Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): How exactly does it work?

In a previous article called 15 common cognitive distortions- how our thoughts influence our mental health, I outlined a list of common cognitive distortions. In review, cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts that usually reinforce negative thinking and emotions and often serve to keep us from positive change. With effort and practice, you can reduce or change your irrational thinking style by practicing the exercises below. This article aims to introduce what a cognitive behavioral therapist might cover with you in therapy as way to help you reach your therapy goals.

Identify your style of cognitive distortion(s)
. Begin by creating a list of your automatic thoughts and examine them for similarities with a list of cognitive distortions, then outline them in a Thought Record. An examination of our cognitive distortions allows us to see which distortions we tend to use most often.

Examine the evidence.
A thorough examination of an experience or situation allows us to identify the basis for our distorted thoughts. Are our automatic thoughts 100% true, all of the time? Or can we identify concrete evidence that proves our automatic thoughts are NOT true all of the time? These ‘exceptions to the rule’ are what allow us to begin to refute our irrational thoughts. For example, if you typically struggle with social anxiety, try to identify a number of experiences and situations where you have had less or no social anxiety.

Judge yourself fairly.
‘Self-talk’ can be thought of as the running dialogue we have with ourselves that often comes across as hypercritical and demeaning. Aim to view yourself in the same compassionate and non-judgmental way that you would talk with a good friend in a similar situation. We tend to respond best to encouragement and constructive examination of progress rather than punitive and defeating self-talk.

Think on a continuum.
Instead of thinking about your situation or problem on an either-or scale, evaluate things on a continuum, or scale of progress. This will allow you to see yourself in terms other than ‘failure’ or ‘success’. Think about and evaluate any given situation as a partial success in progress, with a series of smaller and larger goals to be achieved over time.

Enlist the support of wise others.
Greater perspective and insight can be achieved when we seek the opinions of others regarding whether our thoughts (often in the form of worries and fears) are realistic. When we remain isolated in our view of a given situation or problem, we can lose sight of concrete evidence that refutes our negative thinking.

Labeling. Do we define ourselves with labels such as ‘shy’, ‘incapable’, ‘bad tempered’, or ‘ commitment phobic’? A close examination of the labels we uses for ourselves will likely will reveal that they represent specific behaviors (perhaps that have occurred in patterns), but nonetheless do not accurately capture you as a whole person who is capable of change, growth and maturity.

Refrain from blaming.
We often get stuck blaming ourselves or others entirely for the problems and predicaments we experience. While identifying circumstances and individuals that have contributed to your problems or predicament can be helpful in understanding their origins, it can be rob us of our energy to create change. Regardless of the degree of responsibility we assume ourselves or can pin on others, our energy is best utilized in identifying healthy ways of coping and identifying resolutions to problems, rather than remaining fixated on playing the blame game.

Cost-Benefit Analysis.
It is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of our patterns of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. A cost-benefit analysis will help us to ascertain what we are gaining from holding on to cognitive distortions, negative feelings, and behaviors that perpetuate our current circumstances. For example, we may feel resentful and angry towards a housemate, but refuse to behave in a way that could resolve the matter, because we think they ought to be the one to change. By making a list that outlines what we are gaining by our approach, we may find that it is easier to expect change from another rather than ourselves because it feels less convenient and/or fair.

Respectfully submitted by Dr. Christina Villarreal, Clinical Psychologist in private practice, Oakland, CA


Burns, D.D. (1989). The feeling good handbook: Using the new mood therapy in everyday life. New York: William Morrow.

Gary Meyer of SF's Balboa Theater on Playland and Grateful Dead shows

Gary Meyer, who's a long time friend of this blogger, is a busy man. He's co-director of The Telluride Film Festival and the owner and operator of The Balboa Theater in San Francisco. Gary and I met for lunch at Jupiter in Berkeley and talked about the movie industry, but for this blog, we made the video about two shows at The Balboa: Playland and The Grateful Dead. (And for those of you who wonder, we split the lunch tab, and the food, too. I recommend a pizza-salad combination.)

The Balboa Theater is Gary's love and occupation. Located at 3630 Balboa Street in San Francisco, Meyer took it over about six years ago; now the Balboa Theater not only plays first run movies like Iron Man 2 on May 7th, but has a lot of special events, the one's Gary's got coming up are a movie called Remembering Playland At The Beach on April 23rd, and The Greatful Dead: Crimson, White, and Indigo on Monday, April 19th.

On Playland, Gary says, "Everyone was going crazy! (and saying) 'I remember this. I remember that.' at our sneak previews. Playland is a documentary about the old Playland down at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

The other event, The Greatful Dead: Crimson, White, and Indigo, is based on a 1989 concert in St. Louis that has not been seen but Gary's got it on the big screen. And as usual with Gary he will have the filmmakers on hand to meet and greet.

Visit the Balboa Theater and check out their website at

Stay tuned.

AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit: Oakland Public Works Committee backs it

In a unanimous show of support, the City of Oakland's Oakland City Council Public Works Committee voted to support the AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

The Public Works Committee, which consists of Councilmembers Nancy Nadel (District 3 - West Oakland, Downtown), Rebecca Kaplan (At-Large), Desley Brooks (District 6 - Central East Oakland) and Patricia Kernighan (District 2 - Grand Lake, San Antonio)

Rocky Fernandez, President of the AC Transit Board of Directors, said:

"We really need to think big about transporting people around in this area. Not just now, not just tomorrow, but well into the 21st century. This is a project that is highly recommended by the Federal Transit Administration for the benefits it provides to taxpayers and future taxpayers. I want to assure everybody that we definitely are listening to riders and groups within the community about moving forward on this project."

According to AC Transit, the service should be ready in 2013 and "fully implemented" by 2015.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said that, "overall I think this is a great project." That's true.

The AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit project is on its way to the full Oakland City Council. All this blogger asks is for AC Transit to keep the "Epic Beard Man" and that guy he was sparring with, off it.

Stay tuned.

NFL Draft: Brandon Marshall trade has focus on Dez Bryant

The trade of Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos to the Miami Dolphins has eye falling on top-rated Oklahoma State Wide Receiver Dez Bryant at the 2010 NFL Draft. But regarding Dez Bryant, this blogger has to get one thing out of the way.

Daniel Wolf of The Bleacher Report wrote: "Obviously, the Dolphins are out of the equation, but what I want to know is will the Broncos take a chance on Bryant, who has rumored character concerns?"

That was not correct and all Daniel Wolf had to do was use Google to find out. Dez Bryant does not have "character concerns", what this near-Brandon Marshall clone has is an involvement with NFL legend Deion Sanders that the NCAA believed violated their rules.

But that's light-years from the common word association with the term "character concerns." Dez Bryant didn't rob a bank or sell drugs. No. What Dez Bryant did was lie about his association with Deion Sanders and not telling the truth is an NCAA no-no. But Dez Bryant did apologize for that, too.

But the near-Brandon Marshall clone not a character problem any more than Brandon Marshall was, or in the way we have been conditioned to think. No sense in re-conditioning the culture now. Any NFL team that passes on Dez Bryant for this issue has a player personnel director who should be fired.

And that's why this corner thinks The Oakland Raiders should take Dez Bryant with their 1st round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. That's far from saying the Raiders will, but consider the Raiders lost Javon Walker, who they released, and with the disappointing start of now-second-year Wide Receiver Darius Heywood-Bey, the Raiders need a true deep threat wide receiver.

Dez Bryant may fall in the NFL Draft, but if he does it will be because of a lackluster pro day performance, not his character. A person can have good character and still have a bad pro day.

Stay tuned.

Brandon Marshall trade from Broncos to Miami Dolphins has Twitter abuzz

See: brandon marshall, miami dolphins, twitter tweets,

That NFL Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall's one of the NFL's most effective pass catchers when he get the ball is not lost on the general public, at least if Twitter is any read. As of this writing, Brandon Marshall is a top trend on Twitter.

The announced trade of Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos to the Miami Dolphins for the Dolphine 2nd round pick in the 2010 and 2011 NFL Draft has Twitter tweets claiming the "Fins" got the steal of the year, and some wondering why other NFL teams, like the San Francisco 49ers, didn't try to get Marshall.

NuFlavaent Steal of the year Broncos trade Brandon Marshall to Dolphins for 2010 & 2011 2nd rd picks..
35 minutes ago from UberTwitter

MoesesSoulright RT @streetcredceo: RT @BoxKev: Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins for a 2nd Round Pick??? THATS IT! Come on Niners! You make me wanna cry sometimes
36 minutes ago from UberTwitter

centerofsports Sports Update!!, Scouts Inc.: Marshall just what Fins needed -
36 minutes ago from WordTwit

But before this mornings news, it seemed Brandon Marshall was off to become a Seattle Seahawk and not a Dolphin. Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll must be thinking this certainly isn't USC, where trades and backdoor deals were not part of the college landscape. Obviously, whatever the Seahawks were offerings, cheap though it may have been, it didn't match what the Miami D Dolphins offered Denver.

Interestingly, The 12th Man Rising blog, reports that Denver wanted one of Seattle's two picks in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft - not happening. But that Denver was willing to part with their star wide receiver says a lot about Denver Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniel's ability to really connect with strong personalities, be it Marshall or Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan. He's got to work on that, or he's going to fail as an NFL head coach.

Stay tuned.

Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens reunited at Washington Redskins?

See: donovan mcnabb, terell owens, washington redskins, philadelphia eagles, stephen a smith

Will Donovan McNabb be reunited with Terrell Owens at the Washington Redskins? Right now, given that at least McNabb is there, having been the focus of a trade from his old home with the Philadelphia Eagles, you can't rule out the idea.  But first, some history.

For those of you who don't know this, Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens played together in  Philadelphia and lead the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Florida (The very same Super Bowl this blogger tried to land for Oakland.), where they lost to The New England Patriots.

The next season, the McNabb / Owens friendship unraveled as a then-less-mature T.O. blamed Eagles losses on McNabb not getting the ball to him and publicly dressed McNabb down during a game that year.  Eventually, and dramatically, T.O. was sent packing.

Since that time McNabb and Owens have made up - but to the extent of being reunited?  That's a good question.

For the present, a McNabb / T.O. pairing exists only in the head of sports writer and media commentator Stephen A. Smith. Smith issued the idea from his Twitter page @stephenasmith via this tweet from Pennsauken NJ 08110 USA:

I'm starting a movement on the Stephen A. Smith Show right now: McNabb and T.O. need to be REUNITED in Washington D.C. Yeah, I said it :-)
about 2 hours ago via web

Given the Redskins need more playmakers on offense, it's a good idea. It would also sell tickets. But practically, the Washington Redskins would certainly have more proven all-pros on their offense if they were to get Terrell Owens. The idea that Terrell's a locker room cancer is overblown, and his pass catching production in Buffalo did not decrease. Overall, this corner thinks it's a good idea.

But this corner also loves polls and this is a great chance to do one! What do you think? Take the poll below:

run your own opinion survey on