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What is Guided Discovery in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and How Does it Work?

What is Guided Discovery in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and How Does it Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used therapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic process. While CBT is well known as a treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, it is not a single treatment but one of many techniques that are all focused on addressing cognitions and behaviors under the same philosophy.

Guided Discovery is one such CBT technique. The technique involves the therapist desiring and working towards helping the client discover insights and solutions into themselves, rather than providing any direct advice or interpretation.

How Guided Discovery Works and Why It’s Used

Guided Discovery is based on the principle that clients often have the capacity to resolve their own problems – and may benefit from solving problems for themselves – but may need help in doing so. The therapist uses a collaborative and Socratic questioning style (what do you mean by that? Why do you think you think that?) to guide clients in exploring their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and in understanding the connections among them. Components of Guided Discovery include:

  • Collaborative Empiricism – This approach involves working together to investigate the client’s thoughts and beliefs and their validity or usefulness.
  • Socratic Questioning – The therapist uses thoughtful, open-ended questions to encourage deeper reflection and exploration of a client’s experiences and beliefs.
  • Self-Discovery – The goal is for clients to arrive at insights and answers independently, leading to a more profound and lasting understanding of their issues.

Typically, the therapist has an idea of what they want the client to realize and achieve. But they want the client to determine it for themselves, so that it comes from a deeper self-understanding rather than being told by someone what they need to do and causing them to potentially become defensive or ignore the advice.

Example of How Guided Discovery Works

Patients with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions typically struggle with negative thinking, black/white thinking, and other similar issues. For example, a client may feel like a failure because of a mistake they made at work. The therapist will then ask questions to explore this belief, such as “What evidence do we have that making a mistake equates to being a failure?” or “How do you define failure and success?”

The patient could say “everyone makes mistakes, it’s not a failure,” but telling a patient that is often not as effective. Instead, as the client answers these questions, they begin to notice and see for themselves that the making a mistake is a common human experience, and not indicative of failure.

Your Therapist, CBT, and Guided Discovery

Our therapists only use guided discovery when appropriate, along with other CBT and psychotherapy principles. But when it is utilized, it can be very effective for helping patients truly understand more about themselves. This approach respects the client’s autonomy and encourages active participation in therapy, leading to more meaningful and sustainable change.

Guided Discovery in CBT is a powerful tool that fosters self-awareness and personal growth. By helping clients to understand their thought processes, emotional responses, and behavior patterns, therapists enable them to develop more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving. Guided Discovery exemplifies the collaborative nature of CBT, emphasizing the role of the therapist as a facilitator in the client’s journey towards better mental health.

The Relationship Between Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and CBT

The Relationship Between Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and CBT

Within the field of psychotherapy, various approaches offer unique perspectives and techniques for addressing mental health issues. Among these, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are two prominent modalities.

While they share some commonalities, their philosophies and methods also present distinct differences that can support patients as they address. At Flourish Psychology, we may integrate one or both of these treatment approaches as needed to help you with your wellness and recovery. But as you talk to your therapist about the different options, we understand that you may have questions.

Common Ground – CBT and ACT

CBT and ACT, at their core, are both forms of behavioral therapy that emphasize the impact of thoughts on feelings and behaviors. They share a fundamental belief in the interconnectedness of thoughts, emotions, and actions. They have many similarities, including:

  • Goal-Oriented and Structured – Both therapies are structured and goal-oriented, focusing on helping individuals achieve specific outcomes.
  • Empowering Individuals – Both approaches aim to empower the individual, equipping them with tools and strategies to manage and improve their mental health.
  • Evidence-Based – Both CBT and ACT are grounded in research and evidence, demonstrating effectiveness in treating a range of psychological issues.

These similarities are not unexpected, because ACT was developed specifically because of CBT, despite having its own unique differences.

Differences Between CBT and ACT

While sharing some similarities, CBT and ACT diverge significantly in their approach to thoughts and emotions:

  • CBT’s Focus on Change – CBT is centered around identifying and changing negative or distorted thought patterns. It teaches individuals to challenge and reframe these thoughts to alter emotional responses and behaviors.
  • ACT’s Emphasis on Acceptance – In contrast, ACT focuses on accepting thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. It advocates for a mindful approach to observe one’s experiences without judgment, learning to coexist with them rather than control them.

The techniques used in CBT and ACT also reflect their philosophical differences:

  • CBT Techniques – CBT employs techniques like cognitive restructuring to challenge and change negative thoughts, and behavioral experiments to test these thoughts against reality.
  • ACT Techniques – ACT uses mindfulness and acceptance strategies, helping individuals to develop psychological flexibility. It encourages embracing one’s thoughts and feelings rather than fighting them, and committing to actions that align with personal values.

Despite their differences, CBT and ACT can be complementary. For some, the direct approach of CBT in tackling and changing negative thoughts can be profoundly effective. For others, the acceptance-based approach of ACT can offer a more suitable path, especially for those who may find the constant challenge of thoughts in CBT to be overwhelming.

Working with Your Therapist on Treatment Approaches

While CBT and ACT share some commonalities in their approach to mental health, they offer distinct perspectives on handling thoughts and emotions. CBT’s focus on changing thought patterns contrasts with ACT’s emphasis on accepting and living in harmony with them.

Understanding these differences is crucial for therapists and individuals alike in choosing the most appropriate approach for their unique mental health needs. Whether through changing or accepting thoughts, both therapies ultimately strive towards the common goal of improved mental well-being.

Brooklyn CBT for Anxiety: Why CBT is Useful for Anxiety and Stress

Brooklyn CBT for Anxiety: Why CBT is Useful for Anxiety and Stress

Flourish Psychology offers CBT in NYC. Based in Brooklyn, our CBT therapy services help clients with all different types of mental health struggles find the relief and support they deserve to manage and reduce their symptoms. CBT is an appropriate treatment for a wide range of mental health challenges, but it is best known for its role in treating anxiety.

What is CBT?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a highly researched approach to therapy that provides actionable solutions for both the cognitive (thought) and behavioral actions associated with various mental health conditions. Other therapeutic modalities focus on past issues and try to lead to “breakthroughs.” CBT, on the other hand, is focused on more actionable items like skills training and challenging maladaptive thoughts.

Why Do Patients and Therapists Prefer CBT for Anxiety?

Here in New York City, a different approach, known as psychodynamic theory, was the preferred option for decades. But it has since fallen out of favor for cognitive behavioral therapy, as CBT has shown itself to be a better option. That is especially true for anxiety:

  • CBT focuses less on your past, and more on your experience as a person. Though our pasts do shape who we are, CBT recognizes that what is most important is helping you become the person you want to be.
  • CBT is goal oriented and faster. While we often see our patients for years, helping them manage the stress and anxieties of life, the process for CBT for anxiety takes only a few months, helping you see measurable results in a shorter time.
  • CBT is actionable. While there is immense value in talking about your past, your personality, and other components of your life, we also know that – especially with anxiety – you’re often looking for solutions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy provides many benefits for anxiety that make it not only a popular choice for both patients and therapists – but also a recommended one, shown in the research to be one of the most effective ways to address anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, and other anxiety-related conditions.

Is CBT the Best Choice for All Patients?

Part of our approach here at Flourish Psychology is to truly get to know who you are, why you have anxiety, and what we feel – together – will be the most effective way to address and identify any challenges you face in the short and long term. Often that is CBT. Sometimes it is not.

There are many therapy modalities available to address your mental health and wellness. Our NYC therapists want to find the one that works best for you. Contact Flourish Psychology today to learn more about our Brooklyn CBT services, or connect with your own therapist for you to learn from and grow with.

How To Handle Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder This Winter

How To Handle Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder This Winter

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is sometimes called winter depression. This type of depression typically creeps in during the cold and dark winter months. Symptoms of SAD are quite similar to those associated with major depression. The effects of SAD include feeling depressed for a prolonged period of time, low energy and motivation, feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest in your favorite activities. Seasonal affective disorder may affect your eating habits, which in turn leads to changes in weight. Sleep is also affected, with some experiencing insomnia (lack of sleep) and others experiencing hypersomnia (sleeping too much). 

Seasonal Affective Disorder During COVID-19

As you can imagine, the symptoms of SAD are exacerbated while living through a global pandemic. If you’ve been feeling especially depressed recently, you’re not alone. Millions of people across the world are currently coping with increased feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and fear.

The pandemic is far from over. COVID-19 can worsen the effects of SAD in a number of ways. Many of us are still unable to have the level of social interaction that we may have grown accustomed to pre-pandemic. Prolonged social isolation will lead to worsening symptoms of depression and feelings of hopelessness. Additionally, the pandemic has caused so much trauma – deaths, loss of jobs, loss of home, loss of relationships. These stressors are sure to have an impact on your mental health. All of this is coinciding with the holiday season, which can be an emotionally triggering time for many people. With all of these variables happening simultaneously, 

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder shows itself in many ways. Common signs and symptoms include oversleeping and a change in your eating habits. Many people experience increased cravings for carbs or sweets. Because of this weight gain is another common side effect of SAD. 

Those experiencing SAD will feel down for most of the day, on an almost daily basis. It’s common to lose interest in activities you typically and to feel sluggish or fatigued. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt or shame may pop up during this time of year. You may have difficulty concentrating, which can impact your performance at work or in your relationships. Some people will experience suicidal ideation as a result of SAD. 

Tips for coping with SAD During COVID-19

Self-Care Is a Must

During a long and dreary winter, the days tend to bleed into each other and you may find yourself neglecting self-care tasks. Be sure to keep up with your hygiene routines, stay hydrated, eat healthy foods and prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. Many people are more prone to illnesses during this time, so take extra care of your physical health.

Beyond that, you should also make time for those ‘extra’ self-care activities that just make you feel good. Whether it’s a bubble bath, time with a good book or cooking a favorite meal, you can help manage SAD by doing things that you enjoy. This is known as behavioral activation, and it’s an important element of cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Move Your Body

Exercise benefits both our physical and mental health. During the winter months, it can be hard to find the motivation to get moving. But by staying active, you’re helping to reduce the effects of SAD not only by releasing endorphins, but also due to behavioral activation, which we mentioned earlier. 

With the right gear, you can go walking or running outside during the colder months. Consider investing in a few pieces of winter exercise wear to encourage yourself to get moving. If you prefer to work out indoors and have access to exercise equipment, the treadmill and stationary bike are great options. If you don’t have access to equipment, there are endless apps, videos and websites that can help you to workout without having to leave your living room. 

Give Light Therapy a Try 

Light therapy is commonly recommended for treating seasonal affective disorder. During light therapy, you are exposed to artificial light that mimics natural outdoor light. Research shows that exposure to light release a chemical in the brain that lifts your mood and eases the effect of SAD. Light therapy lamps are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online. Try using the lamp within the first hour of waking up in the morning. 

Practice Mindfulness Daily

Mindfulness has been proven to be effective in managing the symptoms of SAD. Mindfulness meditation gives you a moment to be still and calm and to notice our thoughts in a clear and non-judgmental way. We often move through life so quickly that we rarely stop to notice our thinking patterns or negative self-talk. 

Meditation isn’t the only way to practice mindfulness. You can incorporate mindfulness into your days in simple, ways. When eating a meal or drinking a cup of tea, try to do it more mindfully. On your next walk, you can be more mindful by making the effort to observe and appreciate your environment. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

If you’ve been feeling down for a prolonged period of time, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Let your loved ones know what you’ve been experiencing. Your support system can be extremely beneficial in helping you to manage the symptoms of SAD. Having a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on go a very long way. 

Are you able to get help with tasks like cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning and laundry? For many people experiencing depression, these tasks are incredibly difficult to do. Are you able to get help from a partner, friend or family member? If you have the means, consider delegating these tasks to a grocery delivery service or laundry service. 

If your symptoms have been present for a prolonged period, it’s worth considering professional help. By working with a therapist, you’re taking a big step towards managing, reducing and even eliminating the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be an effective method of treating SAD because it teaches you to change the way you think.

The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained and qualified in aa number of treatment modalities, including cognitive behavioral therapy. Contact us to schedule your first session. 



Self-sabotage happens to the best of us, and we’re sometimes not even aware that we’re doing it. Self-sabotage describes actively or passively taking steps that prevent us from achieving our goals or becoming our best selves. This kind of behavior can affect every aspect of our lives, from our careers and relationships to our finances and personal development. 

The term is used to describe behaviors, actions, omissions, or even thought processes that create difficulties in daily life and have a negative impact on long-term goals. Quite often, people are unaware that they are self-sabotaging, thus repeating cycles and patterns of negativity throughout their lives. 

Only by identifying our self-sabotaging habits do we begin to take the necessary steps to stop. With further introspection, we can uncover the origin of our self-sabotaging patterns, which better enables us to disengage from these habits.

Signs and Examples

Sometimes, it’s hard to identify these behaviors. You can sabotage yourself in many different ways. Some may be obvious (such as overspending on shopping when you should be saving towards a goal), but some are much more difficult to spot. 

A simple way to identify self-sabotaging behavior is to think back through your past to determine any negative patterns. For example, you may realize that all your former romantic partners were unaffectionate, or that you’re always late to job interviews. Consider how your actions, omissions, or thought patterns have perpetuated the patterns. Ask yourself if the patterns are in alignment with your values and your long-term goals. 

The clearest sign of self-sabotage is your life being misaligned with your values and your vision for the future. Identify the goal that you want to achieve (such as having a clean, decluttered environment) and then identify which of your behaviors are undermining that goal (such as going to bed without washing the dishes or clearing off your desk). 

One of the most common examples of self-sabotage is procrastination. Though we want to achieve our goals, we delay or avoid doing the things that will help us to achieve them. Other forms of self-sabotage include poor money management, overworking, substance abuse, or not taking prescribed medication. Self-sabotage can be as simple as forgetting to cancel subscriptions that you don’t use or as complex as repeatedly allowing childhood trauma to manifest in adult relationships, without taking steps to address the trauma. 

Another common example of self-sabotage is chronic lateness. Lateness can negatively affect both our professional and personal lives. Substance abuse is another common form of self-sabotage, which can impact all aspects of our lives, including our finances, health, career and relationships. A fear of intimacy commitment is another common way that we sabotage ourselves. These fears can make it incredibly difficult to maintain both romantic and platonic relationships. 

Negative thought patterns can also manifest in self-sabotaging behaviors. For example, if you have the unhelpful core belief that you will never find love, you may be reluctant to do the very things that would lead to you finding love. If you have the unhelpful core belief that people are not to be trusted, you could be preventing yourself from enjoying the benefits of being vulnerable in your close relationships or from getting the help that you may need. 

Of course, there are countless other examples of self-sabotaging behaviors. Working with a therapist is a great way to unpack the ways that you may be undermining your own success or growth. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective form of therapy that helps you to identify and modify your unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. 

Causes of Self-Sabotage

These behaviors can be caused by a variety of reasons. When it comes to relationships, self-sabotage is often caused by fear – fear of rejection, fear of being hurt or fear of repeating an unpleasant experience from a previous relationship. Fear can lead to self-sabotage in many aspects of our lives. For example, a fear of rejection may cause us to not go after opportunities that could improve our lives. Fear of failure may prevent us from launching that business or writing that book. 

Sometimes, these behaviors are the product of observing and mirroring the behaviors of our parents. For example, a child who grew up in a poor household may still maintain a scarcity mindset well into adulthood, even after improving their financial situation. This can manifest in self-destructive behaviors such as hoarding or a lack of generosity. 

Overcoming Self-Sabotage

After you’ve identified your self-sabotaging behavior and considered its origin, you now need to understand the purpose it serves. For instance, procrastination serves the purpose of avoiding something unpleasant or intimidating. Substance use/abuse serves the purpose of temporarily making us feel good or alleviating stress. 

Can you think of a healthier behavior that can serve the same purpose? Let’s say your self-sabotaging behavior is oversharing on social media when you’re angry. Posting online allows you to vent and to voice your opinion, which feels good when you’re angry. How else can you achieve this? Could you write in a journal or call a friend instead? Could you listen to some music until you’re calmer and then revisit the situation? Have a plan in place for the next time you feel the need to engage in self-sabotaging behavior. The next time you feel like overspending after a hard day, you’ll remember your plan to call your mom and put your credit card in a hard-to-access location. 

Set yourself up for success. If you want to eat healthier snacks instead of junk food, keep a healthy snack in your bag. If you want to stop using video games to procrastinate while working from home, put the console away at the beginning of your workday or week. Make it easy for you to choose healthy behaviors while putting up barriers for self-sabotaging behaviors. 

By working with a therapist, you’ll have the support of a qualified and experienced mental health professional. Therapy is an excellent tool for identifying negative thought and behavior patterns that you may not even be aware of. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other forms of therapy that can help you to live your best life. 

Contact us today to schedule your first session. 

How to Uncover Unhelpful Core Beliefs

How to Uncover Unhelpful Core Beliefs

Core beliefs are the fundamental and foundational ideas that you hold about yourself, others and the world around you. They can best be described as the filter through which you see and interpret the information that you receive from others and from the outside world. These beliefs are deeply embedded and have a significant impact on your daily thought processes and decision making. They are always in the back of your mind and manifest in many different ways throughout our lives. These beliefs have a tremendous impact on everything from self-esteem to relationships and even your finances. They help to shape your perception of reality and are often the driving force behind your automatic or intrusive thoughts. 

Here’s an example. Your boss sends an email requesting an urgent meeting tomorrow morning. The email comes out of the blue and you aren’t sure what it may be about. If your automatic thought is that you’re going to be fired, you may have a core belief that you are not good at your job or a belief that good things are always taken away from you. Someone with different core beliefs may have a more neutral attitude towards the meeting. Another person may believe that the meeting is signaling a promotion or salary increase. 

Most of our core beliefs are inherited from our families of origin. As children, the adults around us show and tell us (both directly and indirectly) the things that we should believe and accept as true. We emulate our caregivers and deeply internalize the things that we are told and shown. As we age, these beliefs become even more entrenched and we may even subconsciously seek out situations and experiences that corroborate our beliefs. In this way, the beliefs are reinforced as our experiences seem to confirm their validity. 

The good news is that you have the power to alter your core beliefs and the way you see yourself and the world around you. 

How Core Beliefs Shape Our Worldview 

Your worldview is a system of beliefs about reality and society. Like your core beliefs, your worldview is initially formed in childhood through your interactions with the adults around you. As you age and go through life, your experiences continue to shape your worldview. This system of beliefs is heavily influenced by your core beliefs and you ultimately come to accept these beliefs are the definitive truth about society and the world you live in. 

Beliefs About Ourselves

Your core beliefs about yourself are often rooted in childhood experiences. The adults in your life told you things about yourself and you accept these things as truths. These beliefs are also heavily influenced by the way that you are treated by others as you make your way through life. Both helpful and unhelpful core beliefs about yourself are formed gradually over time. With effort, you can alter or improve your core beliefs about yourself. Unhelpful beliefs include “I will never find love” and “I am a lazy person.” Helpful beliefs about yourself include “I make good decisions” and “I am worthy of good things.” Your core beliefs about yourself help to form the “rules” that you set for yourself as to what you can and cannot do. For example, you may subconsciously believe that you are not “allowed” to express anger or sadness. This rule may be tied to a core belief that your emotions are burdens to other people. You may have formed this core belief based on how people have reacted to your emotions in the past. 

Beliefs About Others 

Our experience with other people helps to form our core beliefs about people in general. For example, someone who has repeatedly experienced infidelity in relationships may form the view that “everybody cheats” even though this it not an objective truth. Because of this belief, they may approach relationships with cynicism or may avoid romantic relationships altogether. This can have the counterproductive effect of chasing away a good, faithful partner. It can also cause a self-fulfilling prophecy, where they begin cheating too, since “everybody does it.”

Core beliefs about other people can easily turn into stereotyping. For example, it’s a common core belief that wealthy people are inherently evil or selfish. This core belief does not take into consideration that wealth and morality often have little to do with each other. Many wealthy people are generous and use their money to positively impact the lives of others. Unchecked core beliefs about others can lead to self-sabotage. For example, if you believe that wealthy people are evil, you may subconsciously deny yourself of prosperity to avoid becoming “one of them.”

Core Beliefs About The World

How do you see the world around you? Is it a “dog eat dog” world or do you believe that most people are inherently good and kind? Your core beliefs about the world impact how you make your way through life and how you interact with the world. Those who believe in “every man for himself” will approach life differently from those who subscribe to the belief that “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Uncovering Your Unhelpful Core Beliefs

How much thought have you given to your core beliefs and how they may be impacting your daily life? Most of these beliefs sit unrecognized in the very back of our minds, yet they play such a significant role in our lives. By uncovering your core beliefs, you will be able to identify any unhelpful ideologies that can be replaced with healthier, more progressive beliefs. 

One way to uncover your unhelpful core beliefs on your own is to notice your automatic thoughts. The next time you have an immediate negative thought about yourself, take a moment to notice and examine it. For example, if you make a mistake at work and your first thought is “I can’t get anything right,” ask yourself where this thought came from. Do you have evidence for and against the thought? Can you think of anyone from your past who caused you to feel that way? By noticing and questioning your negative automatic thoughts, you can gain valuable insight on your core beliefs. 

Working with a therapist is an excellent way to uncover your core beliefs and identify their origins. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other forms of therapy, you can develop core beliefs that are healthy, helpful and positive. 

Contact us today to schedule your first session.