A Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Personal Growth

A Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Personal Growth


Life is a journey filled with twists, turns, and unforeseen challenges. As you navigate your unique
path, you may encounter moments when the weight of negative thoughts and emotions feels
overwhelming. If you’ve ever found yourself caught in a cycle of unhelpful thinking patterns or
struggling to manage distressing emotions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) might be the
compass you need. In this blog, we’ll explore CBT from the perspective of someone seeking
counseling, unraveling its principles, techniques, and the transformative potential it holds for your
personal growth.

Understanding the Basics:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a widely practiced and evidence-based approach that focuses on
the interconnectedness of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Developed by Aaron T. Beck in the
1960s, CBT is rooted in the belief that our thoughts significantly influence our emotions and
behaviors. The premise is simple yet powerful: by changing the way we think, we can positively
impact how we feel and act.

1. The Cognitive Triad: At the core of CBT is the concept of the cognitive triad, which consists of
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When negative thoughts dominate the triad, they can create a
ripple effect, influencing our emotional state and behavioral responses. CBT seeks to interrupt and
reframe these negative patterns to foster more adaptive thinking, healthier emotions, and
constructive behaviors.
2. Collaborative and Goal-Oriented: CBT is a collaborative process between you and your counselor.
Together, you’ll work to identify specific goals, whether they involve managing anxiety, overcoming
depression, or addressing other challenges. The structured and goal-oriented nature of CBT helps
create a roadmap for your therapeutic journey.
3. Present-Focused: While traditional talk therapy may delve into the depths of your past experiences,
CBT is primarily present-focused. It emphasizes identifying and modifying current thought patterns
that contribute to distress, allowing for practical and actionable solutions to be implemented in the
here and now.

Core Principles of CBT:

Now, let’s explore the fundamental principles that guide the practice of Cognitive Behavioral

1. Cognitive Restructuring: At the heart of CBT is the process of cognitive restructuring. This involves
examining and challenging automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that contribute to distress. By
identifying and reevaluating these thoughts, you can begin to replace them with more balanced and
realistic perspectives.
For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “I always mess things up,” a CBT approach would
involve exploring evidence to challenge this belief and developing a more accurate and constructive
thought, such as, “I’ve made mistakes in the past, but everyone does. I can learn from them and do
better in the future.”
2. Behavioral Activation: CBT recognizes the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Behavioral activation involves identifying and modifying behaviors that contribute to distress or reinforce negative thought patterns. By incorporating positive and constructive behaviors into your routine, you can break the cycle of negativity and improve your overall mood.
Suppose you’re feeling overwhelmed by low energy levels and a lack of motivation. Behavioral
activation might involve setting small, achievable goals, such as going for a short walk or engaging
in a favorite hobby. These actions can have a positive impact on your mood and sense of
3. Mindfulness and Awareness: CBT often incorporates mindfulness techniques to enhance self-
awareness and focus on the present moment. Mindfulness involves observing thoughts and feelings
without judgment, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of your internal experiences. By
cultivating mindfulness, you can develop a more objective and compassionate perspective on your
thoughts and emotions.
Techniques such as mindful breathing or body scan exercises can be integrated into CBT to
promote a greater sense of presence and emotional regulation.
4. Homework Assignments: CBT is not confined to the counseling session. Your counselor may
assign homework or self-monitoring tasks to reinforce and apply the skills learned during sessions.
These assignments serve as practical tools to implement new thought patterns and behaviors in
real-life situations.
For instance, if you’re working on challenging negative self-talk, your counselor might ask you to
keep a thought journal, recording instances of negative thoughts and your efforts to reframe them.

Transformative Potential of CBT:

Now, let’s explore the transformative potential of CBT and the positive changes it can bring to your

1. Empowerment and Self-Efficacy: One of the strengths of CBT is its emphasis on empowering
individuals to take an active role in their healing journey. By learning to identify and challenge
negative thought patterns, you gain a sense of control and agency over your mental and emotional
well-being. This increased self-efficacy can have a profound impact on your overall confidence and
2. Effective Coping Strategies: CBT equips you with a toolbox of effective coping strategies that can
be applied in various situations. Whether you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, or low mood, the skills
acquired in CBT become valuable resources for managing and navigating life’s challenges.
For instance, if you’re prone to catastrophizing (assuming the worst will happen), CBT can teach you
to recognize this pattern and replace it with more realistic and balanced thinking, reducing
unnecessary anxiety.
3. Long-Term Relapse Prevention: CBT is renowned for its effectiveness in preventing relapse,
making it particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with recurring issues such as depression or
anxiety. By addressing the underlying thought patterns and behaviors, CBT helps build a foundation
for sustained well-being.
The skills acquired in CBT become a lifelong asset, enabling you to navigate future challenges with
a greater sense of resilience and adaptive coping.
4. Improved Relationships: Our thoughts and beliefs significantly influence how we perceive and
interact with others. CBT can enhance interpersonal skills by addressing negative thought patterns
that may impact relationships. By fostering more positive and balanced thinking, individuals often
report improvements in communication, empathy, and the overall quality of their connections with
5. Enhanced Emotional Regulation: CBT provides tools for recognizing and managing emotions
effectively. By developing a heightened awareness of your thoughts and feelings, you can learn to regulate emotional responses and make intentional choices about how you express and experience emotions.


In conclusion, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is helpful for those seeking to navigate the complexities
of their inner world. If you find yourself grappling with unhelpful thought patterns, distressing
emotions, or challenging behaviors, CBT can offer a structured and evidence-based approach to
guide you toward positive change.

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery and growth requires courage, and CBT can be a valuable
companion on this path. If you’re considering CBT, engage in an open dialogue with your counselor,
exploring how this approach aligns with your goals and preferences.
Remember, the essence of CBT lies in your capacity and willingness to reshape your thoughts,
emotions, and behaviors to create a life that aligns with your values and aspirations.

The Transformative Power of Diaphragmatic Breathing:  The Counselor’s Perspective

The Transformative Power of Diaphragmatic Breathing: The Counselor’s Perspective


In the fast-paced world we live in, stress and anxiety have become constant
companions for many individuals. As often finds himself exploring various techniques to
help clients manage their emotional well-being. One powerful tool that frequently
emerges in sessions is diaphragmatic breathing. Today, let’s delve into the
transformative power of this simple yet profound practice.

Understanding Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep or abdominal breathing, involves
engaging the diaphragm, a large muscle located at the base of the lungs. Unlike shallow
chest breathing, which is common during periods of stress, diaphragmatic breathing
allows for deeper and more controlled inhalation and exhalation.
The Connection Between Breath and Emotions:
Before introducing diaphragmatic breathing to clients, counselors often discuss the
intricate connection between breath and emotions. When stress takes hold, our
breathing tends to become shallow and rapid, further triggering the body’s fight-or-flight
response. By consciously slowing down and deepening the breath, we signal to the
nervous system that it’s safe to relax.

The Three-Part Breath Technique:

One effective diaphragmatic breathing technique for clients to use is the Three-Part
Breath. This involves inhaling deeply through the nose, allowing the breath to fill the
belly first, then the chest, and finally the upper lungs. Exhalation is then done slowly
through pursed lips, releasing the air from the upper lungs, chest, and lastly, the belly.
This intentional, three-part approach helps to maximize the benefits of diaphragmatic

Reducing Anxiety and Stress:

One of the primary reasons diaphragmatic breathing is so effective is its ability to
reduce anxiety and stress. As clients practice this technique, they can typically
experience a sense of calm washing over them. This is not just a subjective experience;
it is backed by physiological changes.
Deep breathing activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, promoting
relaxation and counteracting the stress response.

Enhancing Mind-Body Connection:

Diaphragmatic breathing also serves as a bridge between the mind and body. Through
this practice, clients learn to bring awareness to their breath and the sensations
associated with it. This heightened awareness fosters a deeper connection with the
present moment, a crucial aspect of mindfulness. As individuals become more attuned
to their breath, they gain a valuable tool for managing their emotions in real-time.

Improving Focus and Concentration:

The benefits of diaphragmatic breathing extend beyond stress reduction. Many clients
find that incorporating this practice into their daily routine enhances focus and
concentration. By supplying the brain with a steady flow of oxygen, deep breathing
supports cognitive function and mental clarity. This can be particularly beneficial for
those facing challenges such as personal or work-related stress.


As counselors, witnessing the positive impact of diaphragmatic breathing on clients
reinforces the belief in the potency of holistic approaches to mental well-being. The
simplicity and accessibility of this technique make it a valuable tool for anyone seeking
emotional balance. In a world filled with constant demands and pressures, the ability to
turn inward, take a deep breath, and find serenity within becomes an invaluable skill.
We want to encourage our clients to explore the transformative power of diaphragmatic
breathing on their journey towards emotional well-being.

A Deep Dive into EMDR: Unlocking Healing Through Eye Movement

A Deep Dive into EMDR: Unlocking Healing Through Eye Movement


Embarking on the journey of therapy can sometimes lead you down unexpected paths;
Each one offering unique opportunities for healing and growth. One such path is Eye
Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, better known as EMDR. If you’re curious
about this approach, you’re not alone. Let’s explore EMDR from the perspective of
someone seeking counseling, shedding light on what it is, how it works, and the
transformative potential it holds for your healing journey.

Understanding Trauma and Its Effects:

Before delving into EMDR, let’s touch on trauma, a concept that plays a pivotal role in
this therapeutic approach. Trauma isn’t limited to catastrophic events; it can stem from
various experiences, big or small, that overwhelm your ability to cope. Trauma can
leave a lasting impact on your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being, shaping
the way you perceive and respond to the world.

Traditional Talk Therapy and Its Limitations:

While traditional talk therapy is a valuable tool for exploring and understanding your
experiences, it sometimes has its limitations when it comes to processing trauma.
Memories associated with traumatic events can become stuck or fragmented, creating a
loop of distressing thoughts and emotions that seem insurmountable.
This is where EMDR steps in – offering a unique and powerful approach to help
individuals process and integrate these challenging experiences.

The Basics of EMDR:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was developed by psychologist
Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It’s rooted in the idea that bilateral stimulation –
engaging both hemispheres of the brain – can facilitate the processing of unprocessed
memories, reducing their emotional charge and allowing for more adaptive resolution.

1. Assessment and Treatment Planning: Typically before diving into EMDR, your
therapist will conduct a thorough assessment to understand your history, current
challenges, and identify specific memories or events that may be contributing to your
distress. Together, you and your therapist will collaboratively develop a treatment plan,
setting goals and determining the memories to target.
2. Building a Foundation: EMDR doesn’t jump straight into reprocessing traumatic
memories. First, your therapist will work with you to build a foundation of coping skills
and resources to ensure you have the tools needed to navigate the emotional terrain
that may arise during the process.
3. Processing Traumatic Memories: The heart of EMDR involves revisiting targeted
traumatic memories while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. This can be
achieved through guided eye movements, tactile stimulation (like tapping), or auditory
cues. As these memories are processed, you may notice a shift in the way you perceive
and feel about them.
4. Reprocessing and Integration: The goal of EMDR is not just to desensitize you to the
traumatic memories but to reprocess them in a way that allows for adaptive resolution.
This means integrating the experience into your life story in a way that no longer
triggers overwhelming emotional responses.

How EMDR Works:

At this point, you might be wondering, “How can eye movements or tapping lead to
healing?” The answer lies in the brain’s remarkable capacity for adaptive information
Imagine your brain as a vast filing system where memories are stored. Traumatic
memories, however, often get filed away in a disorganized and fragmented manner.
When you engage in bilateral stimulation during EMDR, it’s like turning on a mental
“processor” that helps your brain reorganize and integrate these memories.

The bilateral stimulation appears to activate the brain’s information processing system,
facilitating the connection between different parts of the brain. This can lead to new
insights, a broader perspective, and a more coherent narrative of the traumatic event.

The Three Phases of EMDR:

1. Desensitization: This phase involves identifying and processing the emotional charge
associated with specific memories. As you engage in bilateral stimulation, you may
notice a decrease in the intensity of your emotional reactions to these memories.
2. Installation: In this phase, positive beliefs and adaptive information replace the
negative beliefs associated with the traumatic memories. This helps to build a more
positive and resilient self-concept.
3. Body Scan: The final phase ensures that there’s no residual tension or physical
discomfort related to the targeted memories. Your therapist will guide you in noticing
and releasing any lingering sensations, promoting a sense of closure and resolution.

The Transformative Potential of EMDR:

Now, let’s explore the potential benefits and transformations that EMDR can bring to
your therapeutic journey.

1. Relief from Distressing Symptoms: EMDR has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in
alleviating symptoms associated with trauma, including flashbacks, nightmares, and
intrusive thoughts. Clients often report a significant reduction in the emotional charge of
traumatic memories.
2. Reconnection with Positive Self-Concept: By reprocessing negative beliefs and
installing positive ones, EMDR helps individuals reconnect with a more positive and
adaptive self-concept. This shift contributes to increased self-esteem and a more
resilient mindset.
3. Enhanced Emotional Regulation: Trauma can disrupt the brain’s ability to regulate
emotions. EMDR facilitates the processing of emotions, allowing for a more adaptive
response to triggers and stressors. Clients often experience a newfound sense of
emotional stability.
4. Improved Interpersonal Relationships: Unresolved trauma can impact how we relate
to others. EMDR can lead to a transformation in relational patterns, fostering healthier
and more fulfilling connections with those around you.
5. Increased Mindfulness and Presence: Engaging in the EMDR process involves a
deep level of self-awareness. As you become more attuned to your thoughts, feelings,
and bodily sensations, you naturally cultivate mindfulness, enhancing your ability to be
present in the moment.


In closing, EMDR is a therapeutic approach that holds immense promise for those
seeking healing from the impact of trauma. If you find yourself grappling with distressing
memories, overwhelming emotions, or persistent negative beliefs, EMDR may offer a
pathway toward resolution and growth.

It’s important to remember that the effectiveness of any therapeutic approach depends
on the unique needs and experiences of the individual. If you’re considering EMDR, an
open a conversation with your therapist, exploring how this approach aligns with your
goals and preferences, and whether it may be beneficial for you is recommended.

Embarking on a journey of healing is a courageous step, and EMDR is one helpful tool
of many in the vast landscape of therapeutic interventions.

10 Steps for a Healthy Recovery

10 Steps for a Healthy Recovery

Written by BJL.

The need for recovery in our lives is vital as we work through trauma, tragedy, loss, addictions, and other hardships. We face never-ending stresses from our jobs, less than desirable circumstances, and unhealthy relationships. When these things have taken root in our hearts and souls, it can be hard to keep your recovery on track. Managing recovery is a daunting task, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Before discovering I needed recovery in my life, my skewed belief system had me in complete denial of what I was facing. My soul was consumed with self-pity, selfish desires, and thoughts of how my situation would never improve. When I finally hit rock bottom, I had to let go of my faulty beliefs and realized I was dealing with something I couldn’t handle alone. After this realization, I called out for help, and God heard my cry (2 Samuel 22:7 AMP). I had to give God control over my life, and He directed my path, leading me to a counselor.

In the past, I had never considered counseling or recovery. I didn’t think this would be something for me until God opened my eyes to the benefits of counseling and recovery. It’s been over three years since I first started my recovery process, and my situation and outlook on life have drastically improved. One of the best ways to manage recovery is through counseling. A professional counselor will have tools and resources for you to use and will be your guide as you move forward.

No matter what you are recovering from, there are vital skills and tools you must use. The best way to recover from any situation is to create a new normal that is conducive to your recovery. If you try to hold on to old ideas and habits, your recovery will be less effective, and you may find yourself falling back into the lifestyle you are trying to escape.

As you work to improve your life, the following 10 skills can help you achieve your recovery goals:

  1. Practice rigorous honesty:
    • When you are dishonest with yourself and those around you, it can be easy to slip back into old habits, inhibiting your recovery.
    • Being honest with yourself is challenging, let alone other people, but the rewards of honesty far outweigh the effort.
    • When you choose honesty, it takes away the guilt and shame associated with lying.
  2. Learn how to relax regardless of the situation:
    • High-stress situations can cause you to slip or take a step backward in recovery when not handled properly.
    • When you are facing a daunting situation, using proven relaxation techniques is the best way to calm yourself. Skills such as breathing techniques and meditation are a necessity when working through recovery.
    • If you are in a high-stress situation that allows you to remove yourself entirely, learn to walk away.
  3. Maintain a journal and a list of things to be grateful for in recovery:
    • Journaling is an excellent way to get things off your chest. A private journal allows you to get something out that you would rather not discuss with others. You will also record days of victory, and these journal entries are well worth revisiting when you are having a trying time.
    • When in recovery, it can be hard to focus on the positives, but maintaining a positive outlook and actively seeking out and listing the things you are grateful for is one of the most productive skills to practice.
  4. Create a network of strong connections with others who are working through recovery:
    • Always remember you are not alone. First and foremost, God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 ESV). Hold on to that promise! Secondly, you can contact close relatives, friends, a counselor, your sponsor, or even your pastor for support and guidance when you are struggling.
    • Recovery works best when you have others who understand what you are going through and are willing to encourage you along the way.
  5. When possible, remove yourself or avoid situations that put your recovery at risk:
    • People, places, and things are three categories that have an adverse effect on the recovery process.
    • People who are negative and cause you to doubt yourself and your recovery should be avoided at all costs. This may include people in our lives whom we love the most. Sometimes it’s necessary to distance yourself from people that don’t have your best interest at heart.
    • It is wise to avoid places where you have fallen in the past. Nothing good can come from putting yourself in harm’s way, so avoid these places entirely.
    • The world is more concerned with the accumulation of things now than it has ever been. Things alone aren’t all bad, and we live in a society that is blessed beyond any other society existing before us. It’s when things become the driving force in our lives, that we need to take a step back and ask ourselves what we actually need and what we can live without. Letting go of things that have become idols in our lives is a crucial step towards true recovery.
  6. Help others in recovery:
    • Something special happens when you are selfless and help others who are in need. If you have never experienced this before, give it a try, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
    • You may be further along in recovery than others and have wisdom to share. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences with others. You may never know how great or small your impact on someone’s life is until you reach eternity, so let your life be a reflection of progress and opportunity.
    • Encouraging others is as simple as sending a text or an email, making a phone call, or writing a letter. Purpose to help someone every day and your recovery will be blessed, even when helping isn’t directly related to recovery.
  7. Exercise:
    • Aside from the health benefits of exercise, it is a great way to eliminate stress and tension in your body.
    • Exercise allows the body to release feel-good hormones naturally.
    • Overall, health contributes to happiness, in turn benefiting your recovery.
  8. Attend support group meetings and work with a sponsor:
    • Support group meetings are the collective wisdom, strength, and hope of their members. You will find compassion, support, and encouragement from those who are struggling or have struggled with similar situations as you.
    • A sponsor is an intricate part of the recovery process. Though a sponsor may still have personal struggles, it is someone who has worked through the 12 steps and is well ahead of you on the path of recovery. This person can be your guide, your friend, and a lifeline when you feel you are spiraling out of control.
  9. Know the symptoms of H.A.L.T. and avoid them:
    • This acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are all gateways that can cause disruption in your recovery.
    • Avoid these by providing a solution for each. When hungry, eat. When angry, discuss your frustrations or exercise to release your pent-up feelings. Lonely isn’t conditional and you can be lonely even if you are surrounded by people. Always have a lifeline you can reach out to when lonely. When you are tired, sleep.
    • These solutions may seem simple, but they are effective. Take action to avoid or remedy the symptoms of H.A.L.T. whether you are facing one or all of them.
  10. Prayer and meditation:
    • Prayer is a gift from God. It allows us to enter into His very presence and commune with Him one on one. Some people only pray when in need but God isn’t satisfied with only hearing your pleas, He wants to have a relationship with you. It’s okay to pray for situations you are struggling with, but try talking to Him about your day or what your interests are in that moment. Prayer should also consist of thanking God for His forgiveness, grace, and blessings upon your life,
    • Practicing meditation can help you deal with your feelings, your frustrations, and your state of mind.
    • Your mind is powerful enough that it can have positive and negative effects on your body.
    • If you find yourself dwelling on past hurts and situations, meditation can bring you back to the present.

God is an essential part of recovery. Without His love, grace, and forgiveness, there is no way forward in recovery. A crucial step of recovery is accepting that we need God’s help to succeed in our recovery efforts. God’s forgiveness is necessary for us to forgive ourselves, and this is one of the first things we must do before starting on the path of recovery.

No matter what you are working to recover from, remember that you are not alone. God is always with you, and others have faced challenges similar to yours. If you are new to recovery, you can take four simple steps to get started on the right path. The first is seeking God’s face above all else. The second is finding a counselor. The third is attending recovery support meetings. And the fourth is finding a sponsor.

When you are right with God, everything else will fall in line. You may feel like you can’t recover, that you are unequivocally broken, and there’s no hope. If these feelings describe you, I assure you that you are wrong. Let me encourage you by saying that I’m not the person I once was, and hope has been restored in my life. This change in my life is because of my relationship with God and my nearly four years of recovery. May God bless and keep you.

“In my distress, I called upon the LORD; I cried out to my God, And from His temple [in the heavens] He heard my voice; My cry for help came into his ears.” (2 Samuel 22:7 AMP)

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

A simple routine to eliminate negative thoughts

A simple routine to eliminate negative thoughts

By Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Read the full article

Our minds are prone to negativity. That means it will find stress and anxiety anywhere and everywhere if you allow it to.

Our minds are also prone to patterns. The brain either seeks them out or makes them up (so to speak) in order to make sense of the world around us.

These are both natural and normal functions of the brain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were never helpful. They served our ancestors well in surviving a world much different from our modern one. Today, however, they serve a less positive purpose than they used to.

Since our brains are still hardwired for survival, it’s always on the lookout for threats (real or perceived). It will discover or create negativity unless you train and discipline it to do otherwise.

That’s why this simple routine is so incredibly useful. Here it is:

Start every day with the phrase: “Today is going to be a great day.”

As soon as you wake up before your feet hit the floor to begin your day, say this to yourself. Out loud, if possible.

Today is going to be a great day.

Remember, your brain is a pattern-seeking device. By speaking this simple truth out loud at the beginning of the day, before anything else enters your mind, you instruct your brain about the type of pattern to look for that day.

Without these instructions, your brain will be in a default mode, looking for the threats to survival and bending towards negativity. However, once your positive instructions are given, your brain can begin to uncover reasons why today will be (or, why today is) a great day.

I also recommend that you don’t stop there.

Begin each day by creating a positive frame, but also end each day by reflecting on what went well. In the morning, you asked your brain to look for positivity-patterns. Now, before you lay your head on the pillow, meditate or journal about what did go well that day.

No matter how trivial or seemingly insignificant, recognize and reflect on all the positive things you experienced from the moment your eyes opened in the morning until you get back into bed at night.

  • My breakfast was amazingly nutritious
  • I had more energy than usual today
  • My boss smiled and acknowledged my good work
  • Those were some incredible cuddles with my kids this evening
  • Dinner was delicious
  • Traffic was lighter than yesterday

It’s not about the life-changing events that happen occasionally. This routine is about teaching and training your brain to seek out and uncover the positive patterns instead of the negative ones.

As I wrote in my book Feel Better Fast And Make It Last:

“You have a choice in where you direct your attention, even in times of loss. This simple strategy can make a powerfully positive difference in your life.”

I strongly encourage you to implement this routine into your everyday life.

Beginning and ending each day with a positive pattern is one of the most effective ways to overcome automatic negative thoughts. In fact, this routine may be your best shot at turning them into automatic positive thoughts instead.

Now that sounds fantastic!