From the Shrink’s Mouth to My Ears: Assertive Communication & CBT

About two weeks, I met with a shrink for the first time ever. I had wanted to see someone for years, but never had the courage. I felt through this weight loss journey that I would be most successful if I talked to a professional about ALL of my issues, food related or not. While the first visit was an assessment, we actually started talking about strategies to change my ways today. During this appointment, the therapist brought up Assertive Communication and Cognitive Behavior Therapy…

Assertive Communication

The suggestion to try assertive communication was brought up by my therapist when I talked about the arguments that I have with my husband. Often times, I can feel myself go from 0-60 in .2 seconds when my emotions flood me. I don’t know where this comes from, but I do know that I’d like to have a better approach. A lot of the arguments we have really are insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but my reactions to these situations and stress in general is a personality trait that I just don’t like about myself and I want to change it. Plus, I want to make sure our relationship is as strong as humanly possible before a life altering weight loss because that comes with its own set of issues for a relationships!

The idea behind assertive communication is for me to honestly express my opinions and feelings without anxiety in a way that will not make my husband defensive. To sum up the techniques, my therapist suggested trying an approach where I follow the steps below:

  • Express my emotion in an “I” or “me” statement (e.g. I feel frustrated)
  • Explain the behavior causing the emotion (e.g. …when you leave your shoes in the middle of the floor)
  • Provide an example of when the behavior took place (e.g. yesterday afternoon or every day after work)
  • Explain the corrective behavior you’d like to see (e.g. I would appreciate it if you could put them in the closet)

While I do try to concentrate on “I” statements currently, I’m not always successful and I’m definitely open to trying this approach. She said the key is to maintain an even tone and repeat these statements over and over, if needed. This is my “homework” for next time.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

I also asked my therapist to help me with having a sustained dedication to my weight loss and hopefully someday, maintenance. I don’t want to have a “back slide” and ruin the hard work that I have put in, even if I haven’t had VSG weight loss surgery yet.

She asked me about situations where I could see myself backsliding. I said that although I still feel mentally strong right now, I have hit a “stall” and found myself having feelings of disappointment. I have been increasing exercise a little bit (still not as much as I should do) and staying 100% on track with eating, yet the scale hasn’t really moved in a little over a week. In the past, this kind of situation would have sent me into a back slide.  Also, what happens if I’m denied by insurance for the VSG surgery? Although I would continue to follow my current eating plan if that happened, I could see that being a situation where I would fall into a rut and “back slide” because of the sad/disappointed/frustrated emotions that I would feel. Also, what happens if I someday lose my excess weight and my body is a mess with excess skin? I know I won’t like the way I look, and I don’t want this to trigger any kind of backslide either.

She said that I was very “insightful” and had a good start towards preventing these situations (identifying them is part of the battle) HOWEVER, she would like to start doing “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” with me next time we meet.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes and contents through goal-oriented, explicit systemic procedures. So basically, she’s going to try and change the way I think/feel about certain situations and build upon the positive thoughts/thinking so much so that the negative thinking just doesn’t seem rational/reasonable anymore. At least that’s what I got out of the conversation.

For Next Time

Next meeting, we’re going to start CBT and also address my issues with guilt. I feel guilt about everything (more on that some other time) and I find my emotions are too wrapped up in the emotions of others. YIKES!

I’m curious to hear about other’s experiences with CBT and therapy in general? Did it help? I’m really determined to mentally AND physically healthy and I think this is a good start.

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