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CBT Techniques for Building Client Self-Esteem and Resilience
CBT Techniques for Building Client Self-Esteem and Resilience

Section 10

Question 10 | Test | Table of Contents
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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In the last section, we finished discussing obstacles to change by examining investments in maintenance. 

In this section, we will discuss affirming self worth. Our case study in this section 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 section, consider the client you are treating who has low self esteem possibly as the result of a history of abuse.

Could he or she benefit from the playing of this section in an upcoming session?

4 Methods of Affirming Self-Worth

♦ Method #1:  Eliminating the Idea
The first way clients can deal with the problem of self worth is by eliminating the idea. Jacqueline felt worthless. She had been sexually molested by her uncle as a teenager. Jacqueline not only felt worthless as a person but also disvalued her body.

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
The second way to deal with the problem of worth is to realize that worth exist, but to unrestrict the idea by considering worth equally distributed and immutable. I explained this idea to Jacqueline by stating, "Consider this. Everyone at birth has one unit of human worth, absolutely equal to everyone else’s unit of worth. No matter what happens in your life, no matter what you do or is done to you, your human worth can’t be diminished or increased. Nobody is worth more or less than anybody else."

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
In addition to eliminating the idea and unrestricting the idea, the third choice is to acknowledge personal worth. This method of affirming worth is different from the first two without negating either of them. In acknowledging personal worth, the client acknowledges his or her own internal experience of human 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 stated, "I remember Mrs. Ackerson who lived next door. She would look at my school projects and drawings when my mom and dad didn’t have the time. Mrs. Ackerson always had great enthusiasm for my work. She would tell me how clever I was and how I would go far."

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?

♦ Method #4:  The Compassionate Perspective
The fourth way to deal with the problem of worth is the compassionate perspective.

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?

Compassion: How do You Teach it?
 - Kohler-Evans, P., Ed., & Barnes, C. D., Ed. D. (2015) Compassion: How do You Teach it? Journal of Education and Practice, 1-5.

In this section, we discussed affirming self worth. Our case study in this section 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.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Horberg, E. J., & Chen, S. (2010). Significant others and contingencies of self-worth: Activation and consequences of relationship-specific contingencies of self-worth. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(1), 77–91. 

Miller, K. & Kelly, A. (Apr 2020). Is self-compassion contagious? An examination of whether hearing a display of self-compassion impacts self-compassion in the listener. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 52(2), 159-170.

Niileksela, C. R., Ghosh, A., & Janis, R. A. (2021). Dynamic changes in generalized anxiety and depression during counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 68(1), 112–124.

Park, L. E., & Maner, J. K. (2009). Does self-threat promote social connection? The role of self-esteem and contingencies of self-worth. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(1), 203–217.

Rudolph, A., Schröder-Abé, M., & Schütz, A. (2020). I like myself, I really do (at least right now): Development and validation of a brief and revised (German-language) version of the State Self-Esteem Scale. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 36(1), 196-206.

Stapleton, P., Crighton, G. J., Carter, B., & Pidgeon, A. (2017). Self-esteem and body image in females: The mediating role of self-compassion and appearance contingent self-worth. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(3), 238–257.

What are four methods for affirming self-worth? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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