I’m happy to announce that I’ve got a new book coming out on May 22, 2018. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple and is being published by Althea Press, who also did Retrain Your Brain. I wanted to share a bit about what led me to write this book and why I’m excited about it.

Simplified Presentation

As the title suggests, I wanted to give people a painless introduction to CBT. I figured that the typical reader isn’t looking for entire chapters on the research evidence for CBT, or a bunch of technical jargon. When we’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, or anger, we need something that’s easy to pick up and use right away.

To that end I organized the book so you can find what you need when you need it. Each chapter covers a specific area like setting goals, managing anxiety, controlling anger, or beating procrastination. Chapters are further divided into sections that address individual topics; in the chapter on procrastination, for example, there are sections on punctuality and using a to-do list, among others. Find what you need and use as much or as little as you like.

Broader Range of Conditions

In Retrain Your Brain I was focused on ways to manage depression and anxiety. In CBT Made Simple I devote a chapter to dealing with excessive anger, and have also more explicitly addressed ways to manage stress. I also address health and well-being in a broad sense.

The issues we deal with are often interconnected—our physical health affects our mental health, our relationships influence our health habits, etc.—so it makes sense to approach our well-being holistically. Hopefully this book can be a “one-stop shop” for many people.

Practicing Presence

One of the things I’m most excited about is that I could include an entire chapter on the principles and practices of mindfulness. As you probably know, these practices are very important to me, and while I mentioned them in passing in Retrain Your Brain, I really got to dive into them in CBT Made Simple.

Mindfulness is the simple yet powerful idea that by being fully present in our lives—right in the now of this moment—we can live a much richer and less punishing life. When we join presence with an openness to our experience, we have a much easier time dealing with the vicissitudes of life.

In the chapters on anger, worry, procrastination, and self-kindness, I present mindfulness-based techniques that can help in these areas.

Think Act Be

On a related note, I realized that the Think Act Be framework was a perfect fit for this book, since I was presenting mindfulness-infused cognitive behavioral therapy. I’m really happy to hear that this idea seems to resonate with people, providing an easy way to remember three approaches we can use when we’re feeling overwhelmed. It also seems like a simple approach that aligns with the spirit of this book.

Foreword by Dr. Rob DeRubeis

I was thrilled that my former supervisor and research mentor, psychologist Rob DeRubeis, PhD, agreed to write the foreword. Rob was an integral part of my graduate education from Day 1. He was an invaluable member of my dissertation committee, and welcomed me into his research group even though I was not doing research with them.

Rob’s lab has produced tremendously valuable research findings over the years. For example, they’ve shown that medication for depression is better than placebo only for people with really severe depression, and that CBT and medication are equally effective for treating depression.

Most of what I learned about cognitive therapy came from Rob’s practicum, which I enjoyed so much I did it 3 years in a row. So often in my therapy sessions I find myself invoking things I learned from his supervision that have become an essential part of my approach. I also strive to be a supervisor like he was, encouraging therapists in their own style rather than trying to mold them into a narrow idea of what I think a therapist should be.

Being Good to Yourself

Sometimes we can ignore the most basic elements of feeling well—eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, and spending time with people we care about, to name some of the most important. If the fundamentals of our lives are strong, we’ll have a much better chance of staying on our feet when we meet life’s stresses. Unfortunately our culture often treats self-care as a “time-permitting” afterthought.

I wrote chapter 10, “Be Kind to Yourself,” for these reasons—as an antidote to chronically neglecting our needs. I also include sections on taking stress management seriously, practicing gratitude, serving others, and spending time in nature.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon, and the publish date again is 5/22/18. I look forward to hearing what you think!

6 thoughts

  • Hi Dr. Seth,
    I’d very deeply appreciate your response.

    I have a question that has been gnawing at me terribly for over a year. It’s in regards to something I’ve just come across in your book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple, but I’ve heard it said other ways by a few others.

    In chapter 1 of your book you write:

    “…when we’re feeling highly anxious, we tend to have thoughts about danger, and those thoughts will increase our anxiety. These thoughts and feelings in turn will make us more likely to avoid what we fear, which will reinforce our anxiety.”

    How does avoiding what we fear “reinforce” anxiety?

    The general question regardless of type of emotion, is how does acting out an emotionally disturbing thought (regardless if its anxiety or anger) increases the likelihood of it to reappear?

    Thank you so much in advance for any insight you can further lend!

    Best Regards,
    Mark

    • Hi, Mark. Good question! Three ways in particular, for anxiety:

      1. When we avoid a stimulus, our brains interpret the avoidance as evidence that the thing we’re avoiding is dangerous. We usually think of the reverse effect: THAT’S DANGEROUS –> AVOID. But it’s also the case that: AVOID leads to THAT’S DANGEROUS. Over 100 years ago William James wrote about this idea, that when we meet a bear we feel fear because we run.

      2. Running from a bear makes good sense, but when we run from benign things like saying hi to an acquaintance on the street, we don’t get to learn what would have happened, which is usually less bad than we fear. So avoidance maintains anxiety by preventing the disconfirmation of our fears.

      3. When we avoid we feel relief, a sense of “Ah…….. thank goodness.” That feeling of relief is powerfully reinforcing. Scientists who study learning call it “negative reinforcement” because it strengthen a response by removing (that’s the “negative”) an aversive stimulus. So if I decide not to write a paper that I’m nervous about, I’m likely to repeat the avoidance the next time I could work on it because of that previous reward.

      Anger and other emotions have their own dynamics. For example, expressing anger might reinforce the thoughts that led to the feelings of anger, and lead to justifying them: “I wouldn’t have acted that way if it didn’t make sense for me to be angry.”

      Hope this helps!

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to share the insight. I wholeheartedly appreciate your considerateness.

    Your points: #2 and #3 – are very helpful towards chipping away at my struggle to understand what I feel is a very important concept. However, with point :#1 –there’s something I feel I’m still not grasping, but really badly want to.

    ” William James wrote about this idea, that when we meet a bear we feel fear because we run.”

    Why in an instant, and so immediately, does the actual running part cause the feelings of fear and terror?

    That James quote reminds me of how you hear with people with recurring nightmares of monsters or weapon-wielding assailants chasing them, that the actual running away is what causes the nightmare, causes the terror, but if one stopped running in the dream and surrendered to whoever or whatever was chasing them the nightmare (and fear) ends.

    • My pleasure, Mark. I think you’re exactly right about the nightmares. I don’t know if I’d think of it so much as the action causes the emotion as that it reinforces it, even strengthens it. I remember as a kid being very scared as I walked upstairs in the dark to my bedroom, and knowing that if I started to run, the fear would turn into terror.

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