vitally important to nearly all of us, and when an important relationship is threatened, it can be extremely painful.

It sounds like Sally’s husband may be on the verge of leaving her. David describes a powerful and paradoxical strategy he described in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, that he has often used to help abandoned wives. The approach is the opposite of “chasing,” and is based on experimental research on the most effective ways of shaping the behavior of rats!

It also sounds like Sally and her husband have some significant difficulties communicating in a loving and supportive way, like nearly all couples who are not getting along, and certainly some couples therapy or consultation might be a useful step. However, the prognosis for couples therapy isn’t terribly positive unless both partners are strongly committed to each other, and willing to work on their own problems, as opposed to trying to change or “fix” the other person.

We place a strong emphasis on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, especially the listening skills, when criticized by a patient, family member, colleague, or just about anyone. If Sally committed herself to learning to use these skills—which are NOT easy to learn—she might be able to develop a more loving and satisfying relationship with her husband, whether or not they separate or stay together. David expresses the opinion that her fixation on “helping” or “fixing” him might be misguided, and might actually irritate him and drive him away.

Rhonda, Michael and David illustrate David’s “Intimacy Exercise,” which is a way of learning to use the Five Secrets, and they practice with three of the criticisms Sally has heard from her husband:

  1. “You pressured me into marrying you.”
  2. “You’re to blame for all the bad decisions I’ve made.”
  3. “I married the wrong woman.”

After each exchange, the person playing Sally’s role receives a grade (A, B, C, etc.) along with a brief analysis of why, followed by role-reversals. These role play demonstrations might be interesting and useful for you, too, because you’ll see how this exercise works, and your eyes will also be opened to just how challenging it can be to respond to a painful criticism in a skillful way, and how mind-blowing it is when you do it right. You will also see that trained mental health professionals often make mistakes when learning these skills, and how you can increase your skills through this type of practice.

David emailed Sally with some additional resources that could be helpful to her.

Hi Sally,

Thank you so much for your question, and for giving us the permission to read and discuss your question on a podcast. We will, however, change your name to protect your identity.

For referrals for treatment, you can check the referral page on my website,  or go to the website of the Feeling Good Institute. There may be some excellent therapists in your area, too.

I would recommend the recent Feeling Good Podcast on “How to Help, and How NOT to Help.” . The idea is that listening is sometimes far more effective and respectful than trying to “help” someone who is angry with you.

Also, the podcasts on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, starting with #65, could be helpful, along with my book, Feeling Good Together. There’s also search function on almost every page of my website, and if you type in “Five Secrets,” you’ll get a wealth of free resources.

Your husband might benefit from my book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, available on Amazon for less than $10. Research studies indicate that more than 50% of depressed individuals improve substantially within four weeks of being given a copy of this book, with no other treatment. However, the depressed individual must be looking for help, and it’s not clear to me whether the treatment is more your idea, or his idea.

You seem to be asking for training in how to treat your husband. Perhaps, instead, you could learn to respond to him more skillfully and effectively using the Five Secrets. Learning how to do psychotherapy requires many years of training, and since he is not asking you for treatment or for help, that plan does not seem likely to be effective, at least based on what I know.

In fact, trying to “treat” someone who is clearly annoyed with you runs the danger of creating more tension and anger, but this is not consultation, just general teaching. You would have to consult with a mental health professional for suggestions. Obviously, we cannot treat you or make any meaningful treatment recommendations in this context.

But there is no doubt in my mind that there are many things you can do to improve the way you communicate with him and relate to him, if that would interest you. But this would require looking at your own role in the relationship, as well as lots of hard work and practice to learn to use the Five Secrets.


David D. Burns, M.D.

Thanks for listening to today’s podcast!




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.

Coming up in 2020

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.

With Drs. David Burns and Jill Levitt

May 17, 2020 | 7 CE hours. $135

Learn More & Register


113: Ask David: How Can I Overcome My Perfectionism?

113: Ask David: How Can I Overcome My Perfectionism?

Hi everybody! In today’s podcast we answer five challenging questions submitted by fans and listeners such as you!

1. Steven asks about the best route to take if you want to learn and practice TEAM-CBT? Is the degree important? What’s the best degree? Should you go to school to become a psychologist,  clinical social worker, addiction counselor, psychiatrist, professional counselor, pastoral counselor, marriage and family therapist, life coach, or what? There are so many degrees and potential paths that my head is spinning!

2. Sandy asks how to overcome long-standing, entrenched perfectionistic tendencies.

3.  Rin asks about the Burns Depression checklist and the criteria for depression in the DSM. He is (understandably) confused about the so-called “somatic” symptoms of depression, like insomnia or changes in appetite.

For example, some “experts” would argue that the following are all symptoms of clinical depression:

  • insomnia or the opposite—sleeping too much;
  • increased appetite or the opposite–decreased appetite;
  • loss of interest in sex, or the opposite, sex addiction;
  • loss of interest in work, or the opposite, being a workaholic.

How can opposite symptoms be symptoms of depression? Does this make sense? Are these really the symptoms of depression, or simply non-specific symptoms? What are the five key symptoms of real depression?

4. Kevin is a therapist with a simple question: How do I get over my desire to help?

5. Amanda asks how to use the Disarming Technique with a patient who thinks he or she isn’t making any progress in the therapy.

Thanks for listening to our Feeling Good Podcasts. Please tell your friends about us or forward this to them so our numbers can continue to grow. We are now in the range of 60,000 downloads per month, thanks to all of you! Fabrice and I greatly appreciate your support!

David and Fabrice


Dr. Fabrice Nye currently practices in Redwood City, California and treats individuals throughout the world via teletherapy. You can reach him at fabrice@life.net. You can reach Dr. Burns at David@feelinggood.com. If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.

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A Cool Upcoming Workshop for YOU!

Two great locations: SF and Portland

plus Live Streaming from Portland
so you can attend from anywhere in the world.


Powerful, Fast-Acting, Drug-Free Techniques 
to 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, 2018: 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 teachers!

Sponsored by PESI

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

Report on the Whistler Intensive / More Training Opportunities for You!*

Report on the Whistler Intensive / More Training Opportunities for You!*

Hi everybody,

last week’s psychotherapy training intensive in Whistler, Canada was just awesome. Oops, Lisa Kelley has urged me not to go over the top with language, so let me say it was arguably a bit above average. In fact, the ratings for all four days were the highest I’ve received–by a big margin, actually–in the last 25 years or more of doing workshops. I was thrilled and grateful to have such a warm and responsive group.

My dear colleague, Jack Hirose, who organized the conference, said the ratings were the highest he has seen in the many hundreds of workshops that he has sponsored in Canada with a variety of speakers. I was grateful for the skillful help of my dear colleague, Mike Christensen, who attended and assisted greatly with the teaching. He was also my co-therapist in the live demonstration on the morning of the second day of the conference with an audience volunteer who had experienced severe trauma and abuse.

The session was riveting. We were fortunate to have it filmed in gorgeous ultra-high definition video, and I hope to make it available to you as part of a training program before long.

If you would like to attend a similar conference, consider the upcoming San Francisco intensive in a few weeks. I will try my hardest to make it a little above average, too!

My San Francisco summer intensive is always one of my BEST training programs of the year because the group is quite small. This gives you lots of chances for Q and A and personal connection with me, plus lots of chances for networking with your colleagues. In addition, many individuals from my Tuesday group at Stanford will join me to provide feedback for you during the small group exercises.

Here are the specifics:

Coming in San Francisco in August

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact http://www.iahb.org/
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider this intensive! it is simplly


Seating is limited. Register now  if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you in San Francisco in August! David

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Also coming up soon on my Sunday FB Live Broadcasts

Sunday, July 15th, 2018, at 3 PM: The Disarming Technique–Taking a Deeper Dive, with special guest, Mike Christensen

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, at 3 PM: The Shouldy Approach to Life–How to Crush Should Statements, with special guest, Jill Levitt, PhD

If you attend live, you can ask questions and be a part of the show. However, they are all recorded so you can tune in anytime on my Public FB page!

Attention: Mike and I need your help for the program this coming Sunday, July 15th. We are going to show you how to put the lie to any criticism by agreeing with the criticism. This is called the Disarming Technique, one of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. But to bring the show to life in a personal way, we need you to provide challenging criticisms you may have heard from angry clients, or from friends, family, or colleagues.

No one has emailed me with any good criticisms yet. This is your chance for individual feedback from us!

People often complain along these lines: “But how can you agree with a criticism that simply isn’t true?” Well, we’ll show you! But you need to send us examples of criticisms you have received that “simply aren’t true!”


No FB Show tomorrow, July 8, 2018

No FB Show tomorrow, July 8, 2018

Next Show will be Sunday, July 15, 2018 at 3 PM PST

Hi everybody. There will be no FB show tomorrow, Sunday, July 8, 2018. The next show will be on July 15th on the topic of “The Disarming Technique: Taking a Deeper Dive.” Mike Christensen will return to do the show with me.

The Disarming Technique is tremendously powerful and important, but extremely challenging to learn. Essentially, you agree with a criticism, even if it sounds wrong, exaggerated, or unfair. The Disarming Technique is based on the Law of Opposites which states:

If you defend yourself and disagree with a criticism that sounds totally wrong or unfair, you will immediately prove that the criticism is valid, and the person who is criticizing you will stop be even more convinced, and rightfully so, that the criticism is absolutely correct. This is a paradox.

If. in contrast, you immediately and genuinely agree with a criticism that sounds totally wrong or unfair, you will immediately put the lie to it, and the person who is criticizing you will stop believing it. This is also a paradox.

Therapists and the general public alike struggle with this mightily! They always ask, “But what if there is no truth in the criticism? How can you possibly agree with a false criticism?”

To prepare for this incredibly important and hopefully exciting show, please send me one or more criticisms you have received, from a patient or from a friend or family member or colleague or customer, that you are convinced could not be true. Mike and I will show you how to use the Disarming Technique to put the lie to the criticism.

NOTE: Please do not email me with vague, general questions about this technique, as general dialogue usually will not be productive. Instead, provide me with some specific examples, please. Thanks!

I just returned from the Canadian intensive in Whistler, BC. Mike Christensen helped me with the teaching and therapy. It was a fabulous experience, and we received the highest ratings I’ve had for workshops in the last 25 years or more. It was an amazing experience in beautiful setting with some beautiful people! I have to thank Jack Hirose and Associates for sponsoring this program!

Even better, Mike and I did therapy with a volunteer who’d experience some pretty awful traumas. The therapy was magical. so inspiring, and arguably almost unbelievable! It was filmed by Mike Manor, a therapist and videographer, who happened to attend the workshop. I am hoping to do something with the video, as it will make for some pretty powerful learning for therapists and for everyone, to be honest!

The San Francisco intensive is coming up in early August, so check it out if you’re interested. It is usually an excellent if not fabulous event as well! See below for details.

I apologize for being over the top in my descriptions of some events, but sometimes, this is warranted, I think.

You can find our previous FB Live recordings, as well as the one scheduled for the 15th, on my public FB page.


* * *

Coming in San Francisco in August

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact http://www.iahb.org/
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider an intensive! They are


Register right away if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you in San Francisco in August!

Solution to David’s Tuesday Tip #10*

Solution to David’s Tuesday Tip #10*

This was yesterday’s paradoxical tip of the day!

There’s no such thing as a false criticism.

The best way to explain this is through a specific criticism you have received from someone. You can nearly always, if not always, find some truth in it. When people criticize you, they always have something in mind about you that’s bugging them. And even if they express their criticism in an exaggerated way, you can still find the truth in what they are saying if you are motivated to really SEE and comprehend what they are trying to tell you.

The most obvious example of a tough criticism to agree with might be the outburst from a hospitalized individual with schizophrenia who angrily says something to you that sounds delusional, like “I know you are from the FBI plotting to have me killed, and don’t you deny it!”

Is there some truth in this criticism? Of course there is, and if you think about your therapy session with this individual yesterday, you might recall that it was pretty tense, so you could say something like this:

“Jim, I have to agree with you. We’re on the same page. Yesterday I thought I didn’t do a good job making you feel safe or cared about during our therapy session, and I don’t think I communicated enough warmth or respect. It was awkward for me to, and I’ve been criticizing myself as well, especially since I really do like you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling anxious, scared, mistrustful, and even angry with me. Can you tell me what that was like for you? Your feelings are really important, and I want to hear more about what you’ve been thinking and feeling.”

That’s just off the top of my head, and you could probably improve on it. But the odds are about 90% that Jim will calm right down and open up. Of course, your statement has to be genuine, and it has to come from the heart, or it won’t be effective.

The statement I wrote is an example of the Disarming Technique, which is one of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. When you us the Disarming Technique, you find truth in what the other person is saying, even if it seems totally untrue or unfair. And the moment you do this, if you do it skillfully, the other personal will nearly always stop believing their criticism. This is a paradox. In other words, you can usually put the lie to a criticism by genuinely agreeing with it, showing self-respect and respect for the other person.

But this is hard because:

  1. It is a high art form that requires lots of practice.
  2. It requires genuine humility and the death of the “ego,” or “self.” The Buddha called this the “Great Death,” but the concept is woven into nearly all religions.
  3. It requires the strong desire to have a close and rewarding relationship with the person who is criticizing you.

Very few people will fulfill these three requirements. That’s one of the main reasons why we continue to have so much conflict and suffering in the world, both between individuals (married couples, friends, family members, strangers, and colleagues) as well as between religions, nations, political parties, and so forth. We all want to be “right.” I have often said that “truth” is the cause of nearly all the suffering in the world today.

There’s another paradox. Did you get it?



* Copyright © 2018 by David D. Burns, MD.

Hey, folks, my summer intensives are nearly always my BEST training programs of the year, and they are almost upon us. Here are the specifics:

Coming in Canada in July

Advanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
A Four-Day Intensive Training in TEAM-CBT

July 3 – 6, 2018 Whistler, BC, Canada

For more information, contact Jack Hirose & Associates Inc.
Phone: 604.924.0296, Toll-free: 1.800.456.5424

* * *

Coming in San Francisco in August

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact http://www.iahb.org/
phone: 800-258-8411

If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider an intensive! They are


Register right away if you want to get in on the action!

Hope to see you in Whistler in July or San Francisco in August!