The Feeling Good Therapist - Experimental Technique

Experimental Technique with host, Richard Lam, LMFT, featuring Zane Pierce, LMFT

*This Technique was developed by Dr. David Burns, American Psychiatrist and Adjunct Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Discover the profound Experimental Technique conceived by Dr. David Burns, illustrated by Richard and Zane at Feeling Good Institute. This method proves invaluable for individuals whose negative thoughts spiral into negative predictions about themselves and the world. It helps to uncover the truth behind these thoughts, for profound emotional change

The video centers Richard who is fighting depression, loneliness and suffers from low self-esteem, ensnared in a cycle of pernicious negative self talk. He believes that his friends don’t want to see him, viewing him as a depressive loser. To dismantle these crippling thoughts, he maintains a daily mood log to uncover cognitive distortions, including mind reading and fortune telling. The therapists role play to evaluate the validity of his thoughts, with Zane as the therapist. Richard contacts his friends, recognizing that some may have busy lives. These acts of social outreach serve as "safety behaviors" guarding against negative emotions, with outcomes tracked. The results defy his negative predictions; his friends not only welcome his presence but eagerly anticipate it. This positive outcome supplants his pessimism with optimism, underscoring the efficacy of this CBT tool. Richard demonstrates how evidence can reshape negative thought patterns, fostering positive inner self and emotional resilience. The video challenges self-defeating assumptions, nurturing a path to positive change.


Richard: Welcome everyone to the Feeling Good Therapist where we learn different skills and tools that will help you in your own personal life and in your therapy practice. And today, we have Zane Pierce, who will be teaching us a really cool technique called the Experimental Technique, a technique that you can find in one of David Burns's books.

Zane: Thank you, Richard. I appreciate you having me on your YouTube channel. Today, I will be presenting the Experimental Technique, we'll do this in the form of a role play, just to give the technique a little bit of context. This is the kind of method one would want to use when you're having a negative thought in which you are making a negative prediction about oneself, the world or other people. It really seeks to test the validity of the thought so that you can find out whether or not it's really true or to what degree it's true. You can really bring emotional change in a very deeply felt way.

Richard: Great, I'm really excited to learn about this technique and can you tell us what kind of role play we'll be doing?

Zane: Sure so, I'll be playing the role of the therapist, you will be playing a man, it is perhaps late 20s suffers from depression as fallen out of touch with many of his friends because he goes to these sad depressive episodes and is having the negative thoughts my friends don't want to see me they think I'm the depressive loser.

Richard: Okay, that sounds like a good one! Let's do it.

Zane: Alright, nice. Jeremiah, thanks for being here. Thank you for having me. We've completed this daily new Journal so I understand you're wanting to work on the very first negative thought that you wrote down. You've also identified the distortions in this as being mind reading and fortune telling and the thought is my friends don't want to see me, they think I've been depressed than a loser, terrible way to feel and think about how demoralizing this has been and how long will you feel. So, there's a method that I would suggest for this one and it's called the Experimental Technique, also known as a Behavioral Experiment. And I'm thinking that in this particular method, we can both sort of put on the hats of a researcher or even a scientist because I don't think we know how your friends see you and if we do an experiment on this we can seek to find out more and to find out if this thing that you're telling yourself is really true or not. Now do you have any ideas about how we could ask how you could test this thought in the coming week in between sessions?

Richard: Well, I really like that idea I mean it really feels true though. But, I guess if I were to test it and set up a researcher I can just ask them if they want to see me or if they think of them.

Zane: Great, I love that idea. I imagine it will probably take some courage to do that.

Richard: Yeah, I had to acknowledge you for that.

Richard: And, it was really uncomfortable to you know I do that.

Zane: I would imagine, it really does really good. So, let's stick this to a little bit more, Jeremiah. How many friends do you think it would make sense to reach out to get into contact with this week?

Richard: I don't know. Is there a recommendation?

Zane: Oh, I don't know. I don't know how many friends you've fallen out of touch with. I would think maybe you know would it be five, would it be eight, would it be 10 people, would it be maybe two or three people, who were once really close to you. It's really up to you.

Richard: Off the top of my head I know I have these five really good groups of friends or five people in my friend group and I used to hang out with a lot and yeah I think it'd be easier to just reach out to those friends first.

Zane: Okay, great!

Richard: We're gonna see what’s still like us.

Zane: Yeah, I think five is plenty good. And think about how you're going to reach out to them. Would you be calling them? Would you be sending them a text message? What would that look like for you? What would you feel, what would you be willing and able to do and reaching out to them?

Richard: I can really call but I mean I can always send them a text or maybe message them on Discord.

Zane: Okay, and what might you say to them when you when you reach out to them?

Richard: I don't know, I guess I wanted to test this I'd see if they want to hang out with me so I'd be like hey do you guys want to hang out or you guys want to go do something together?

Zane: Great, that sounds good to me and perhaps maybe acknowledging that it's been some time since you've talked to them but yeah I think doing that in that way you can find out do your friends really not want to see you.

Richard: Yeah!

Zane: So, you're reaching out to five people you're gonna contact them on either text or Discord. And let's just say one of your friends doesn't get back to you or doesn't get back to you in a kind of way. What's something that's reasonable and balanced that you might tell yourself in the events that would happen, I think it's unlikely but in the event that might happen or the idea is as to what you might tell yourself.

Richard: Well, they might be busy I remember one of my friends kind of mentioned a while ago that he was going to start this master's program so maybe he's going to be busy because I know he works too so maybe he's really busy and falling asleep on his books or something so, he's not able to get back to me.

Zane: Okay, so acknowledging to yourself that the people that busy lives sometimes it may take a while for someone to the return of that reach out to that you made.

Richard: Yeah!

Zane: Great! So, Is there anything that might prevent you from following through with this experiment this week? Anything that you might, when sometimes when we're afraid to do things we kind of fall back into these what are called safety behaviors, Is there any kind of thing that you might normally do to keep yourself safe emotionally, that you might need to drop for this week as you reach out to your friends?

Richard: Yeah, I mean it's kind of scary thinking about reaching out to them I probably will just try to sleep to avoid it. I usually do that to try to avoid negative feelings.

Zane: And, it's so easy to default to that excessive sleeping pattern sometimes when you're not feeling good inside. They're saying that's something that you're willing to forego this week as you're reaching out to your friends.

Richard: Yeah, if it's just this week, I've been wanting to give it a try.

Zane: Just this week, the five friends. And, you have maybe across the time of day or in which you think would be kind of best to contact them when you're in the evening, in the morning, lunch hour?

Richard: Yeah, I think like we usually text the most at night. That's kind of like when everyone goes on to play these games too so, probably sometime a night and after dinner at 8 PM or something.

Zane: Good, so you're gonna reach out to five friends whom you've lost touch with in the last several months because you've been feeling really depressed and you're gonna do some discord and that's for keeping track would you be willing to maybe be a little long and write it down each person's name and when you've reached out and responsive you got?

Richard: Sure, I can do that.

Zane: Great, and then bring that back to our next session and we'll review your findings.

Richard: Great, that sounds good to me.

Zane: Alright, Jeremiah yeah you can do it.

Richard: Awesome, I'll see you.

Zane: Looking forward to it. Okay, bye for now!

Zane: Hey, Jeremiah so would this be a good time for us to turn our attention back to the daily mood journal and talk about how this experiment went very eager to hear how it went.

Richard: Yeah, it went like surprisingly well. Well, I'm actually very surprised that I kind of went this way because I did reach out to those five people and as expected the friend who was in the Master's program he actually took a little while to reach out to me. But, when he did, he kind of explained he's been really busy with like work and his master's program and finals are coming up but he said he'd love to hang out after a lot. So, I think that's good but my other four friends saying it all seemed like really excited to talk to me and they wanted to hang out even like, oh, are you free, to like to go out right now, to get some boba but you know, then we played games online. After like the next few days and we've just been hanging out so much it's been really good.

Zane: Wow, beautifully done Jeremiah. I imagine it took some courage to reach out to them and to you know make that you know the those advances to reconnect with them. How did that go for you how did it feel rather?

Richard: I felt good to kind of see that they actually didn't want to hang out with me but I know we didn't talk about this but I didn't kind of share with them that I felt worried that they didn't want to hang out with me because I was depressed but they all kind of shared the same sentiment of like “hey, we were just worried about you and we don't want to get we want to give you space and we didn't want to push them into anything” so, they're like really understanding and they seem to care what is it for me.

Zane: It was beautifully done and I think that's extra credit for asking them what they thought of you, having lost touch because of the depression. So, heartened to hear that you got such an outpouring of support from them, I think that's wonderful. So, it sounds like that was around five for five, was it?

Richard: Yeah, that was pretty good.

Zane: Great! So, what do you think you, what do you think you learned from this experiment? What's your takeaway?

Richard: Yeah, I guess a big part of it is sometimes you just gotta like to test things and see if it's true and they can really kind of show if it is or not. I guess one of the distortions we wrote down was emotional reasoning and I guess, I was just rationalizing their emotions instead of logic.

Zane: I think that's really well said. So, let's take what you said as far as what you learned and I'm going to have you take your daily mood Journal and we're gonna see if we can craft this into a positive thought that you can tell yourself as opposed to my friends don't want to see me they think I'm a depressed loser.

Richard: Well, I also thought might be something like my friends actually did want to see me I reached out to five of them and one of them was busy but really wanted to hang out afterwards. But the others they just wanted to hang out immediately after you've been hanging out every single day, sometimes in person, sometimes like playing games online and through Discord. So, part of this is I think they do want to see me and they don't think I'm a depressed loser because they seem to really care about me and they stress they had more concern and they were kind of keeping their distance because they wanted to give me space and they didn't know how much to like push because they want to make me feel guilty or bad or anything. So, that's where they actually care quite a bit about me. They don't really think I'm a loser.

Zane: That's what we can kind of summarize that my friends don't think I'm a loser when I reach out to them they reach back and we hang out quite a bit.

Richard: I think that's a really good way to summarize it should, I write it down.

Zane: Yeah, go ahead and write that down. I'll write it down with you.

Richard: Alright, perfect!

Zane: Well, let me ask you this before we go pause the role play Jeremiah, how much do you believe this positive thought that you put?

Richard: I mean, it's hard not to believe it I mean I asked them and we talked about it so it's definitely a hundred per cent.

Zane: A hundred per cent. Let’s write that down in the belief column and let's have you re-estimate the original thought that was the thing you're telling yourself that was really kind of bringing you down and really kind of driving this feeling of loneliness and discouragement. “My friends don't want to see me, they think I'm an oppressed loser”. How true does that seem now and it might have what you've just described and written down.

Richard: Oh my gosh, that's not true at all. I mean after doing this experiment, it's obvious, it's not true so probably zero.

Zane: Well done!

Richard: Awesome! Well, let's pause right here. Thanks, everyone for watching this experimental technique, really well conducted by Zane Pierce and if you want to learn more about Zane, you can look at it his information below. And if you want to learn more about these skills and techniques, feel free to subscribe to this channel.

It's been a pleasure being able to demonstrate this to everyone.

Zane: Thanks for watching!

Richard: Bye, everyone!

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