The Feeling Good Therapist - Examine the Evidence

Examine the Evidence Technique with host, Richard Lam, LMFT, featuring Indrani Mookerjee, DSW, LCSW-C

*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.

Examine the Evidence Technique, a cognitive tool developed by Dr. David Burns, that challenges and counters negative thoughts through the lens of logic and evidence. In this enlightening discussion at Feeling Good Institute, Richard and Indrani explore Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills and tools for reframing negative thoughts, offering invaluable insights for both therapists and individuals in their personal lives. Richard immerses himself in the role of a hardworking finance executive battling perfectionism. Fighting negative thoughts and the pervasive belief of falling behind, the therapists harness this courtroom-inspired method in an evidence-based war against self-doubt. Richard plays the role of the prosecuting attorney, presenting arguments supporting the negative thought, such as "I'm not good enough." Then Richard role plays as the defense attorney to mount a counterattack with evidence. The method emphasizes the universal truth that nobody ever truly finishes work, highlighting the executive's strengths of thoroughness and attention to detail. 

This evidence based therapy technique example highlights the executive's ongoing career success and commitment to continuous growth. It underscores that mistakes are not failures but stepping stones to personal development. This therapeutic tool provides hope for individuals seeking to confront self-doubt with rationality, showing evidence to reaffirm their worth. Richard empowers individuals to indulge in self esteem activities and dismantle the stronghold of unhelpful thinking styles, fostering self-confidence.


Richard: Hi everyone! Welcome to the Feeling Good Therapist and in this section, we'll learn a lot about different techniques and skills that you can use in your own practice or even in your personal life. Today, we have the lovely Indrani Mookerjee, who will be teaching us a little bit more about the examine the evidence technique.

Indrani: So, I am excited to be here with you Richard and excited to share this method that I use frequently it's called Examine the Evidence and how we are going to do this today is, you're going to play my patient, who is a hard driving, hard-working successful Finance Executive, who's super perfectionistic. And he constantly thinks, he's not good enough, he's falling behind and he has a lot of negative thoughts so that's what we're going to do today. Are you ready to do it with me?

Richard: Yeah, let's do it.

Indrani: Awesome, alright. So, I'm going to set it up for you Richard, I'm going to explain what this method is, it's like I said it's called Examine the Evidence and it's a logic based method. And it you know kind of challenges these negative thoughts that we have with evidence. So, we are going to pretend that we are in a court of law and you get to play not only the prosecuting attorney arguing in favor of the negative thought. You also get to play the defensive attorney at defending yourself against those thoughts and then you're also going to be the judge and you'll decide which side, what. Are you okay doing this with me?

Richard: Yeah that sounds great! Let's give it a try.

Indrani: Alright! So, let's get our paper, pads, you know MacBooks out. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask you to hit me with and a negative thought and I'll just tell you what that is appreciative if that's okay it could be you know something like I'm not good enough or I am falling behind so if you want to just give me that thought, we can then go ahead and do the method.

Richard: Yeah, let's work on that thought. I'm not good enough, I think that one comes up for me quite a bit in finance.

Indrani: That’s great. So, we're going to write in your booklets, let's write that thought ‘I'm not good enough’ and then let's draw a line down the middle and the left-hand side. Let's put prosecution so, Richard can you give me some evidence as to why you would think you're not good enough?

Richard: I haven't finished all my work.

Indrani: Yeah you haven't finished all your work. What other evidence can you come up with for this, you know in favor of this thought, I'm not good enough.

Richard: It kind of feels like I'm not good enough.

Indrani: ‘It feels’ yeah but you know I want some hard evidence to show that this thought has merit. When you say that you haven't finished all your work, okay I can go with that what else can you come up with?

Richard: Well, sometimes, I take a long to kind of finish my work and I have to really think about it and I get kind of confused at times.

Indrani: Yeah, finish, I get confused. Yeah, could we also add the fact that you know during the COVID years you kind of lost some money in the investments that you made would that be maybe another.

Richard: Yeah, that definitely feels not good enough when I lost money during covid.

Indrani: Yeah, that's great, anything else comes up?

Richard: Not making as much as other people in the field.

Indrani: Yeah, not making as much. Yeah, you talked about that. Great and I'm sure there might be a few more but I just want you to kind of learn this method and then you can do it you know on your own as well to get good at it. So let's hop over to the other side and the other side is defense. And now we're going to defend these thoughts that defend the thoughts of the prosecution throughout. So, you're going to now defend yourself against you know the evidence, not the thoughts but the evidence of the prosecution throughout right the thought is I'm not good enough you have evidence for the prosecution. Now, we are going to bring up evidence for the defence. Is that okay Richard? Am I clear on that?

Richard: Yeah!

Indrani: So, I say evidence to show that you know I haven't finished and the prosecution said I haven't finished all my work. Can you defend that you know, can you counter it?

Richard: Yeah, well a big part of it is no one really finishes all their work. There's always more to be had so it's almost impossible to finish all your work.

Indrani: Exactly because you're tracking stock markets and the financial exchanges throughout the globe, right? So when we’re sleeping in Maryland, New York, Hong Kong is open, London is open. So, no one can finish all their work.

Richard: Yeah, there's always more to do.

Indrani: And there's always more to do. Yeah, how about the counter for ‘sometimes it takes me too long to finish things’?

Richard: Well, it does take me a little bit longer but like the more that I do this you know it's the faster, I get. Really, I know in the beginning like things are super long. I was always learning but now I'm a lot faster.

Indrani: Yeah, it probably stops prevents you from making mistakes as well because you have said that you're pretty thorough and detail-oriented so of course you know the longer you do the faster you get and probably make fewer mistakes as well would that be fair to say.

Richard: Yeah, absolutely. That's true!

Indrani: Yeah, what about the fact that you lost some money on this? You know during COVID.

Richard: Well, everyone kind of lost money during COVID. I mean markets were down, people weren’t wanting to kind of buy and it was challenging for everyone.

Indrani: Agree with that. What about a counter do you get confused?

Richard: Yeah, well part of this is a like, when I get confused, I just study it more. I learn more and I kind of get more out of the process at the end of the day.

Indrani: How about not making as much as others? Can you defend that?

Richard: I think it's a spectrum. I remember in the beginning, I didn't make a lot compared to the majority but as I kind of gained more experience, I started making more of my money. And now, I'm at a really good place, where I probably make more than the majority of people, just not like at the top 10 per cent but maybe one day I'll get there, through kind of more learning.

Indrani: So, you know, you've come up with some good arguments for the prosecution and some good ones for the defence, Richard. And now you get to play the judge so I want you to take about five seconds or ten seconds to look at all the arguments for the prosecution and all the arguments for the defence and tell me whom you would award the big preaching.

Richard: Probably the defence, the offence makes so much more sense.

Indrani: Yeah, so, if you had to give the defence a number and the prosecution a number and split that amount by 100. What would each side score?

Richard: Maybe like a 20 for prosecution and maybe a 80 for a defense.

Indrani: Yeah, so that's a pretty resounding victory for the defense.

Richard: Yeah!

Indrani: Good! Now, if you go through the defence's arguments, you know no one finishes their work on time, the longer I do it the better I get at it. You know everyone lost money during COVID, even if I get confused I just study it more and I learn and I get more out of it. It's a spectrum in terms of how much money people make. I'm certainly making more now than I did before even though it's not in the top 10 per cent, it's probably where the majority of investors are in. So, can you just look through all of that and then come up with a succinct thought that would capture all of the defence’s arguments.

Richard: You know, I'm always growing in this field and I'm doing well now in the grand scheme of things. I'm a lot better than I was in the beginning and I just continue to learn and grow and improve my skills and improve what I'm doing in my career and the more I do this, the better I'll be. And it's not like I'm the worst right now, I'm still progressing. I'm doing well and of course, I'll make mistakes along the way but those are opportunities, where I can learn and grow.

Indrani: That's amazing! Let's write that down. Let's go ahead and write that down.

Richard: Well, let's pause the role play right here. Indrani, that was such a good demonstration of Examine the Evidence and if you're wanting to learn more about different techniques and strategies, feel free to subscribe and if you're wanting to learn more about Indrani, we'll have her information below.

Indrani: This was a lot of fun. Thank you for inviting me!

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