There are many theoretical
models of psychology and counseling. Some are best
utilized for particular situations and needs. Often,
an eclectic approach, or the utilization of several
approaches is best for the resolution of problems. I
do utilize several schools of psychological theories and
methods in my work. However, it is the
Cognitive-Behavioral Model that anchors my orientation to
The pure cognitive
therapies—such as Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy, focus on
changing certain thought patterns. The premise, in
Beck’s words, is that “the way we perceive situations
influences how we feel emotionally,” and so by changing
thoughts, then behaviors will also change. The pure behavioral
therapies, such as classical conditioning or operant
conditioning, focus on changing behaviors. Behavioral
therapy, in its pure form—such as conditioning—is really not
much different from animal training. You can teach an animal to
respond to behavioral or verbal commands, but the animal
doesn’t have to understand a thing about it’s own behavior.
therapies are a blend of higher level, "humanized"
behavioral techniques and cognitive techniques—hence the
name Cognitive-Behavioral—and so they do involve some
amount of thoughtful awareness. And some forms
of treatment such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
(REBT)—developed by Albert Ellis—mix cognitive AND
behavioral elements. The name reflects the understanding
that rational beliefs, emotions, and behaviors are all
interdependent and that therapy should involve understanding
on all these levels.
However, throughout the
process, I also tend to embrace the foundational
beliefs and core conditions of Carl Rodgers' Client-Centered
Therapy, which states that people tend to move toward growth
and healing on their own, especially if the therapist:
Listens and tries to understand how things
are from the client's point of view.
Checks that understanding with the client
Treats the client with the utmost respect
Is "congruent" - which means
being self-aware, self-accepting, and having no mask between
oneself and the client. The therapist knows themselves and
is willing to be known.
For a somewhat better understanding of
Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology, please feel free to read the
following excerpts of an article I originally wrote for Heart2Heart, a
newsletter for Cystic Fibrosis patients and families in and
around Alabama and was later published in Viewpoint, the
Quarterly newsletter of the Alabama Mental Health Counselor
can I find hope when my situation is hopeless?
ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single
Epictetus, Greek Philosopher
2000 years ago, Epictetus recognized the physical danger risked
by traveling on a ship unprepared for all the various challenges
and possibilities of a long journey at sea.He used that example as a metaphor to make his main
point…it is psychologically and spiritually dangerous to
travel through ones life without being able to recognize that
there are many possibilities!
ones focus is too microscopic and based upon only one hope, one
desire, one dream, one expectation…it is likely one will miss
all the other wonderful opportunities life offers.There is the chance all the other hopes and desires we
might have had for our lives are ignored because we are consumed
by just one goal or expectation.What is even more likely is we dismiss
possibilities, though recognized, because we believe they
are pointless (or even impossible) if we cannot be assured of
obtaining our primary goal.To use the Epictetus metaphor, one might get
“shipwrecked” along the way!
it is our interpretation of circumstances, and not
necessarily the circumstances themselves, that cause us to get
shipwrecked - stuck, depressed and convinced that our situation is hopeless.I often will use the following story (or a similar scenario) to
illustrate the basic principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
the following event as an example (Bush, 2002).A friend is due to meet you for dinner at your house at 7:30.
But it's now past 8:00, and there's been no sign of her - not
even a phone call.What
will you think, feel and do about this?Remember, there is only one event!
What you think
How you feel
What you do
might have been hurt on the way here."
hospital ERs to find out if she's there
didn't bother to let me know she was delayed."
her out, or act chilly, if she does show up
doesn't matter to me if people are on time."
needed the time to fix the house up anyway."
and enjoy the extra time
am insignificant and not worthy of companionship"
isolated and feel sorry for yourself
this table of responses clearly illustrates, there is more than
one possible belief, feeling and response to the situation.These differences are based upon perceptions and beliefs
that are not necessarily accurate - we still do not know why our
friend is late.
is important to note the relationship among events, thinking,
feeling and doing.The
way we feel (both physically and emotionally) can affect what we
think and what we do, and what we do affects how we think and
feel.It is equally
important to appreciate the relationships between events and
feelings (which we can’t directly control) and thoughts and
behaviors (which we can control).Thus the name – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy!
and feelings = "can control"
and feelings = "can't directly control"
following are some suggestions, mostly based on CBT, for when
you get stuck:
1.(Thinking)Be careful that your interpretation of events is
If your thinking could be described as “all or nothing”, you
are probably not being objective or completely honest with
2.(Thinking)Think outside the box!Look at other possibilities.Do not allow one central idea corrupt all other ideas.
Use the example and diagram above to help you.
3.(Feeling)Give yourself permission to feel awful sometimes.It is perfectly normal and even healthy to feel bad when
bad things are happening.However,
at some point, remember that the way you feel may actually cause
you to misinterpret some things.Re-evaluate!
4.(Doing)If you are not doing anything….DO SOMETHING!!If what you are doing is not working for you….DO
that doing can affect feeling which affects thinking and so on.
5.(Doing)Ask for help if you get stuck.It is wise and appropriate (and a sure sign of personal
strength) to seek help when we get so stuck we cannot be
help IS proactive!Utilize
positive support systems found in religious faith, friends,
peers, family, counselors and medical professionals.
that it can be difficult to overcome inflexible thinking,
overwhelming emotion and unhealthy behaviors.Take it slow.Utilize
your strengths and minimize any weaknesses.Mostly….THINK
– FEEL – DO!!!
original question was – “How can I find hope when my
situation is hopeless?”I’ll
tell you what - Let’s rephrase the question in a cognitive
can I DO
hopeful when I THINK
my situation is hopeless?
I opened with a quote, so I will close with another
2000-year-old quote from our old friend Epictetus:
"The thing that upsets people is not what happens but what they think