David D. Burns is a psychologist, speaker and author of the book “How to Cope with Severe Depression: Techniques for Handling Negative Thoughts and Feelings.” Along with Dr. Burns, he has written numerous books on emotional intelligence, parenting, relationships, resilience, creativity and intelligence. He is a certified personality expert and teaches at the University of British Columbia in Canada, where he serves as an associate professor.
Burns is a great resource for anyone who has depression or those who are depressed and have been looking for help. In this audio book, Burns asks some tough questions to both adults and children about dealing with severe depression. He then uses his expertise to offer sound advice about how to handle negative thoughts and feelings about life.
Burns starts out by asking the listeners to consider what kind of relationship they have with their therapists. He asks them to put aside any differences they might have with their therapist in order to think about the relationship in terms of the individual’s needs. In this way, he presents the issue of therapy specifically as a tool that can be used to help with the individual’s need for interpersonal relationships and to also help them with their difficulties with moods, thinking patterns, and too much anxiety and depression.
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Secondly, Burns asks the listeners to consider the nature of the problem. He starts off with an example of a child. If your child is constantly jumping jacks, Burns asks, does that mean he doesn’t feel safe? Does that mean that he’s not able to communicate effectively with his peers?
Burns continues with an example of a professional athlete. What is it that pushes this athlete to excel at the game he plays? Burns asks this question to show how important a relationship between the therapist and the individual can be. Without the needed interpersonal communication skills, it becomes easy to overlook the therapist altogether. Theo often asks the listeners to picture themselves as someone who is highly successful in life. He wants the listener to see the connection between success and reaching the goals, whether that goal is personal or professional.
Next, Burns asks the listeners to consider what they would do if the situation were reversed. In this case, he asks that if there were a medical school waiting to accept the first person who applied, how many people do you think would apply? In addition, he asks the students to think about what their life would be like if they fell into the hands of their not-so-average therapist. Would they still be able to reach their goals? Would they be able to achieve the level of success that they are seeking?
Lastly, Burns asks the students to consider how others respond to the techniques he has mentioned. When he started to share the techniques he was talking about with his own students, several individuals stated that they understood it quite well. However, another individual stated that he really needs help with his issues with depression. This individual feels that he will never be able to recover if he continues on his current path. In addition, several other students expressed that they had received some support from a loved one or a family member who was experiencing depression, but could not find a way to fully recover.
It is interesting that Theo answers these questions differently than most therapists. For example, most psychotherapists simply ask clients to continue thinking negatively. If clients continue focusing on their problems and thinking that they will not be able to overcome them, then psychotherapy is ineffective. Burns puts his belief that positive thinking is the key to overcoming depression through the use of positive affirmation. He believes that clients need to be encouraged by connecting with their inner power, which originates from the self. Once this happens, the individual can feel empowered and have the will power to change his life.