Category Archives: Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

How to use Difficult Situations to Strengthen our Character


Difficult situations are often seen as an obstacle in the way of our goals, but this does not always have to be the case. Instead of asking ourselves “why me?,” we can ask ourselves “how can this situation help me grow as a person?” or “how can this situation help me find the emotional tools that I need to face challenging situations in the future?” After facing difficulties, we often come out of them learning important bits of information about ourselves. In addition to adding a difficult situation to our “list of experiences”, we tend to learn vital characteristics, such as patience, gratitude, and self-control.

Patience prepares us for future challenges by helping us believe that difficulties will pass with time. A phrase that is often used is “just be patient”. My personal experiences have shown me that with patience in our hearts, difficult situations that were unthinkable start to feel somewhat bearable.

Gratitude is the appreciation of what we have. Gratitude is in our nature, but it often takes a difficult situation (or several difficult situations) to help us appreciate what we had before the difficulty and what we have after the difficulty has passed. I am not saying that we cannot appreciate what we have without being faced with difficult situations; rather, these difficult situations often serve as an eye-opener that directs our attention to the positive aspects of our lives.

Last but not least, self-control is the ability to control yourself across situations, especially difficult ones. After experiencing a difficult situation, we can sit with ourselves and think about what we did and what we thought about in that difficult situation. After this, it becomes easier for us to hold on to our actions that served us well and got us through the situation, and drop our actions that did not serve us well. This might help us feel more equipped to face future difficulties with more self-confidence. As a result, the lessons learned from our difficulties tend to build up and strengthen our character.

It is important to always remember that difficult situations are not for feeling sorry for ourselves, but for discovering aspects of ourselves that help us face future challenges, because we can.

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

Overcoming Depression


Are you struggling with depression? If you answered yes, then you’re likely feeling low energy and struggling to get motivated. This lack of energy and motivation makes it difficult for you to engage in your typical routine and engage in productive roles; making you feel like you “can’t” do anything until your depression subsides. However, waiting for motivation to come before taking action is impossible because action comes before motivation. Taking even the smallest step, like getting out of bed, will build momentum to taking another small step. It will feel impossible, but you CAN do it and you will feel better afterwards.

Below are a few further tips to fighting depression:

Therapy Goals: Talking to a professional or someone you feel close to is big part of recovery. However, a lot of people go to therapy, while taking medications, and don’t actively participate in the session or complete any of the assigned therapy homework. It’s important to evaluate what you want from therapy and recognize that therapy won’t work if you’re not 100% invested and willing to put in the work. Before every therapy session, write down exactly what you want from the session, the timeline to achieve it, and how you will achieve it. Fighting depression requires constant active participation.

Engage in Pleasurable Activities: With a lack of motivation being a common symptom of depression, it can be hard to start your day. You may be overwhelmed with the number of tasks you’ve been putting off and this just makes it harder to pick a place to start. However, in knowing that action comes before motivation, it may feel less daunting to start by doing something that’s enjoyable in order to build the momentum for the other less desirable tasks.

Physical Exercise: Exercise has been found to improve mood and sleep and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. This is because exercise releases a chemical in your brain called endorphins, which is known to reduce your perception of pain. People usually don’t exercise because they aim too high with their expectations of what exercise should look like and how many times a day they should be doing it; making exercise feel like a big task that’s unachievable. However, the key to getting into exercise is to start small. You can start by taking a 10-minute walk around the block and retuning home. Remember that any small amount of exercise is better than none at all!

Eliminate the word “Can’t”: Fighting depression is mentally and physically exhausting and it seems easier to quit than to move forward. We often use the word “can’t” to describe why we’re not engaging in certain tasks. However, the medical definition of “can’t,” means physically being unable to participate in something. For example, being unable to walk because you’re paralyzed and in a wheelchair. So I challenge you to replace the term “can’t” with “I don’t want to” because it’s not that you are physically incapable of for example getting out of bed, but rather you don’t want to get out of bed because it is hard. This is not meant to diminish the difficulty of engaging in a task when you have depression, but rather shed light to the fact that you always have a choice, even if the choice feels impossible.

In summary, the key to fighting depression is to maximize all 4 areas of treatment: 1. Medication, 2. Psychotherapy, 3. Exercise, and 4. Social Engagement. If you only address one area, for example taking medications, and ignore the other 3 interventions, than you’re likely not going to succeed because you’re only receiving ¼ of your treatment. So make sure to take a small step in each of the areas and eliminate your negative self-talk because depression is hard! Be kind to yourself because depression is a disease. It does NOT define who you are as a person.

By: Maleeha Khan

Maleeha is currently doing a double major in Human Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the sex differences in factors predicting conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in pursuing MD after her undergraduate degree and helping third world countries dealing with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

There’s a Therapy That’s Right For You


We have all experienced that relief of freely venting to a trusted friend, feeling listened to with total acceptance, with your experiences fully acknowledged and validated. Navigating the ups and downs of life is not an easy thing, and there are life circumstances that test us in many different ways. Sometimes we may need guidance from a trained professional to provide us with understanding and acceptance, and allow us to develop new skills that can help us navigate these ups and downs more easily.

Many people are hesitant to consider therapy, as there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues. It may seem easier to try and take on your challenges alone or perhaps you are hesitant to reach out for help because you think your problems aren’t “big” enough. But every experience is valid, no matter how big or small, and if you think that having another person to assist you in managing your challenges might be beneficial, therapy may be something to consider to help ease some of your stress. A therapist can provide you with that same feeling that is brought on when you talk to a close friend, but they also have the skills to provide you with ways to overcome your challenges.

There are many different therapy modalities to consider and each of them offers a different style of addressing your experiences and helping you develop new skills to meet those challenges.

1. Client-Centered Therapy

Client centered therapy is a humanistic approach which focuses on the individual. Carl Rogers developed it in the 1950s and he identified 3 core elements that were necessary for the success of the therapy:

– Unconditional Positive Regard

The therapist openly listens to you, without any kind of judgment, and will accept your experience as just that-your experience. This element of the therapy is important, as it allows you to feel comfortable being vulnerable, without fear of being judged or ridiculed.

– Genuineness

The therapist provides genuine, authentic responses to your experiences, which enhances the therapeutic relationship. You are able to trust that your therapist is being honest in how they respond to you, using their education and knowledge base to influence their response.

– Empathy

This is a critical component of this therapeutic approach. Your therapist will do their best to try to understand where you are coming from, to put themselves in your shoes, and understand how you are experiencing your current situation.

The goal of the therapy depends on what you wish to achieve, but ultimately focuses on your personal growth and development. What this means depends entirely on your current situation, and how you define personal growth.

2. Existential Therapy

This approach focuses on increasing self-awareness. Through this sense of strengthened awareness, you are able to understand that you are a free agent in making your decisions and you are responsible for the direction you take your life. It is also concerned with how a person finds meaning out of life. Because of this sense of responsibility and the understanding that we must create our own meaning, anxiety may be the natural response to these realizations, and the existential therapist will help to address this anxiety.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This approach is more focused on structured sessions and often includes homework assignments for completion outside of the therapy sessions. As the approach is focused on meeting goals, these goals are set out within the first couple of sessions, and thus the progression of therapy is very transparent. The therapist may ask you to attend to your automatic thoughts that occur throughout the day in order for you to begin to become more aware of certain thought patterns. Within the session, the therapist will work with you to address these automatic thoughts and whether they are actually supported by your reality. This practice allows you to gain greater awareness of your maladaptive thinking patterns and eventually adapt these to become more in line with reality, which may improve your functioning in day-to-day life.

4. Psychodynamic Therapy

This kind of therapy approach derives from Freudian psychoanalysis. There is an emphasis on unconscious motivations, as well as an individual’s early life experiences, which both influence current problems. Defense mechanisms often operate in the individual to defend against anxiety they may experience. Through therapy, theses defense mechanisms are explored. A key concept of psychodynamic therapy is transference. Transference is the idea that the client unconsciously transfers feelings from an early relationship, typically a parent, onto the therapist. This transference is explored by the therapist, and the reactions that emerge in the sessions often provide useful information about the client.

These different therapy modalities are just a few of many different kinds of therapy that are used to help people deal with issues they may be experiencing. The approach you choose may depend entirely on what it is you need to address and what your goals are. Whatever it is you are struggling with there is someone that can help you, so you don’t have to go through it alone.

By: Talia Main

Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.

Down the Rabbit Hole

As Alice, from the classic novel and film Alice in Wonderland, follows the well-dressed rabbit down the rabbit hole, one is left to wonder – why? Most advice would say to stay away from the uncertainty of the rabbit hole. However, the rabbit hole can be symbolic for one’s mind and how we sometimes let ourselves go down the rabbit hole of our thoughts, whether we intend to or not. For example, when your friend doesn’t answer their phone, you might begin to wonder why they didn’t answer, even though the first logical thought is to assume they are just busy. Your thoughts may wander to thinking that they are ignoring you, that they are hanging out with new friends and didn’t invite you, or that they don’t care about you to the same extent that you care about them. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole here are some suggestions to stop your mind from wandering to these unwanted thoughts.

1. Remember that even though it may feel personal, it probably isn’t. We tend to have a bias towards the negative, which can often make us feel like others are criticizing us, ignoring us, or have some sort of complex plan to mistreat us. But more often than not, what may feel like a personal attack is just someone being preoccupied with themselves.

2. Acknowledge you have gone into the rabbit hole. When you start making assumptions based on insufficient information, take a step back and tell yourself not to worry until you have a chance to talk to the person. If you can’t detect that you have gone down the rabbit hole, you won’t be able to stop it.

3. Focus on yourself to identify the trigger. Notice how you are feeling right before you go down the rabbit hole? Often people go down the rabbit hole when they are feeling overly tired, anxious, stressed, or annoyed. Once the trigger is identified, try finding a way to calm down and distract yourself. I recommend writing a list of things that you can do when your feeling overwhelmed. For example, watching Netflix, breathing exercises, stretching, listening to music, or going for a walk. These can help center you in these moments.

4. Remind yourself of the facts and bring some context into the scenario. Referring to the phone example – what time of day is it? Does this person usually answer their phone? Is it possible they don’t enjoy speaking on the phone? Is there a productive way you can raise your concern about the lack of telephone response with the person? Do you always answer your phone when people call?

5.What can you do in this moment to be productive? This may be thinking about the situation more deeply, or it may be moving on to another task. You can almost always come back to a situation later, let time give you some perspective.

6. Forgive yourself and move on! Sometimes it’s okay to go down the rabbit hole, as it can be beneficial and sometimes even fun to consider multiple scenarios and let your mind wander. You shouldn’t feel guilty when your mind leads you to negative thoughts. Just accept that this will happen from time to time and know that it will pass. Be kind to yourself!

By: Sara Pishdadian

Sara Pishdadian is a graduate student studying Clinical Psychology at York University. You can follow her on twitter to hear more about her research interests https://twitter.com/sarapishdadian.

Merging Pathways – Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton Locations

“Speaking with a mental health professional is no longer associated to one experiencing a crisis. Having a therapist is now a part of a healthy lifestyle” – KMA client

In thinking about the differences between the population, age groups, and many different concerns that I see at our Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton locations, I realized how similar we all are in terms of our human behavior. We are all striving to be happy, content, and peaceful with our work and the many relationships in our life. Where we differ is in the path we take towards feeling better about ourselves. Some choose to find their path on their own and some choose to seek professional help.

As an intake therapist, I am fortunate enough to have spoken to many people of different cultures, age groups, and populations. The one thing I find that the people at both our Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton locations have in common is that all of them are seeking to speak with a professional in order to maintain a fulfilled life, regardless of their presenting concern.

Let us take a look at the statistics below with regards to the gender and age groups at our Liberty Village vs. Yonge & Eglinton locations.


Both locations have a higher percentage of females, but as you can see, the male population is not far behind. Clients of both genders are willing to connect with mental health professionals to help them grow in their personal and professional life.

 

The Yonge & Eglinton location is becoming a residential area with growing families and so I witness more couple clients compared to the Liberty Village location.

 

In terms of the population and age groups, statistics show that both Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton have a higher percentage of people between the ages of 20-25 years.

 

 

As an intake therapist, I am very proud to see that people are willing to talk about their feelings, insecurities, anxiety, depression, and challenges in their relationships. People are motivated to speak with a mental health professional to develop some strategies to maintain an emotionally healthy life style.

Hats off to all of you for trying to be the best version of yourself! It takes courage to talk about your feelings and thoughts and prioritize self-care.

Even though Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton are two different locations, I still choose to call them Merging Pathways because the challenges I see people face are all similar in nature with varying intensities and lengths of time.

Check out this article for more information about KMA Therapy: http://www.datingadvice.com/for-women/kimberly-moffit-associates-offers-constructive-relationship-counseling-in-toronto

By: Zainab Adil Gandhi

Zainab has completed her Masters in Psychological Counselling, specializing in Marriage and Family therapies. She is a member in good standing with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

Zainab has had 6 years of experience in counselling with Adults, Couples, Parents & Children. She understands that for clients to speak to a complete stranger about their concerns is very challenging. Therefore, her approach to counselling and therapy is client centered. She works with empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard to make sure that the client is extremely comfortable and in a very happy space. It is important to her to establish a good rapport to be able to bring about a healthy change in her clients. She believes in the ‘Human Potential’ that each client brings with him/her. Zainab chooses to be a facilitator in the process, where she guides the clients with her education and experience.  Once she has made the client comfortable in the session, she then moves ahead to use a Cognitive, Behavioral or an Emotional orientation, depending on what the client is willing to receive at that point in time.

Zainab has experience working with issues such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, bullying, parenting challenges, marital concerns, divorce, building healthy communication, relationships, balancing work and life, and dealing with a death of a loved one. She loves to use a variety of visual aids with her clients, which will help them understand their concerns more effectively. Her ultimate goal is to make sure the clients can be independent and cope with their problems efficiently.

 

Panic Attacks 101: How To Cope

sun-set-maldivesPanic attacks are tremendously exhausting and frightening experiences. Some people experience these rarely, while others may experience frequent and persistent panic attacks. Whatever your situation, here are some keys to working through panic both during an attack and before another one occurs.

 

1. Know what’s happening in your body when you panic. Get familiar with your physiological markers and symptoms for panic and know what happens for you. For example, some people might hyperventilate and feel tightness in their chest while others might feel nauseous and experience tunnel vision.

2. Remind yourself that your symptoms are not dangerous (read my other blog post here for more information). Once you know what it feels like in your body when you panic, you can remind yourself that you are having a panic attack and the symptoms you are experiencing are uncomfortable, but not threatening.

3. Identify your triggers for panic. Here is where a therapist can really help you to slow down the process and figure out what started the path to panic. When they happen again, you can take a step back and notice it.

4. Take steps to refocus your attention. If you’re feeling like you’re about to panic, or you’re in the midst of a panic attack, engage in activities that are soothing and that refocus your attention away from your body. Some examples: sing your favourite song, have a cold glass of water, start naming things you see and hear around you.

5. Use self-talk to help cope and calm down. A coping phrase might be: “This is just my body feeling anxious”, or  “I can get through this”. A therapist can help you make coping phrases specific to your panic and in your own words. Repeating your coping phrase is going to help intercept some of the cognitive triggers that lead to panic like “my heart is beating so fast I think I’m going to have a heart attack”. Once your coping phrase has helped to stop the other cognitive triggers, the anxiety cycle will begin to slow down.

You will notice that relaxation (such as deep breathing) is not included in this list. The reason behind this is that panic often stems from too much focus on your body and feared thoughts related to the sensations in your body. In other words, panic can occur when we panic about panicking. For example, if you try to do deep breathing during a panic attack, chances are this is what will happen in your head: “Okay I’m going to breathe slow and steady … My breathing isn’t slowing, I can’t get control of my breathing, what if I hyperventilate?” Notice how the thoughts became more anxious, which will perpetuate panic. In light of this, the best antidote to panic is learning not to fear it through greater understanding and self-talk. If you struggle with panic, try these strategies out and find a therapist who can help you further.

By: Beth Moore

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

Emotional Sunburns

purple-beach-sun-setWhat is an emotional sunburn?

Think about your last trip to sunny Miami!

There, you are soaking in the sun, partying and having the time of your life.

Then, you arrive back to cold Toronto with a painful and blistering sunburn only to have to cover up in layers, long pants, turtlenecks, extra sweaters, boots and long down filled coats.

Your friend greets you at the airport and in his excitement to greet you after your trip, he gives you a big bear hug. Ouch!!!

Not realizing that you have a sunburn on every part of your body, you scream and push him away.

What did he do? How does he feel? How do you feel?

He had no intention of hurting you and did not realize what was covered up underneath your bulky winter clothing. Yet his hug still caused you to scream and pushed him away.

Most people are walking around weighed down with their emotional sunburns. These are individual areas of sensitivity. They are our bruises from our past. They come from past negative experiences; experiences with our family, friends, and lovers.

Many people do a great job of covering their bruises up. Often, no one can see them on the outside and no one knows about them except for you. Sometimes you may not even realize how the past is affecting you in the present.

Your partner doesn’t know about all your emotional sunburns and how they are affecting you today. Next time you have a strong emotional reaction of anger, sadness, anxiety or any powerful feeling to a situation that doesn’t seem to warrant it, take some time to question your reaction and determine if your response is triggered by the present situation or perhaps if it is triggered by a past experience or relationship. Stop and think of the reasons pushing your reactions and identify your emotional sunburns.

If your current relationship is healthy, strong and safe, start sharing your experiences with your partner and work together to help to see how your past is affecting your current relationship. Your partner can become more sensitive to your reactions and you will begin to realize that what happened in the past in not reoccurring again in the present and slowly you will be able to let it go.

Keep in mind emotional sunburns are more painful than your bad burn at the beach last summer!

If you are experiencing an emotional sunburn, especially one that isn’t healing, you may want to invest in working with a therapist to help identify and work though these past hurts. This might enable you to live with renewed emotional equilibrium, without being pulled back into the past.

By: Ilana Brown

IB

Overcoming Insomnia And Night Time Worrying

full-moon-purple-sky-223404Most of us go through times in life when sleep eludes us. Often times we sleep less during times of stress and many of us have chronic sleep difficulties that
may be due to past trauma, anxiety, depression or other concerns. Regardless of what the cause of your insomnia is, I often hear people report the same things:

 

  •  I just can’t turn my mind off
  • I keep thinking and thinking about job/family/friends/the past
  • At night time I just worry about everything
  • I start feeling anxious once I lie down to sleep

Although researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why we need sleep, it is
clear that deep sleep is one of our basic needs. If our sleep needs aren’t met, it
affects all aspects of our life and health. Here are a few tips to quiet your mind
and help you get a good night’s rest:

1. Try not to use technology in bed

I know this one won’t be popular since many people use phones/iPads/television
to distract themselves, avoid worry, and induce sleep. Unfortunately, our brains
begin to associate bed with activities other than sleep unless we’re only using it
for sleep and sex! Research has also shown that technology that emits blue light
(like your phone and iPad) tend to suppress melatonin and increase alertness.

2. Get out of bed if you aren’t able to sleep

This is also one that people tend not to like! However, if you’ve tried for about
half an hour to go to sleep to no avail, get out of bed. When you get out of bed
don’t do anything stimulating (i.e. no TV!). Instead, read a boring book under low
light, drink warm milk or sleepy non-caffeinated tea, or anything else relaxing that
will encourage sleep rather than wakefulness.

3. Make yourself a bedtime routine

Many parents do this for children to make bedtime predictable, and train their
children to wind down and get ready for sleep. Just because you’re an adult
doesn’t mean you don’t need this! Try each night to have a “wind down” routine
that works for you. For example: drink your sleepy time tea, check your phone
for the last time and set your your alarm, brush your teeth and wash your face,
listen to some of your favourite mellow music, and get into bed.

4. Use a mindfulness or calming technique

My favourite exercise to introduce to people with sleep difficulties is “5-4-3-2-1”.
Once you’re in bed and trying to sleep, this is a good exercise to interrupt your
thoughts or worries. Start by naming in your head:

5 things you hear (dog barking, wind in the trees, house creaking)

5 things that you see (my closet, the window in my room, my chair)

5 things that you feel (the blanket on my leg, my heart beating)

Once you’ve finished naming five things (you can repeat items as many times as
you need), start all over again and name four things. Continue until you’re down
to naming one of each item. Once you’ve finished the exercise, start right back
at the beginning if you aren’t sleepy. Take your time with this exercise. Say the
items slowly and calmly in your head, and pause between each item. Let your
eyelids get heavy while you’re looking around your room for items to name.

5. Listen to a relaxation tape

This can be a part of your bedtime routine to help lull you to sleep, or use it once
you’ve tried to sleep for half an hour. If a guided relaxation tape isn’t for you,
YouTube has a variety of calming nature sounds, or Tibetan bells that you might
prefer. YouTube for relaxation tapes is the one form of technology you’re
allowed!

Therapy is a great place to figure out a sleep routine that works for you. In
therapy, we can craft personalized relaxation tapes, learn more relaxation
techniques, and explore underlying causes of insomnia.

By: Beth Moore

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy

 

10 Relationship Issues That Can Benefit From Professional Counselling

toronto-couples-relationship-counselling.jpgHave you been having relationship problems with your partner, family, friends or someone important in your life lately? In life, complications between the people we love arise and there are ways to solve those complications through many different ways. There are healthy and appropriate ways to solve those complications and two of the options are through counselling or psychotherapy.

Sometimes we ask ourselves, “Am I the only one having problems with the people around me?” Everyone has different circumstances throughout life, and its common for most people to go through rough patches as well as periods of joy throughout their life. It is important for us to recognize that no healthy relationship can avoid conflicts! Issues are created while having interaction with people but that shouldn’t stop us from having relationships with others.

There are many different reasons to why we may not be getting along with the people around us. Have you gone through any of the following lately?

1. Trust Issues
2. Difficulty Communicating
3. Personality Differences
4. Money Problems
5. Life Transitions (Minor or Major)
6. Overcoming Grief and Loss
7. Dating/Lack of Intimacy/Ending of a Relationship
8. Parenting/Controlling or Needy Partners
9. Coping with Each Other’s Extended Family/Blended Family
10. Household Responsibilities/Toxic or Judgemental Household Climate

Sometimes, all we need is to chat things over with a friend or family member, or even have some time to think on our own about the issue. Other times, therapy is a great option to explore why we’re having relationship issues and work out skills and coping strategies so we don’t end up in the situation again.

In Counselling and Therapy, we learn to:
1. Recognize the problem, treat it and become stable (emotionally and mentally)
2. Develop skills to work out obstacles in a lively and appropriate way
3. Learn to listen, process, and understand others
4. Establish skills to say what you want in a assertive way without being disoriented by emotions such as anger or resentment
5. Develop full capability to realize how the other person feels and what they want

At KMA Therapy we offer different types of services for Relationship Issues, such as:

– Counselling for Relationships
– Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
– Relationship Therapy
– Relationship Management Counselling

If you’re interested in any of these services, please contact us and we’ll be thrilled to help. Have a great day!

By: Kimberly Moffit

Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional

Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional

 

Are You A Self-Critic?

ed446e42bdd3a9a2c904c7b8c0239b09Self-criticism is a nasty habit many of us have. When something in our work, school, or personal life goes wrong, many of us jump to self-criticism as a coping strategy. You might not even be aware that you’re doing it! To keep our self-critical voice going strong, we tend to have “positive beliefs” about self-criticism and why we need it. For example, you might believe that being hard on yourself is motivating. The truth is that self-criticism is not motivating or beneficial. It is however, good at lowering our self-esteem, and bringing up other negative emotions. If you identify as a self-critic and want to start changing your self-critical voice, here are some steps you can take:

 1. Learn What Your Critic Sounds Like

Pay attention to what your internal voice says next time you make a mistake, or something upsetting happens. Some people’s internal self-critic says “I’m so stupid, I can never get things right”. Other people have a case of the “shoulds”: “I should have known better, I should have picked up on that.” Identifying and becoming aware of your self-critical narrative is the first step to changing it.

 2. Notice What Triggers Your Critic

Some people will have a self-critical response for many situations, while other people are triggered particularly by one aspect of life. Which situations awaken your self-critical voice?

 3. Identify Your Positive Beliefs

Do you believe self-criticism is motivating? Maybe you believe a self-critical voice keeps you modest. Perhaps your belief is that your self-critic keeps you in control. Whatever your positive belief is, identifying your belief is crucial before challenging and changing it. A therapist is a good tool for this step!

 4. Develop a Compassionate Voice

The antidote to a self-critical voice is a self-compassionate voice. Try to think of something you could say to yourself other than “I should have …” or “that was so stupid.” To help you brainstorm, imagine what you would say to a child, or to someone you really love. Your voice would probably change to one of comfort and warmth; it might become lower and more soothing. You might say things like “it’s okay, everyone makes a mistake sometimes” or “you couldn’t have predicted that, you did the best you could”.

 5. Practice & Patience

Have patience with yourself while you tackle self-criticism. There is an irony to changing self-criticism: you can become self-critical of your progress against your self-critic! Remember that you won’t be able to silence your self-critical voice overnight, and that’s okay! It takes a long time to notice and change patterns like self-criticism, but the journey and work is worth it for your self-worth and happiness. If you struggle with self-criticism, a therapist is a great resource for working through these steps and helping you to develop a compassionate voice.

 

By: Beth Moore, M.Ed, CCC.

Beth Moore Counselling & Psychotherapy