724. The Cognitive/ Behavioral Snowman

Portrait smiling barista in coffee shop Royalty-free stock photoChatting with the latest in a long line of barrista girls at the coffee shop. Harlee is her name. She’s a quiet one and it took a while to get her to open her turtle shell. In a world of creeps and pervs I can’t say that I blame her prudent caution. Carefree turtles end up in soup or on a salad. Some wind up on an episode of Dateline with Keith Morrison’s haunting Canadian voice trailing off before the commercial break. “She closed the shop as she had dozens of times before that night… and was never seen again.”Image result for tortoise photos

So she’s in graduate school for, tada!, counseling, my gig.  How delightful. At least I thought so. And she’s taking Theories of Counseling. Okay, the door opens upon a vast living room of shared interests.

“And which one…sssszzzz do you favor?”

“I like psychoanalytic theory but it’s not something you can practice… so I guess reality therapy is my next choice… or CBT.”Image result for freud images

“Yes, psychoanalytic seems to stop at the diagnosis, you know, ‘There you have your problem without any fix’. Imagine a plumber showing up and simply saying, ‘It’s the hot water heater. See  ya.'”

Explaining counter-transference over a coffee shop counter further complicates a complicated concept… “So if you are the therapist and I’m your client, and I put my mother issues on you, that’s transference. Admittedly it’s across a counter but that’s neither here nor there. Now if you as the therapist, put your daddy issues on me, that’s counter-transference. See?”

“You lost me on the counter.”Image result for coffee shop baristas photos

“NO?  Well don’t be alarmed. It will come in time. Like one of your fru fru lattes. Tricky at first sight.”

“Yeah, I just like plain black drip coffee. It’s easy.”

“I suppose you are familiar with the Cognitive/Behavioral Snowman, yes?”

“No, I’ve never heard of it. Are you serious?”

“Absolutely. I do this all day long, my dear. Here– do you have a piece of paper and pen?  Thank you. Okay three circles overlapping just a bit. Like so, and we have the cognitive/behavioral snowman. The top snowball is for cognitions such as beliefs, opinions, suspicions. Okay? They do not have to be true facts by the way.”Related image

“Then the middle is for the emotions engendered by the beliefs in circle one. Let’s say you believe Joel over there is a registered sex offender. Your emotional response will likely be negative. Even if he is not, and I can assure you that he is not, you can hold a distorted belief about him. He has many other flaws but the philias are not in that basket. You see what I did there?  I circled back to correct your distorted belief about Joel and hopefully also edited the nasty negative emotional response you had to start. See?”Image result for beating heart gif

“I think so.”

“Okay, the last circle is for outcome behaviors, consequences, actions, reactions, etc. Sometimes the outcome is simply to do nothing.”

“So if I thought Joel was a perv and my gut feelings were fear and disgust, then my outcome behavior would be rude conduct to back him off or call the police? Am I getting warm?”

“Exactly! You are catching on. Then, if you see that he backs off from your rudeness, your new belief can become even stouter:  Joel is a perv and afraid of my rude conduct. This could lead you to feel powerful and strong, able to abuse him like I do.”

“You are mean to him.”

“He likes it. He had no brothers and grew up into a fragile, reclusive sousaphonist. I have been teaching him assertiveness training for the last ten years for his very survival. His life depends on my instruction. He would have died years ago if I had handled him nicely. I will not indulge his indulgences. He still has a squeezy coin purse. ”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought you were just rude.”

“There you go, Harlee. Another belief and feeling and action cycle, only this time I’m in the cognitive cross hairs. And I can assure you that your belief about me is highly distorted.”Image result for cross hair photo of a deer

“No, I’m not getting that. You seem, uhh…”


“No, narcissistic.”

“Oh, puulllleeeezzze!! Not to go full drama on you, but that diagnosis is way too easy and tossed about like straw wrappers at McDonalds parking lots. ”

“That was a test. I was just playing with you.”

“And now who is rude?”Image result for rude faces

“Back to my prof. She’s a family systems girl. She claims that every diagnosis can be read as a family systems issue.”

“Really? So if someone has autism or just wants to quit smoking, that’s a family systems issue? Yes?  I don’t get it.”

“She claims that by the end of the semester she’ll prove that even personality disorders are family systems based disorders.”

“Do you know the old saying that if you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail?”Image result for hammer and nail images

“No. I’m too young for sayings like that. I’m a Generation Z girl. Okay Boomer.”

“I’m so sorry. I forgot that your generation lives in the post tool era. All your tools are included in your Swiss Army I-phones.”

“Well, it’s true. Like I can Google what that saying means. I can GPS the closest hardware store. I can get Amazon to deliver it to my doorstep tomorrow. And I can research the Swiss Army.”

“Shut up! Is that how you’re going to deal with your future clients? ‘Hold it, amigo, let me Google that’? C’mon man!! What about being present in the Carl Rogers moment?”

“Wasn’t he in Blazing Saddles? Or was he married to Ginger Rogers?”

“Dear God, take me home now!”

“I do like the snowman diagram, though. Can I keep it?”

Image result for melting snowman images

“Yes, it will make a nice bookmark in the, oh never mind. You Kindle read, right? I’m just going back to the nursing home before my pre-chewed lunch gets cold. Bye Harlee.”

“Bye Boomer.”




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