May 24, 2021
Ask David #243 May 24, 2021
David and Ronda answer your questions about the role of hope, treating court-ordered patients, suicide threats, being a virgin, and moral scrupulosity. Guest expert, Dr. Matthew May, joins us for this fascinating podcast featuring questions from fans like you!
Hi David, how do you fit the cultivation of hope into TEAM-CBT? Being such an important aspect of recovery, it seems to be most needed in those that most need help, creating a seemingly unwinnable situation for those people.
If someone has enough hope to seek treatment, is that enough to make a recovery?
* * *
That's sometimes fairly easy, and might make this an Ask David. I once told such a patient that if he wanted to work with me he'd have to have an agenda of something he really wanted to change, and he would also have to do tremendous amounts of psychotherapy homework, and that this was non-negotiable, and that he or she might prefer going to another therapist who would be more of a pushover!
In my limited experience, this was very effective, and seemed to motivate the man who came to me. He did, in fact, work tremendously hard! david
PS We can get Rhonda's take on it, as she does forensic work.
Dear Dr Burns,
Thanks for sharing your wonderful podcasts, they are of immense value.
I have been using your brief mood surveys and though I found it tiresome initially, I realized its value when I I uncovered suicidal thoughts in a patient that came forth only because of repeating the mood survey each session. Further, do you think a brief behavior survey at the start of a session is beneficial to record sleep, eating, and self harm patterns is needed to assess how clients are doing in between sessions? Does it have value?
Recently, a client said she felt suicidal and that made me feel suicidal about how anything untoward happening on my watch! I was ‘scared stiff!’ Please do a podcast if possible on therapist fears and dilemmas.
Thanks for so many continuing insights and for making therapy feel real,
Perhaps you can search on website using search function and find the podcast on suicide prevention. Then let know what you think.
When you use the Brief Mood Survey and Evaluation of Therapy Session, you said it was tiresome at first. What were your scores on the Empathy Scale? Scores below 20 are failing grades. Most of my colleagues, and myself, find this anything but "tiresome," but rather dynamic and fantastically challenging. Also, what percent reduction do you see in patient's depression scores within sessions? This shows your level of skill and effectiveness. 25% to 35% reduction within a session is a fairly good benchmark of sorts. This is called the Recovery Coefficient.
Have you looked at that? I find it pretty exciting, and also challenging, especially when the scores don't change, and also when they do1
Thanks for the great question.
All the best
Suicide is handled differently, in part due to the legal stipulations that make therapists guilty, and you can use the search function to find and listen to my podcasts on this topic. Thanks!
Hello Dr. Burns,
First of all, thank you (and Rhonda!) so much for providing us with a great podcast. It has helped me tremendously and it is great to hear both of your voices. Your book "Feeling Great" is amazing as well and I just can't find enough words to express my gratitude for all that you do.
I have 2 questions regarding romantic relationships and your opinion would be much appreciated if you have time. (I am a female in my late 20s)
1) I feel that I tend to associate past events to the present, for example when a guy tells me that he is busy with work, even if he is genuinely busy and there is proof, I remember the time my ex-boyfriend made that excuse to actually hide the fact that he was going out clubbing and doing drugs. It is not that I don't trust the person in front of me, but rather the feelings of anxiety from past creeps up on me due to those thoughts and makes me insecure (if that makes sense). I am not sure which tool I should use to get over this kind of thinking, as in the moment when I reframe my thoughts it works, but soon after another example would set me off again.
2) From church and from my parents, I have been told repeatedly I need to save myself for marriage thus this has been my core belief when I am dating. Although it had never bothered me before, now that I am in my last 20s it seems I have heightened anxiety and misaligned expectations when dating as literally no one around me thinks in this way, and I have been told I do not "look" like I am inexperienced. May I know which would be the best tool for combatting other people's opinions when it really does seem that their opinion is the "truth" of the world?
Thanks. I will add this to the Ask David list. It will take some time, as we have lots of great questions listed at the moment. I resonate, though, as I was raised in a religious family and told not to kiss girls, etc. which was, I think, damaging.. Sex is natural and inevitable, and perhaps best left “undemonized.”
At any rate, you would need to decide on your own moral values, and then we could deal with any fears of disapproval from one side or the other.
Really love and appreciate your openness.
I would very much like to hear about how you treat patients suffering from OCD with moral/religious scrupulosity.
Dear David and Rhonda: Thank you so much for your calming, effective and often laugh-out-loud funny podcasts, filled with a generosity of wisdom. I deeply appreciate them and recommend them to others also. They have helped shape my view of CBT into something far more empathetic and human.
I would very much like to hear about how you prefer to treat patients suffering OCD with moral/religious scrupulosity. I understand that exposure with response prevention is considered the standard treatment, but I don't understand how this works directly with fears about things that are unethical or immoral. For example, a deeply law-abiding person who is afraid of accidentally breaking the law ("was I speeding? I need to check if that was a police camera! what if I was doing something illegal and I didn't realise it?") or a very kind person who goes out of their way not to kill anything due to fear of consequences in the afterlife ("did I just step on an ant? I'd better check the soles of my shoes in case! I don't want to wash my hands in case it kills skin mites!") And would it change anything in your approach if the patient was someone who had had negative experiences with the law through no fault of their own (ie validating their fear)? Or who had a sincere belief that they should pray to be forgiven or purified for their perceived "sins" (a coping behavior which isn't negative in itself)? How do you even go about creating willingness in the patient to see these behaviors as problematic?
It seems like it is much easier to treat for a fear of cats - it's easy to make an exposure ladder to the actual fear, it's ethical and safe to expose the patient, and the experience can ultimately be very positive - which is quite reinforcing. But what do you do when the patient is suffering from a good quality taken too far (obeying the law, refraining from killing etc.)? Obviously you can't invite them to break the law or kill things because that's not moral or ethical, so I'm assuming you can only ask them to sit with the discomfort of uncertainty? Is that just as good as working with the direct object of fear itself? Or have I missed something? I'd love it if you could talk about scrupulosity sometime!
Thank you very much again.
If you like, I will include in an ask david. The short answer is one that I give every week on the podcasts—I don’t throw techniques at folks based on a diagnosis or problem. As often as I say it, people don’t seem to get it, and this is the biggest problem in our field—trying to figure out how to “help” or rescue our patients.
Of course, cognitive flooding might be one of 15 or 20 methods I might use, and there are tons of others, but first one has to find out what, if anything, the patient wants, and then deal skillfully with Outcome and Process Resistance. This MUST come before trying any methods.
More on this when Rhonda and I discuss your excellent question.
Matthew May MD practices in Menlo Park, California. He is on the adjunct faculty in the department of psychiatry at Stanford and practices in Menlo Park, California. Although most psychiatrists rely primarily on medications, Matt tells me that the majority of his depressed and anxious patients recover rapidly without medications as a result of his proficiency with TEAM-CBT. He is also a superb teacher and has a weekly online supervision group for mental health professionals interested in learning and refining TEAM therapy skills. You can contact him via his website.
Next week, Matt will join us again in a fascinating podcast on the paradoxical Nature of TEAM-CBT! Don’t miss it!
Rhonda and David