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CBT Techniques for Building Client Self-Esteem (Abbreviated)
On the last track we finished discussing obstacles to change by examining investments in maintenance.
On this track we will discuss affirming self worth. Our case study on this track involves Jacqueline. Over several sessions with Jacqueline, I found it productive to put self worth into different perspectives using four methods. These four methods for affirming self worth are eliminating the idea, unrestricting the idea, acknowledging personal worth, and the compassionate perspective. As you listen to this track, consider the client you are treating who has low self esteem possibly as the result of a history of abuse.
I stated to Jacqueline, “Human worth is an abstract concept that, upon examination turns out to have an extremely fragile basis in reality. It’s just another global label. The criteria for self worth is subjective, culturally variable, and damaging to self esteem. The idea of identifying a universal standard of worth is a tempting illusion, but you and everybody else are better off without it.” Think of your client. Do you agree that true human worth is impossible to determine?
Method #2: Unrestricting the Idea
Jacqueline stated, “It’s interesting that both of those options are essentially the same in function. They both provide the opportunity to live without having to compare yourself to others and make constant value judgments about relative worth.”
Method #3: Acknowledging Personal Worth
I stated to Jacqueline, “Recall a time when you felt good about yourself, when human worth seemed real and you had a good piece of it. Recall the feeling that you were OK with all your faults and failings, in spite of others’ opinions. You may have had only a glimpse of this emotion in your life.” Jacqueline was able to contact her inner sense of worth by remembering a neighbor she had when she was twelve.
Jacqueline remembered the pride she felt, and her sense of confidence about the future. Think of your Jacqueline. Is it possible for your client to reach back to the memory of something to tap into early feelings of pride and competence?
I stated to Jacqueline, “Take a good look at yourself through the lens of compassion. Compassion exposes the essence of your humanness. In order to really understand this concept, it helps to look at what you understand about yourself. First, we all live in a world in which we must constantly struggle to meet basic needs or we will die. Almost all of your energy goes into these basic needs. You do the best you can with what you’ve got.
"But the available strategies you have for meeting your needs are limited by what you know and don’t know, your conditioning, your emotional make-up, the degree of support you receive, your health, your sensitivity to pain and pleasure, and so on. And throughout this struggle you are aware that both your intellectual and physical abilities will inevitably deteriorate and despite all your efforts you will die. Regardless you carry on.
"That is the key point. In the face of struggle you carry on. That’s why you’re still here today. You continue to live and feel no matter what. If you let this awareness soak in and really feel the struggle, you may begin to get a glimmer of your real worth.”
Jacqueline slowly began to understand. She stated, “So the degree of success is irrelevant? The only thing that really counts is the effort.” Think of your Jacqueline. Would it help your client to see that the source of his or her worth is in the effort he or she puts into life?
On this track we discussed affirming self worth. Our case study on this track involved Jacqueline. Over several sessions with Jacqueline, I found it productive to put self worth into different perspectives using four methods. These four methods for affirming self worth are eliminating the idea, unrestricting the idea, acknowledging personal worth, and the compassionate perspective.
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