Christian Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I am a counselor-in-training. I find myself using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in almost every session with my clients. CBT is a great theory for counseling. It has been proven to be very effective and it is straight-forward and simple enough to explain what we are doing in therapy with my clients. In fact this educational aspect is an important part of CBT.
I am also a Christian interning at a private practice site with other Christians. We integrate faith in sessions if the client is comfortable and desiring to also integrate the Christian faith in their sessions.
I have been studying how faith-based CBT is often more effective than just regular/secular CBT where faith is not involved. I have searched hard to find a handbook or manual of “how-to” do a faith-based CBT different from a regular or secular CBT. I have not found an actual workbook or guidebook with examples and interventions for a Christian or Bible based CBT.
I have some ideas of my own and I will share those but I am very curious to know if such a resource exists. In my mind there has to be. There continues to be a steady flow of research comparing faith-based CBT with non-faith based CBT, so I imagine that the researchers put together a manual or book of interventions based on each group they were studying.
While these researchers may not have been able to sale those plans and books for ethical reasons, I would think that someone else would have thought about making money by creating a “Christian Cognitive Behavioral Manual” by now. Since I am not finding this resource, I am contemplating making my own!
So the point of today’s post is to help me think through what some of the keys to such a resource would be:
-use of Scripture to dispute irrational thoughts
– use of Scripture to replace irrational thoughts with Biblical insight
-use of prayer through-out the process, in-session and out of session as homework
-the advantage of positive, healthy Christian fellowship to help against depression
– the insight of Scripture on topics such as stress, anxiety, depression, emotions, behaviors, and the list goes on
-the advantage of having Biblical morals to stand on
-the opportunity for Christian accountability between partners, friends and/or pastors

Let me know if I am on the right track and if you have some more ideas. Thanks.

One simple way to dramatically improve your life

It does seem so simple. From a distance it does not seem like it is even worthy of a drum-roll. Although, it is worth it and so much more. This simple adjustment in your life can reduce your stress level, lift your mood and help you focus on what is important. This key behavior is an attitude modification.  Let me explain:

Instead of reacting to stress or crisis, learn to respond.
Instead of letting circumstances determine our mindset, master the skill of adjusting your attitude despite the circumstances.
Instead of letting the present here-and-now trouble control our emotions and thinking, contemplate hope, realize the trouble is temporary and maintain a positive outlook.

The simple serenity prayer is a great reminder. I say this everyday:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

*[Serenity = peace of mind.]


How-to:

Let me offer some example. Imagine that there is a last minute office meeting in the board room, completely unplanned. You are put on the spot by your boss (the managing director of the building) to present to his boss (the CEO of the company). You are stressing out! The situation is stressful! Your first initial thoughts are not pleasant (“What am I doing?” “What am I suppose to say?”  ” I want to hurt my boss, he should have given me a heads up!” “I am not going to look good.” “I hate this” – you get the idea). That initial thought is followed with emotions (nervous, stress, anxious, scared, embarrassedunprepared, unworthy) and physical sensation (heart racing, mind cluttered, sweating, nerve pain, shallow quick breathing, blushing, chest tightness, tense muscles, light-headed, feeling out of control and fatigue). All three of these (initial cognitive thoughts, body’s reaction and emotional toll) of these naturally lead to a natural behavior (running to the bathroom, being tense and clamming up in the board room, raging anger towards boss in spite or sarcasm or worse a meltdown). 

All of these behaviors are common natural reactions. Although, instead of behaving naturally, it is better to stop at each step and learn how to respond instead of merely react. The concept is simple in theory but in implementation it takes some practice. So first when we have those initial cognitive mental thoughts regarding a stressor, realize these are natural reactions. Everyone has these fleeting thoughts. The first thing we can do is instead of agree and listen to these thoughts, we can ignore them, or better, we can dispute them by thinking about the situation more rationally. 
The second step is in the emotions and physical sensations, again these are natural feelings. At first it is very difficult to ignore these emotions. We shouldn’t. It is good to acknowledge these emotional feelings and research where they are coming from and why. Bottling up emotions is negative. Somethings just talking to someone is the biggest help.
Finally, our behavior. After having a bad day emotionally and cognitively, it is easy to just react with negative behavior. Although, even after dealing with emotions and thinking, we may still desire to do something negative emotionally. We still have to think about it. We still have a choice to make. We can, with some practice, choice to behave in a positive manner, even after a long negative day full of stressors. 

Going back to the example, instead of embarrassing yourself and making the CEO and your boss like fools, you told yourself quietly  that “I can do this!” and “I am awesome.” Positive self-talk disputes the negative thinking. Second you feel the anxiety but instead of letting it eat away at you, you choose to strike a confident posture and breathe deeply through-out the entire meeting. When the meeting is over you talk to your boss privately about how you were actually feeling. Also when you get home, you deal with more of your negative with your supportive spouse (ideally). Finally the behavior in the board room is driven my the positive reaction you are maintaining. Instead of despising your boss and acting immature, you are flexible and professional. You do your best honest work given the circumstances.  



Wednesday Links List

Here are this weeks’ links:

1. Leadership starts with Self- Care Starts by: Loren Gary

2. Study Points to Possible Treatment for Brain Disorders by Science Daily

5. The Importance of Self-Care by Alex Dolin

Keep up with all things “Fully Alive Life Coaching,” with my daily paper that features over 200 contributors but most importantly my feeds on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. Here is the link: http://paper.li/f-1381598529

Are you reacting or responding?

When a stressor reaps havoc in our lives, these events or problems spur an automatic thought in our head. These are automatic thoughts come naturally to us. They are our beliefs and values. We do not have to think about the thoughts. 
From these beliefs or thoughts an emotion follows. This emotion comes to us almost as quickly as the first automatic thought. The emotion is based upon our automatic thoughts. 
From there we behave or take action. Many of these automatic thoughts are healthy and positive. Although, all of us at times, have negative and deteriorating automatic thoughts that are harmful to ourselves and others. If we are not careful, our behavior could also be influenced primarily on the negative automatic thoughts and the emotions from these thoughts that we are feeling at any one time.

Those that react on emotion feel that they do not have a choice. They believe that they should take action based on how they are feeling at the time and respond according to their emotions. They have always lived in the moment and feel like what they are thinking and feeling is important and needs to be heard.  Although, as intense as those emotions are and natural as it seems for us to react based on our feelings, the truth is that we do not have to react based on how we are feeling in the moment.

Instead we have a choice in how we respond to our emotions. We have a choice in how we even respond to those automatic thoughts and beliefs. And yes, we even have a choice in how we respond to stress and difficult people or situations. We must slow down our thinking and learn to respond instead of merely reacting. 

Learn how to dispute or challenge these negative parasitic beliefs and learn to respond to emotions instead of reacting to them. Get the help of a life coach or a therapist, like myself NOW. Get accountability and help TODAY. 

Take One Step at a Time


When you are feeling anxious, stressed out, hopelessoverwhelmed or down, there is some hope. While these feelings  can very quickly overtake you if you’re not careful. Here are 2 simple Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) based technique that can help face your fears and anxieties. 

The first activity is to dispute negative thoughts. Here are some questions to help in this stage of the of the A.B.C.D. Method:
1.What’s the worst that could happen? 2.How likely is it to actually happen? 3.Even if the worst DID happen – how could you cope with it?

This last question begins the process of the second CBT intervention, facing your fears:
Planning out each step, is an essential part of this intervention. The key is to break the fear down into numbered small steps. CBT Therapists often help the client to place the most frightening action steps  at the bottom  and the least frightening at the top of the list.  
Next the clinician helps the client work through their list, taking each step in the order listed. The client only moves to the next step when they have really achieved the previous one.
While important, merely achieving a step once  is not enough. Clients must keep going over each step until they are confident and comfortable achieving this step. The counselor  helps the client achieve progress and congratulate/encourage the client in their success. Celebrating every achievement – even the seemingly small ones, will help to build your confidence in the face of the fear. 
As the client works through the list, they’ll begin to notice strength growing and fear diminishing. It might feel uncomfortable but it’s worth it.


If you like these types of activity, check out AlexanderDolin.com for more activities like these.

Dispute Your Negative Thoughts

This is commonly known as the A-B-C-D Method. It is a popular model in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

The Acrostic looks like this:
A- Activating event
B- Belief
C- Consequence
D- Dispute your thought

You can use this trick to dispute depression, anxiety, disappointment or any other thought that you do not like. For many people this activity takes just a few minutes but for some situations, this activity be a longer process.

Begin practicing talking back to the negative thought that is bothering or hurting you.

A is the Activating event; what happened B is the Belief or the thought that you are having; that is, what you tell yourself about what is happening C is the Consequence of your thought; that is, the feeling you have as a result of your thought D is the way in which you Dispute or talk back to your thought (this means that you challenge negative thoughts and generate alternate positive thoughts)

Here is an example of this:

A. You are single. You were recently dumped by your significant other. (This is a fact.)
B. You think that you cannot be happy without a significant other.
C. The consequences of this thought is that you hopelessly romantic or desperately seeking another companion. The consequence could be slight depression or just a lot of anxiety over this area in your life.
D. Ways to dispute this thought:
“There are a lot of single people who are as happy as those who are in a relationship or married.”
“Singleness is a new chapter or season in my life, a time to enjoy the freedom and learn more things about myself and the people in my social circle.”
“Being single is unfortunate, but many human beings are single. Human
beings can lead satisfying lives even when single. I am a human being,
therefore I can lead a satisfying life even though I am single.”
“There are many other singles in the world. There is someone out there for me. I have had some success in relationships in the past, so I can have future success in my future relationships.”

This is just one example of how this model works. If you liked this activity, check out more activities and ideas at alexanderdolin.com