Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Practicing Gratitude: Better than an Antidepressant
Practicing Gratitude is awesome!Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. There is significant research in positive psychology that demonstrates that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. And, more importantly, the research shows that people can grow in their ability to express gratitude. Consequently, as a part of our holistic approach to counseling, alternative therapies and affirmation therapy, we encourage people to keep a gratitude journal: write down each day 3 – 5 things for which the person is grateful.

Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. In one study by two of the leading research psychologists in this area, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, after keeping a gratitude journal for ten weeks, people were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also began to exercise more and went to the doctor less often.

Other research has shown that practicing gratitude enhances relationships. In one study, individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner felt more positive toward the other person and felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

In family counseling we educate parents about the benefits of having their children keep gratitude journals, as well as themselves. Research (Froh, Sefick, Emmons, 2008) has shown that children who practice grateful thinking:

• Have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.

• Are more likely to achieve personal goals. (Students who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals–academic, interpersonal and health-based, over a two-month period compared to the control group.)

• Have closer relationships

• Get better grades: Middle school students who kept gratitude journals for three weeks had an increased grade point average for the whole school year.

• Have greater energy, attentiveness, and enthusiasm.

As for its role in decreasing depression, the editor of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2011, Kim A Jobst wrote, “This is ground-breaking work of global significance. It applies in all cultures at all times but especially in our pharmaceutically dominated culture of dependence. (Practicing gratitude is a)… low cost highly effective means to help people submerged in the sea of depression.” Jobst comments were in support of research published in the journal that demonstrated that Positive Activity Intervention (PAI), such as gratitude, allow people to “increase their positive cognitions, emotions, and behaviors…”

Reference: Kristin Layous, Joseph Chancellor, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Lihong Wang, P. Murali Doraiswamy. Delivering Happiness: Translating Positive Psychology Intervention Research for Treating Major and Minor Depressive Disorders. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2011; 17 (8): 675 DOI: 10.1089/acm.2011.0139

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Miscellaneous Articles
Improve Your Mood by Being Grateful
Improve your mood by implementing small cognitive and behavioral changes into your daily life.  Research shows that improved mood and positive emotions are associated with greater creativity, increased problem-solving ability, and greater overall success in life.

One way to improve your mood with lasting results includes practicing your gratitude.  Research indicates that practicing gratitude as little as once a week makes a difference.  People who take the time to write down 5 things they are grateful for each week, for 10 weeks, are 25% happier than a people who merely list 5 life events from the week (Emmons and McCullough, 2003).

With as little as 2 MINUTES per week you can use CBT techniques to improve your outlook on life.  The exercise is simple!

Make a list (or think) of three things that you are grateful for: people, places, and things that benefit you and without which your life would be less satisfying.
Next, if you have time, you can think about what is responsible for the things that you are grateful for.
Those with a busy schedule will be happy to know that doing this exercise once a week was found to be more effective than doing it once per week (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).

Sometimes it may be difficult to find things that you are grateful for.  On those days it is necessary to help our thoughts be more positive.  General ideas of gratitude may include:

I am thankful for the sunshine.
I am thankful I have my family.
I am thankful that I had a safe drive to work.
I am thankful that I had a good night’s rest.
As you become comfortable with this exercise you can notice how it may feel different depending on the day of the week, the weather, and your schedule.  Part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to identify how these different factors impact our thinking and behavior.  Through this simple gratitude exercise you can be empowered to improve your mood!

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Depression
4 Ways to Enhance Your Positive Affirmations in CBT
Positive affirmations are a fundamental technique used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to challenge the negative beliefs we experience and stem the flow of the negative thoughts and words that seek to validate them. Affirmations are more than just repeating words. They are a whole process of becoming aware of your thoughts and words in everyday life, and choosing to think and project happy positive thoughts. The more you can consciously inject the spirit of your affirmations into your daily thoughts and words, the quicker they will work for you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy often recommends that once you have created your affirmations you should:

Look in the Mirror while stating your Affirmations:  Perhaps the most powerful way of using affirmations is to state them while looking in the mirror. Some of the most important messages you have received have been from people looking you straight in the eye. By looking yourself in the eye as you state your affirmation you magnify the importance of the message to yourself.
Post Written Affirmations: Write your affirmation on notes or cards and leave them around so that you notice them throughout the day. You can also write your affirmation down many times (10-20), to help imprint it on your mind.
Say Affirmations with Passion:  The higher your emotional state when you say an affirmation, the more effective it is.
Sing or Chant Affirmations:  One of the most effective ways to use affirmations is to sing them! The mind is much more accepting of affirmation messages when they are sung.
Continually repeating affirmations with conviction and passion will chip away at even the strongest resistance. Once the resistance is broken, your subconscious is able to re-examine the core belief and patterns you have been working on. This is a foundational concept in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  The effect can be startling and things can change very quickly as the dysfunctional beliefs get identified and replaced by your own new inner truth. Depending on how deep into your consciousness these beliefs lay, every other learned pattern and belief that relied on the original belief as a premise, becomes unfounded. The subconscious has to re-examine them all, this can lead to a period of introspection.

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
3 Steps to Creating Positive Affirmations
By changing the way you think, reprogramming your mind and removing the old negative beliefs that have been sabotaging you again and again throughout your life, positive affirmations are a cornerstone of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. When created and used correctly, positive affirmations can enable you to achieve the life you’ve always wanted for yourself!

Creating your own affirmations is the perfect way to get the right affirmations for you.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy outlines 3 steps to create your own positive affirmations.

Take some time to think about areas in your life you would like to improve and how you might want your life to be.
Write down a list of the most important improvements you would like.
Look at each item on the list and write out a few positive statements for each. The statements must be positive and in the present tense.  Make sure to focus on what you do want and not on what you don’t want.
For example if my list of things that were important to me included,  “A fulfilling job,” my affirmation  might state, “I have a wonderful job that fulfills me on many levels.”
There are many types of affirmations.  In the early stages of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, some of the affirmations you will receive will be “releasing” in nature.  These are designed to assist you in overcoming any initial resistance to the process.  Other affirmations may focus on health, love, weight loss, peace and happiness.  Below is a list of positive affirmations that are often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Releasing Affirmations

I am ready and willing to release the past, now.

Affirmations for Health

Every Cell in my body vibrates with energy and health.

Loving myself heals my life. I nourish my mind, body and soul.

My body heals quickly and easily.

Affirmations for Abundance

I prosper wherever I turn and I know that I deserve prosperity of all kinds.

The more grateful I am, the more reasons I find to be grateful.

I pay my bills with love as I know abundance flows freely through me.

Affirmations for Love

I know that I deserve Love and accept it now.

I give out Love and it is returned to me multiplied.

I rejoice in the Love I encounter every day.

Affirmations for Romance

I have a wonderful partner and we are both happy and at peace.

I release any desperation and allow love to find me.

I attract only healthy relationships.

Affirmations for Weight Loss

I am the perfect weight for me.

I choose to make positive healthy choices for myself.

I choose to exercise regularly.

Affirmations for Self Esteem

When I believe in myself, so do others.

I express my needs and feelings.

I am my own unique self – special, creative and wonderful.

Affirmations for Peace and Harmony

All my relationships are loving and harmonious.

I am at peace.

I trust in the process of life.

Affirmations for Joy and Happiness

Life is a joy filled with delightful surprises.

My life is a joy filled with love, fun and friendship all I need do is stop all criticism, forgive, relax and be open.

I choose love, joy and freedom, open my heart and allow wonderful things to flow into my life.

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Depression
How To Use Positive Affirmations in CBT
Brownback, Mason and Associates is a Group Psychological Practice with over 30 years of experience located in the Lehigh Valley, in Allentown, PA.

Positive affirmations are a popular technique used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to replace existing thoughts that may be untrue and hurtful.  No matter what aspect of life you’re dealing with or who you are, positive affirmations can make you feel better about yourself and can manifest real change in your life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy uses positive affirmations to change the way you think, reprogram your mind and remove the old negative beliefs that have been sabotaging you again and again throughout your life.  When used correctly, they can enable you to achieve the life you’ve always wanted for yourself!

Positive affirmations:

Target specific subconscious beliefs through short positive statements
Challenge and undermine negative beliefs
Replace negative beliefs with positive self-nurturing beliefs
By choosing to think and say positive affirmations, your subconscious is forced into accepting the positive affirmation or reappraising your old affirmations. The bigger the issue, the greater the gap between the positive affirmation and the perceived inner truth, the more likely that one is going to experience resistance. Often the subconscious finds it easier to stay with its perceived inner truth and avoid the challenge using any means at its disposal to avoid examining the issue. You will recognize this type of reaction by a strong negative feeling inside as you state the positive affirmations.  This resistance is a normal experience during Cognitive Behavior Therapy and indicates that you are on the right path.

Equally if you experience a sense of joy and well-being, your mind is instinctively responding to something it believes to be true. When you get this emotion, you know your affirmations are working from the inside out!

Because affirmations actually reprogram your thought patterns, they change the way you think and feel about things, and because you have replaced dysfunctional beliefs with your own new positive beliefs, positive change comes easily and naturally. This will start to reflect in your external life as you experience seismic changes for the better in many aspects of your life.

From day one, there will be affirmations you love and enjoy saying, these affirmations are likely to be very effective for you and you are likely to start experience changes almost immediately. If you are truly ready and want to make changes, the quicker those changes will come for you.

While change can sometimes be seen immediately, after three months you should definitely have started experiencing positive changes.  Really, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based not on a length of time, rather on how accepting of change you can be.

To schedule an appointment with a CBT therapist at our Allentown, PA facility simply complete the form on the right or call us at (610) 434-1540.

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Understanding Affirmations in Therapy
Affirmations refer to the self-talk or inner dialogue stream that we experience, both on a conscious and unconscious level. As humans, we are continually affirming subconsciously with our words and thoughts.

Unfortunately, with nearly 90% of our thoughts consisting of negative self-talk it is not surprising that we often find ourselves struggling. Each negative thought or word is a negative affirmation and these tricky little beasts can be even more powerful than positive affirmations because we often find them easier to accept. It is these negative thoughts that feed and validate our negative internal beliefs. Under this kind of negative bombardment most people simply do not have the strength to break free of their negative thoughts and become hopelessly locked into their own (usually false) negative beliefs.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy trains us to replace negative affirmations with positive affirmations to help break this vicious cycle.

Our beliefs are learned thought patterns that we have developed since childhood.  Many of these beliefs work well for us, but others may be dysfunctional and sabotaging us from achieving what we believe we want.  It is important to realize that many of our “inner truths” may not actually be true for us now or may be based on invalid or inappropriate impressions we constructed as children.  If we examine these beliefs as an adult, we can either confirm their validity or expose them as inappropriate.  Examining these affirmations contributes to the cognitive aspect of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Additionally, our subconscious uses affirmations to create behavior patterns that automatically respond and react to many everyday events in our life. These learned responses enable us to respond to circumstances quickly and easily.  This adaptation is essential; however, problems arise if at an early developmental stage some of the core beliefs on which we construct our behavioral responses were formed from a skewed perspective.  Examining our behavioral responses contributes to the behavioral aspect of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy recognizes that sometimes our core cognitive framework results in dysfunctional behaviors.  CBT helps an individual to change those underlying cognitions that result in dysfunction through a variety of techniques and restructuring activities.  These techniques can be taught by a therapist or counselor who is trained in CBT.  Positive affirmations are an essential component taught during Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to replace self-defeating statements and beliefs with ones that are self-enhancing and empowering. A competent therapist will be able to help you create positive affirmations that can change your life!

If you live in Allentown, Bethlehem or Lehigh Valley area and would like to learn more about affirmations or would like to discuss your therapy goals with a CBT therapist, simply complete the form on the right or call (610) 434-1540 to schedule a consultation.

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
5 Common Techniques of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the client and therapist collaborate through an open dialogue to develop a problem definition and goal.  Goals can be behavioral, cognitive, or physical in nature and can be defined by problem or process.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy uses a range of therapeutic techniques to achieve these goals.  Ultimately, however, despite the vast toolbox of techniques, client change is related to his/her investment in the process of CBT.

5 Common Cognitive Behavioral Techniques:

Socratic Questioning: Questioning allows the therapist to stimulate the client’s self-awareness, focus in on the problem definition, expose the client’s belief system, and challenge irrational beliefs while revealing the clients cognitive processes.
Homework: To assist with cognitive restructuring, clients are often assigned homework.   Typical CBT homework assignments may include activities in behavioral activation, monitoring automatic thoughts, reviewing the previous therapy session, and preparing for the next therapy session.
Self-Monitoring: Also called diary work, self-monitoring is used to record the amount and degree of thoughts and behaviors. This provides the client and therapist information regarding the degree of a client’s negative affirmations.
Behavioral Experiments: The experiment process includes experiencing, observing, reflecting, and planning.  These steps are conducted through thought testing, discovery, activity, and/or observation.
Systematic Desensitization: Systematic Desensitization pairs relaxation with exposure to something stressful.  Clients are taught to relax in anxiety producing situations.
If you live in the Lehigh Valley, including Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and surrounding areas and would like to discuss your goals with a cognitive behavioral therapist, simply complete the form on the right or call (610) 434-1540 to schedule an appointment.

Posted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
10 Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Adapted from Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Judy Beck (1995).

CBT is based on an ever-evolving formulation of the patient and her problems in cognitive terms.
CBT requires a good client-therapist relationship.
CBT emphasizes collaboration and active participation.
CBT is goal-oriented and problem focused.
CBT initially emphasizes the present.
CBT is educative; it aims to teach the client to be his/her own therapist, and emphasizes relapse prevention.
CBT aims to be time limited.
CBT sessions are structured.
CBT teaches patients to identify, evaluate, and respond to their dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs.
CBT uses a variety of techniques to change thinking, mood, and behavior.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy values and empowers the individual to take control of his/her life through psycho-education with a vast array of techniques specific to individual diagnosis.  Unconditional self-regard is extended to include the unconditional regard of others, which is congruent with social work’s strength-based values.  The goal of CBT is to allow a client to take control of his/her problems and to manage life in a healthy adaptive way.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy assumes that both the individual and the environment are of fundamental importance and that therapy outside of a holistic approach would be an injustice to the client.  Fixing cognitive dysfunctions is not possible without the involvement of behavior and fixing behavioral dysfunctions is not possible without the involvement of cognition.

The cognitive model hypothesizes that people’s thoughts and feelings are not determined by a situation, but by their interpretation and construction of the situation.  Recognizing this discrepancy, CBT seeks to modify the dysfunctional core beliefs that result in automatic thoughts which trigger emotion in any given situation.  Behavioral methods are often used to accomplish this task and education components are often coupled with client homework for successful treatment.

Brownback, Mason and Associates practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Allentown, Pennsylvania facility.  We have been serving the Lehigh Valley area for more than 30 years. Clients may come from Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and beyond to meet with one of our therapists to discuss their goals toward future wholeness


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