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CBT Techniques for Building Client Self-Esteem (Abbreviated)
On the last track we discussed probing. We discussed key words, a list of don’ts and techniques for probing the nagger.
On this track we will begin a three part discussion on obstacles to change. In the face of so much pain and so many destructive consequences, pathological self critical practices seem to accompany past abuses frequently. Would you agree that there are many obstacles to clients overcoming low self esteem? I find that by examining these obstacles, clients can begin to understand the difficulties they may face in attempts to change and break away from the victim mentality of being abused.
The next three tracks will each discuss one specific category of obstacle accompanied by a technique to help your client overcome that type of obstacle. However, you might find the techniques to be interchangeable and, therefore, not limited to a specific category.
Obstacles to Change: Habit and Reflex
However, Joan did not make this statement herself. The only clues to be found that such a verdict had been rendered were feelings of depression, inferiority, and personal insufficiency experienced by Joan during and after the party. Thus when instantaneous destructive self appraisals have been made, it may be difficult for the client to observe and recognize their precise nature and, consequently, to report this in psychotherapy.
Technique: The Howitzer Mantras
Some of the mantras Joan and I reviewed were, “This is poison. Stop it!,” “These are lies my father told me,” “Stop this shit!.” “Shut up!,” “Screw you!,” “Get off my back!,” and, “Stop this garbage!” I stated to Joan, “Choose a mantra that helps you feel angry. This is a technique in which getting mad at first can be productive. You might even find that profanity can be a productive response to the critic. When you use these ‘howitzer mantras,’ shout them inside. Mentally scream them at your critic so that you can drown it out with your anger and indignation.”
At a later session, Joan stated, “My critic continues to beat me down despite those howitzer mantras. I don’t know what to do.” How might you have responded to Joan? I stated, “Maybe it’s time for stronger measures. You might consider putting a rubber band around your wrist and snap it while subvocalizing your mantra.” For example, Joan’s critic was kicking her about some aspect of her appearance. Joan’s mantra was ‘Stop this garbage!’ Joan screamed it internally and simultaneously snapped the rubber band. Joan asked me how this technique worked.
I stated, “By snapping the rubber band, you are emphasizing your stop commands and making successful thought interruption more likely. The sharp stinging sensation breaks the chain of negative cognition and acts as a punisher so that the critic is less likely to attack in the near future. The important thing is to catch the critic just as he starts, before he is allowed to do much damage. If you snap the rubber band and internally scream your mantra whenever you hear the critic’s voice, the frequency of the critic’s attacks will greatly diminish.”
Think of your Joan. Could a variation of the howitzer mantra technique benefit your client?
On this track we have discussed obstacles to change manifested as habit and reflex. The accompanying technique is called The Howitzer Mantras.
On the next track we will continue our discussion on obstacles to change by examining the second category of obstacle. This second category of obstacles to change is feelings of powerlessness. The accompanying technique on the next track focuses on overcoming feelings of powerlessness.
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