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Exploring and disputing unhelpful self-talk

Video Type: In Practice

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  • Summary

David and Maureen “Exploring and disputing unhelpful self-talk” Scenario Background Maureen is a graduate student with some clear career ambitions who is stressed about a compulsory statistics course she is currently taking. Her grade on a minor assignment was lower than anticipated, and she is busy convincing herself that she is almost certain to fail, jeopardizing her longer-term career plans. Video Introduction in this exchange, Maureen has identified that she is feeling stressed about a compulsory statistics course she's taking. She needs the course to accomplish her career objectives and is afraid that she will fail. David helps Maureen paint a picture of what she “tells herself” and does, both in class and at home, in relation to the course. What questions does he ask? What are some of the key answers? Although mostly engaged in gaining a general view of the situation, David does uncover a number of things that will be useful in challenging the unhelpful cognitions. These include “evidence” that is contrary to what Maureen tells herself when pessimistic, as well as exceptions in the form of related situations where Maureen succeeded with challenging tasks by applying herself and focusing down. Can you name the contrary evidence and the exceptions that David and Maureen uncover? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Video Analysis As David explores Maureen's situation with her, it is not long before he uncovers “evidence” that her dire and pessimistic predictions about her prospects are likely exaggerated. However, he refrains from taking an argumentative and oppositional stance, instead maintaining a gentle curiosity that invites Maureen to evaluate alternate ways of looking at things. This conversation is somewhat preparatory to more focused work on revising unhelpful cognitions; nevertheless, it does uncover some fertile prospects. For one, David discovers that Maureen's grade on her first assignment is close to the class average and does not seem to indicate that her abilities are far out of line with course expectations. Second, he discovers that the assignment was only worth 10%, and she therefore has a significant opportunity ahead of her to boost her grades. Third, David becomes curious about whether Maureen has previously succeeded at tasks that initially seemed daunting and unachievable. She recounts her successes in learning to play clarinet. This experience came with helpful cognitions, and David and Maureen consider ways in which she might apply this more productive self-talk to the situation at hand.

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