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  • Cognitive Distortions

    A basic handout I have used with groups. Ideally I use handouts only to get a conversation going. The handout becomes a frame work for people to open up and start sharing.

    Cognitive Distortions and Strategies to dispute them

    • Personalizing: When you blame yourself entirely as the cause of something or blame someone else as the sole reason why something happens . “It’s my fault ” “It’s his/her fault.”
      Strategy: Don’t look for blame. Find other causes. List other possibilities.
    • All or nothing/black and white thinking: When you use extreme terms, “all”, “never”, “none”, “everybody”, “no one”. Also watch for “can’t”.
      Strategy: Look for gray areas. Modify your language by substituting less extreme terms such as “some”, “often”, “most”.
    • Catastrophizing: When you predict or expect the worst will happen.
      Strategy: Expect more positive outcomes and possibilities.
    • Should-ing: When you refer to (or rely on) your list of inflexible rules of acceptable behavior and believe you’re guilty or unworthy if you violate the rules. Or, when you get angry with others if they break the (your) rules. This results in “always having to be right “, or being “super human” or “perfect”.
      Strategy: Change your language: “I should/must” to “I’d prefer” or “I’d rather”.
    • Over-generalizing: When you make an overall assessment based on one example or incident.
      Strategy: Remember that no one situation can exactly predict future outcomes. Look for individuality in each case. Remember that possibilities may exist that have not existed before by recognizing that you have the ability to change, and that things are always changing.
    • Fallacy of fairness: When you expect things to work out based on some unseen system of “karma”, balance, morality, payback, justice, or what “should be fair”.
      Strategy: Change your expectations. There is no inherent system of fairness. Things can happen for no apparent reason.
    • Labeling/Name calling: When you attach powerful words or labels to yourself or others as if those words describe you, or them, or the situation completely. “This day is terrible”, or I’m stupid”.
      Strategy: Define the term, see if it is really accurate. Use only accurate terms. Avoid intense labeling and name-calling. Use less weighted, destructive or inflammatory words. Are you using a double standard? Are you judging yourself more harshly than others would judge you or than you would judge others?
    • Emotional reasoning: When you use your emotions or feelings as proof of how things are. “I feel so sad; things must be hopeless”.
      Strategy: Evaluate the evidence objectively. Feelings are not proof of how things are or will be. Recognize that emotions change.
    • Mind-reading: When you know what others are thinking and why they act the way they do. Particularly, you “know” how people think and feel about you.
      Strategy: Seek other explanations for why people behave the way they do. Don’t assume. Check it out. Ask for their thoughts, opinions and feedback. Remind yourself that you don’t know what they are thinking.
    • Disqualifying the positive: When you devalue anything “good” in a particular situation in light of the “bad”.
      Strategy: Make an accurate assessment. See that “negatives” or “shortcomings” don’t erase strengths and assets, but that these can co-exist.
    • Comparing: When you measure yourself against others, focusing on their accomplishments and attributes, or when you compare yourself to your own ideal.
      Strategy: One can’t compare apples and oranges. We’re all different with different qualities. We can usually find somebody who may be “better” in some way. So what? That doesn’t help. Focus on your own inherent worth and aspirations instead.
  • small things

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    Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. Mother Teresa

  • Research Identifies How Stress Triggers Relapse

    Recent research from Brown University could pave the way for new methods of treatment for those recovering from addiction. Researchers identified an exact brain region in rats where the neural steps leading to drug relapse take place, allowing them to block a crucial step in the process that leads to stress-induced relapse.

    Prior research has established that acute stress can lead to drug abuse in vulnerable individuals and increase the risk of relapse in recovering addicts. But the exact way that stress triggers the neural processes leading to relapse is still not clearly understood. The Brown study provides new insights on how stress triggers drug abuse and could lead to more effective treatments for addiction.

    According to the study, stress has significant effects on plasticity of the synapses on dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the brain region where the neural activities leading to a stress-induced drug relapse take place.

    Stress activates kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the VTA, and the researchers found that by blocking the KORs, they could prevent the rats from relapsing to cocaine use while under stress.

    Published in the journal Neuron, the study shows blocking these receptors may be a critical step in preventing stress-related drug relapses in humans, as well. The chemical used to block the receptor, “nor-BMI,” may eventually be tested on humans, according to the study’s authors.

    “If we understand how kappa opioid receptor antagonists are interfering with the reinstatement of drug seeking, we can target that process,” senior study author Julie Kauer said in a statement. “We’re at the point of coming to understand the processes and possible therapeutic targets. Remarkably, this has worked.”

    Kauer noted that the study builds upon over a decade of research on how changes in brain synapses relate to behaviors like addiction. The advance is significant and could accelerate progress towards a medication for those struggling to recover from addiction.

    “If we can figure out how not only stress, but the whole system works, then we’ll potentially have a way to tune it down in a person who needs that,” Kauer said.

  • Cycle of Anxiety Handout

    I usually used this handout with a guided relaxation after.

  • Mouse and Umbrella Coloring Page

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  • What works and will work for you handout

    With this handout I usually had folks write in the category areas what worked for them, what didn’t work, and what will work in the future.

  • Goldfinch Coloring Page

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  • Positive Statements Handout

    I considered all of my groups to be basically about coping skills. This handout is for a self esteem group that usually generated engagement.

    Positive Statements about you

    1. I like myself because:

    2. I’m an expert at:

    3. I feel good about:

    4. My friends would tell you I have a great:

    5. My favorite place is:

    6. I’m loved by:

    7. People say I am a good:

    8. I’ve been told I have:

  • Dogface Butterfly Coloring Page

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  • Self-Control Can Be Draining

    The human body has a finite number of resources, and scientists are always discovering more about how these resources are shared, depleted, and replenished. Now a new study suggests that the areas in your brain responsible for self-control and forming memories are closely linked – in other words, if you’re concentrating hard on staying disciplined, you’re probably becoming less adept at remembering what’s happening.

    Researchers Yu-Chin Chiu and Tobias Egner from Duke University in the US asked a group of volunteers to recognize a series of faces, both with and without the inclusion of a self-control test in the middle. They found that having to exercise self-control had a negative impact on the participants’ ability to recall which pictures they’d previously seen. The same experiment was then repeated with a new set of volunteers and brain-scanning fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) equipment on hand.

    The pair discovered that one area of the brain – the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex – was activated frequently during the self-control test and predicted the strength of the volunteers’ memory later on. The findings suggest that self-control and memory compete for the same resources inside the brain and support the theory that inhibiting ourselves can also cause us to forget more easily.

    “The control demands of response inhibition divert attention away from stimulus encoding, thereby weakening memory traces for inhibitory cues,” the researchers conclude in The Journal of Neurosience. “These findings shed new light on the relation between the control process of response inhibition and the cognitive domains of perception, attention, and memory.”

    The self-control test used was a traditional Go/No-Go task: these tasks work by asking participants to view a series of items and push a button only when certain criteria are met – in the case of this experiment, when the face shown is male rather than female. The theory is that those who are able to hold back from a button push when necessary are those with the strongest self-control (or “response inhibition”, as neuroscientists like to call it). The participants were not told in advance that they would need to remember the faces they were shown.

    “The scans revealed that responding to a cue and inhibiting a response produced overlapping activation patterns in brain regions within the right frontal and parietal lobes, a network that has previously been implicated in response inhibition,” Mo Costrandi reports for The Guardian. “Crucially, ‘no-go’ trials produced greater activation of this network than ‘Go’ trials, and activity in one specific brain region (the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex) predicted the strength of the participants’ memory, such that the greater the observed network activation, the more likely the participants were to forget that face later on.”

    The researchers admit their theory is still “speculative” for now, but if further study confirms the link, they believe their discovery could be used to treat people who have problems with self-control: those suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), for example, or some form of addiction.

    One scenario put forward by the pair is having to suddenly cancel a lane change on the motorway because a car is already in the spot you want to move into. If they’re right, the act of having to control and inhibit your actions would make it less likely that you would remember the details of the incident – such as the make and model of the car that was blocking your path.