The Feeling Good Therapist - Devil's Advocate Technique

Devil's Advocate Technique with host, Richard Lam, LMFT, featuring Yasna Silas, LMFT

*This Technique was developed by Dr. David Burns, American Psychiatrist and Adjunct Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

This invaluable therapeutic skill can help if you're a therapist seeking to enrich your practice or an individual eager to conquer self-defeating habits. In this enlightening discussion from Feeling Good Institute, therapists Richard and Yasna explore the Devil's Advocate Technique, an ingenious cognitive behavioral therapy technique concept conceived by the esteemed Dr. David Burns.

Richard portrays a student struggling with procrastination. In a creative twist, we witness a playful battle between a little angel and a mischievous devil perched on the student's shoulders. Yasna role plays as the devil, taking the form of procrastination thoughts, tempting the student, while the angel, Richard, counters with positive reinforcement. As the student faces the post-school homework dilemma, the profound impact of the Devil's Advocate Technique becomes evident. It introduces a strategic shift in perspective, advocating the idea of "doing the work now and procrastinating later" as the wiser choice. This useful method of using CBT for procrastination finds its place within the habit and addiction log, effectively dismantling the stronghold of procrastination addiction and negative thoughts. It emerges as a versatile CBT tool, ready to address various habits and addictions. As part of the agenda-setting process, Richard empowers individuals to confront their inner demons, fostering way of positive change.


Richard: Hi everyone! Welcome to the Feeling Good Therapist where I worn different skills and tools as a therapist or to be able to use in your personal life. Today, we have Yasna Silas, who will be explaining about the Devil's Advocate technique, a technique created by Dr. David Burns.

Yasna Silas: Hi Richard, thank you for having me. I’m excited to do this demo with you today and so Devil's Advocate, today in the demo you'll be playing a student who is procrastinating on homework, so what do you think, is that okay?

Richard: Yeah, let's do it!

Yasna Silas: Awesome! So, I have this great technique that can help your procrastination and I'm wondering if you would like to do that with me.

Richard: Yeah, let's give it a try.

Yasna Silas: Okay and this technique is called Devil's Advocate and how it works is that, you remember the cartoons where there's like a little devil on your shoulder and a little angel on your shoulder, right? So, what's going to happen is that I'll be playing the little devil on your shoulder and that will be tempting you with your procrastination thoughts and tempting you as much as I can and then you will be playing the angel and you'll be using positive thoughts because usually what happens is when we want to procrastinate, we always have these little devilish thoughts that will tell us how we can do it later, we don't have to do it right now and we never really have this angel on our shoulder telling us otherwise. So, that's how it works and the reason as to why we do this technique. What do you think about that, would you like to try it?

Richard: Yeah, it sounds interesting. Let's give this a shot.

Yasna Silas: Okay great! So, just to make sure who will I be playing in this role play?

Richard: You'll be that little devil on my shoulder.

Yasna Silas: Yeah, perfect. And who will you be?

Richard: I'm gonna play that angel and try to like fight back against you.

Yasna Silas: Great, exactly! Okay, so just remember I'm gonna be playing this little devil right? So, Richard yeah you know, you just got back from school, you don't need to do your homework right now. You're tired.

Richard: Yeah, I am pretty tired but part of this is I just don't end up doing the homework later, if I kind of take a break but I just kind of like just go a little bit longer just do the homework. I know, I can relax at the end of this and just rest after this so I should probably just strap down and just do it.

Yasna Silas: Great okay and who won that exchange?

Richard: I definitely won that one.

Yasna Silas: Okay and would you say that was a small or big win?

Richard: Oh, it's for sure big.

Yasna Silas: Okay, yeah! So, it was a big or huge one?

Richard: Oh, that was a huge win.

Yasna Silas: Yeah, that's awesome. So, it sounds like you know, you have a really developed powerful thought there and I was wondering if you could summarize it for me really quick.

Richard: I can really focus on like doing all the work right now so therefore I can relax later because a lot of times when I try to relax first and then do it later, I never really achieved that and I just end up not doing the homework.

Yasna Silas: Yeah, right that's great. So, let's write that down on your habit and addiction log.

Richard: Great! Let's pause right there. Thank you Yasna, that was such a wonderful role play for the Devil's Advocate technique. If you want to learn more about Yasna, you can find her information below. If you want to learn more techniques, feel free to subscribe to the Feeling Good Institute - YouTube channel and until next time, thanks everyone!

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