Sunday, May 6, 2007
The Ten Cognitive Distortions by Dr. Burns
It is unfortunate that Dr. David D. Burns put a large cheesy picture of himself on the cover of his book, because it makes him look like a used car salesman or an ambulance chaser. In fact, he is a highly respected psychiatrist. Dr. Burns attended Amherst College, the Stanford University School of Medicine, and did his residency in Psychiatry under Dr. Aaron T. Beck, the "father of cognitive therapy" at the University of Pennsylvania. Today he is an adjunct clinical professor at Stanford, where he has received numerous awards, including Teacher of the Year. He also writes books and travels the country giving lectures. I first "met" Dr. Burns several years ago when I participated in an 8-week cognitive behavioral therapy group run by a mental health nurse at the University of Michigan. Most of the members of the group, including myself, had problems with depression. We met one night a week around a large table, each clutching our copy of The Feeling Good Handbook, which we had been instructed to buy and bring with us. The book is 729 pages long, and I think we were encouraged to read it, in addition to completing weekly "homework" assignments. But we were a group of depressed people, and just showering (or not), dressing, leaving the house and getting to our meeting each week required a series of small miracles. Luckily, if we made it to the meeting, we could sit in comfortable chairs and listen to our wonderful facilitator explain the most important parts of the book to us. One of the first things we learned was that depressed people think differently from healthy people. David Burns has identified ten specific ways that depression can "twist" our thinking. He argues that if we can learn to recognize and confront our messed-up thought patterns, or "cognitive distortions", we can make ourselves feel better. His ideas have helped me a lot.
Posted by An at 9:29 AM