Even therapists could use a little cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
As promised in “Before You Burn Out – CBT for the Therapist: An Interview With Dr. John Ludgate” here are a few examples Dr. Ludgate shares of how therapists’ thinking can get twisted, starting with unhelpful core beliefs:
Dysfunctional Therapist Beliefs
- I have to be successful with all my clients practically all the time.
- I must always have good judgment as a professional.
- I must be an outstanding therapist, better than other therapists I know
- I can’t feel good about myself unless I am very successful in alleviating clients’ problems.
- I must have all good sessions with my clients.
- I should not dislike any of my clients.
- As a therapist, I should have no emotional problems myself and should feel guilty and ashamed if I do. I should not have to ask for advice or support either professionally or personally.
If we are honest with ourselves, these rigid core beliefs can get to us when we are stressed, leading to negative automatic thoughts such as:
- There is no progress. I am not helping this client.
- I am not skilled enough to help him/her. It’s not working because I’m incompetent.
- Other therapists would be more successful or move faster.
- If my client is angry or critical, I must not be handling things properly.
- He/she is resisting me and doesn’t want to change or improve.
- I’ll never get all this paperwork done.
- I never get a break. I have too much to do and everybody is dumping on me.
Just as with our clients, self-awareness is the beginning of change. Once we’ve identified that our thoughts are distorted, we can start to get back on track. The exercise that Dr. Ludgate provides below (of a purely fictional client) is an example of how we can use CBT on ourselves to return to a more reasonable state of mind. I also recommend inviting a trusted colleague/friend, someone who understands exactly how you are feeling, out for lunch or a glass of wine!