Choosing a good hot thought: Situation-specific or general

In this article, I discuss how to choose a good hot thought which you can check and change to feel better in difficult situations. Much of my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist entails helping my clients to change how they feel by changing the way they think, a key process in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In this process, clients use a tool known as a thought record to track the negative thoughts which come into their minds in everyday difficult situations they encounter. These negative thoughts are known in CBT as ‘hot thoughts’ and are largely responsible for the person experiencing undue distress in response to these situations in the form of emotions like anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt and sadness.  Fortunately, these hot thoughts are typically beliefs which are not completely accurate and, with the help of a thought record, can be changed to more accurate ‘balanced thoughts’ which reduce emotional distress to a more manageable level. An important consideration in deciding which hot thought to work on is whether it is a thought which is specific to the upsetting situation or one which is ‘underneath’ the situation-specific thought and is more general in scope...[more]

2017-10-05T20:57:16-06:00By |Categories: Anger, Anxiety, Depression|

Habits for healing from traumatic events

In this article, I discuss habits to help people heal from traumatic events--either to prevent the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder or to recover from it. When a person suffers a traumatic events involving actual or feared death or serious injury, they experience a shock to their physical, cognitive and emotional system. Whether it be wartime experiences, assaults of various kinds, severe car accidents or other traumatic events, the multi-pronged negative impact can significantly disrupt a person’s life. Fortunately, there are habits a person can engage in following a traumatic event which can help them to heal from it...[more]

2017-03-12T22:45:11-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety, Trauma|

Habits for addressing social anxiety issues: Part 2 – Coping skills to use during exposure to social situations

In this second of two articles, I discuss coping skills you can use while getting the exposure to social situations which is key to addressing your social anxiety issues. In my first article on habits for addressing social anxiety issues, I indicated that the key to success is getting as much exposure as possible to social interaction situations. This exposure yields two positive results which are integral to addressing social anxiety issues—desensitization and inhibitory learning. Desensitization (also called habituation) refers to lasting reductions in anxiety levels which come from getting enough exposure to situations in which you experience anxiety. Inhibitory learning entails realizing through sufficient exposure to anxiety-provoking situations that you can cope effectively in these situations despite your discomfort. In this article, I will discuss coping skills you can use during your exposure to social interaction situations which will help you keep your anxiety at a manageable level in these situations...[more]

2017-02-28T21:25:40-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety|

Habits for addressing social anxiety issues: Part 1 – The key to addressing social anxiety issues

In this first of two articles, I discuss habits to help you or someone you know address issues with social anxiety. In my continuing series on habits, I now turn to habits to help people address issues with social anxiety. These issues focus on the experience of significant discomfort in social situations which is often accompanied by avoidance of social interaction as a result of this discomfort. There are two categories of social anxiety issues—general and specific...[more]

2017-02-12T19:52:54-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety|

The holiday season: A time for cheer, a time for psychological skills

In this article, I discuss how you can practice using psychological skills over the Christmas holidays. The Christmas holiday season is a great time to relax and enjoy good times with family and friends. It also offers many opportunities to practice psychological skills which sometimes get neglected during the rest of the year. In the following sections, I will discuss how you can practice several psychological skills this holiday season...[more]

2017-01-19T16:08:54-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety, Depression|

Double exposure: Choosing the right kind of exposure in addressing anxiety issues

In this article, I discuss how exposure can be used to address anxiety issues if it is the right kind. As a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often work with clients who experience uncomfortably high levels of anxiety in specific situations. Early on in anxiety counselling, I inform these clients that a key step in addressing their issues is exposing themselves to these situations rather than avoiding them. Overcoming avoidance through exposure is the fundamental way to help clients achieve their goal of experiencing lasting reductions in anxiety to a more comfortable and manageable level. After I have informed clients of the benefits of exposure, some of them give me a response which may appear to be puzzling...[more]

2016-11-09T12:15:38-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety|

How molehills become mountains: The formation of obsessive thoughts in OCD

In this article, I discuss how putting a negative spin on your random negative automatic thoughts can result in obsessive thoughts. At a professional workshop I attended recently, the presenter displayed a list entitled ‘Common Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts’. The list included thoughts involving aggression such as ‘killing a loved one’ and ‘hitting someone with a car’ along with thoughts featuring a sexual theme such as ‘engaging in unnatural sexual acts’ and ‘screaming obscenities’. Given that the focus of the presentation was treating people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I had assumed that the list referred to thoughts which were distinctive to people suffering from this disorder. To my surprise, the presenter indicated that the list referred to random thoughts which over 90 per cent of the general population admitted to having...[more]

2016-11-09T12:03:41-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety|

Want to reduce your anxiety? Focus on performing effectively with anxiety

In this article, I discuss how lasting reductions in anxiety occur as a result of first learning that you can perform effectively while experiencing anxiety. For most clients in anxiety counselling with whom I work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, their primary goal is either to eliminate their anxiety or reduce its intensity to a more manageable level. Because anxiety is an emotion built into us through evolution to prepare us to deal with dangers and challenges, eliminating it is an impossible goal to achieve. However, reducing the intensity of this emotion to a manageable level is an achievable goal...[more]

2016-11-09T12:03:41-06:00By |Categories: Anxiety|

How to change your negative core beliefs

In this article, I discuss how to change thought patterns called negative core beliefs which often play a role in many psychological issues. In my last article, I discussed how to identify negative core beliefs--long-standing negative views people may have about themselves, other people in their lives or the world. These negative views usually originate from people’s difficult experiences and predispose them to think negatively about themselves, other people or the world in the present. They also play a major role in causing and maintaining various psychological issues including depression, the anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders. In the following sections, I will discuss how to change negative core beliefs once they have been identified so that their negative influence on current thinking and mood can be reduced...[more]

How to identify your negative core beliefs

In this article, I discuss how to identify thought patterns called negative core beliefs which often play a role in many psychological issues. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, much of my focus in helping clients is on identifying and changing negative thought patterns which contribute to their emotional distress. This ‘cognitive restructuring’ work typically entails examining clients’ negative thoughts in response to particular situations and events in their everyday lives. However, on some occasions I help my clients address negative thinking patterns which are rooted in their pasts...[more]

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