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on January 5, 2004
Hat's off to Dr. Burns for having written a very practical guide anyone can use to combat depression and build positive self esteem. For years I have been in therapy, but I have realized that positive change all comes down to me. Burns provides the simplistic, yet highly effective tools to work through one's distortions on a daily basis. As he emphasizes, merely reading the book will not help. It is reading, understanding, but most importantly, DOING the exercises on paper that will produce results. Burns writes at a gut level. I don't think there is one page that is useless or irrelevant. Most striking is the author's genuine compassion for the reader. He sincerely wants you to succeed !!! I have often found this lacking in most self-help books. Their authors seem more interested in giving the reader a one shot "pep- booster", but fail to provide exercises that will promote lasting results. I have read many self help books concerning depression and self esteem, but this particular one is the "leader of the pack" as far as I am concerned. Buy it, Read it and Do the exercises!!!!
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on October 31, 2014
Dr. burns is very good and extremely knowlegable and gives day to day practical tools to incorporate cbt in your life. Clearly, one of the better and more thorough self help books I have come across. However, I still think he is a little reluctant to recognize the importance of SSRI's and anti - depressants for people who have very serious forms of depression. CBT tends to work better for mild to moderate depression, not severe depression.
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on June 14, 2004
This is a crucial book to evaluate for those suffering from depression but skeptical of the effectiveness of most psychologists and self-help books.
Burns is one of the biggest popularizers of cognitive-behavioral therapy, one of extremely few therapeutic forms that have stood up to any scientific scrutiny. Over the last 20 years, CBT has become the predominant form of therapy practiced by psychologists. This book is intensive CBT, much more involving and direct than the form practiced in most psychologists' offices.
Burns takes a very simple approach: he does not place any weight on diagnostic categories or figuring out "why" people behave the way they do or the roots of their problems. Instead, every depressed thought is traced to irrational thought processes. Why those thought processes were developed is irrelevant; the challenge is identifying one's distortions and learning to think more rationally.
Contrary to some reviewers' opinions, I believe this book is best for people who have long-term depression in the medium range (recurrent major depression or dysthymia), with substantial experiences with psychologists. Clearly for more extreme cases - a manic depressive or a suicidal person - the first course of action should be a psychiatrist or psychologist, not a self-help book. This book requires a very high level of involvement and personal responsibility. I believe that it is patients who think of themselves as having a medical problem, seeing psychologists and taking medication for years and perhaps feeling dependent on them, who will at some crisis point become frustrated, develop the energy and motivation to work through a book like this and benefit the most from it. Patients with more minor depression will not feel sufficiently motivated to actually do the exercises, which take a substantial amount of time and clash with other life priorities.
CBT encourages short-term (only 12 weeks on average if seeing a psychologist!) therapy and extreme personal responsibility. For most problems, I believe CBT, either in the form of this book or combined with short-term therapy, is much better than seeing a psychologist long-term. Long-term psychotherapy without very clear goals strongly encourages dependence on the psychologist or medication and reinforces the idea that one is permanently ill. This dependence produces further irrational thinking and can very easily lead to continual depression. Reading a book like this and doing its exercises is an exercise in independence and self-reliance and a major accomplishment in itself. The ability to solve one's own problems is difficult to achieve but extremely powerful - perhaps the only solution - for relieving long-term depression.
Burns feels that virtually no one should be on medication long-term - more than about a year - a view that is somewhat debatable (he excludes, obviously, bipolar and schizophrenic patients). The long-term effectiveness of SSRIs is unproven, but Burns' one-year limit seems purely arbitrary.
CBT is also more art than science - although anyone with any experience with psychologists or self-help books will realize that this is true of the entire field. Often Burns' methods and categorizations of irrational thoughts seem completely arbitrary and hardly authoritative. They could probably use more refinement and clarity. What I think is important is that CBT, and even simply reading Burns' book "Feeling Good", have been demonstrated through scientific means - double-blind testing - to produce considerable improvement.
All in all, this is a book with a clear philosophy that has stood up to scientific scrutiny, unlike psychoanalysis or most other therapeutic methods practiced by psychologists. It requires high involvement and emphasizes personal responsibility, and one has to develop considerable motivation to make any use of it. But the results can be extremely worthwhile.
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on November 25, 2003
I found this book to be very helpful as an adjunct to Burns's previous book Feeling Good. While not absolutely essential, I think most people would benefit from reading and applying the techniques from Feeling Good prior to studying The Feeling Good Handbook. Once you have the basics down from the former book, you can more easily benefit from the specific techniques in the Handbook. I especially found the chapters on procrastination to be very helpful. I was able to go from extremely depressed to normal and happy using the techniques in Feeling Good alone, but I enjoyed Burns's writing so much that I just had to pick up this book, too, as well as his other books.
If you only purchase one self-help book I'd recommend Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. If you want to read more I'd recommend this book as a second purchase for help with applying cognitive therapy techniques to specific problems such as procrastination, anxiety problems and communication problems. If you need help with shyness or relationships I'd recommend Burns's Intimate Connections.
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on November 12, 2003
Trying to overcome negative emotions and habits by thinking positive thoughts and applying advice given in many self-help books is like trying to solve the quadratic equation in your head. The thing that sets this book apart is that it gives you a step by step written procedure with which you discover, analyze and dispute the thoughts that make you feel bad. After doing the written exercise - the triple column technique, I found that the new rational thoughts attached themselves to the negative emotions I was trying to overcome. Later, when I re-experienced situations that could produce the same negative emotions, the new rational thoughts would bubble up to my consciousness and keep me from re-experiencing (or at least minimize) the negative emotion. This stuff is incredible!
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on June 24, 2014
This is a good companion book to the original book, although it covers much of the same things. I personally think it is a good idea to review and it has wonderful exercises to help you work on feeling better and feeling like yourself again. I would recommend to those who would like a companion to Feeling Good, or to those who would rather go straight to exercises rather than a large amount of reading and background to the why's of these things.
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on May 2, 2002
I bought this book a few years ago and find myself visiting this page at Amazon because I want to recommend it to a friend and find that my own copy is out on loan to someone else!
There are so many self-help books on the market that I tend to be wary of them, but I found this one genuinely helpful at a time when practical help was really needed. Dr Burns says it very clearly himself - you have to do the exercises to get the benefit, because this sort of approach is all about getting intimate with the thoughts in your own head. The book does give theoretical explanations, but fundamentally it's a practical tool to help you to get inside your own head and change what's going on there. Dr Burns' approach is about challenging your own negative thoughts, which some people might say you don't need a book and exercises to do. I can only say that when I was deeply depressed it was exactly what I did need - someone to take me gently but firmly by the hand and lead me through my own head in order that I could get through the paralysis and begin functioning again.
Dr Burns includes a depression rating test which enables you to monitor your own progress. I found that this had 2 applications - firstly it helped me to take my own depression seriously, and secondly it encouraged me to keep going as I could see the results of Dr Burns' approach on a daily basis.
A lot of people don't like being told what to do, especially when it comes to dealing with their own problems. This book does require that you come at it with an open mind and are willing to be guided to some extent, and are willing to be honest about what's really going on with you. The exercises are deceptively easy and for this reason I can see that some people might be dismissive of the approach. On the plus side you can hit the exercises absolutely at your own level - you don't have to tackle everything all at once. Start with the 'little' things if that's where you're at (motivating yourself to eat lunch, for instance). No-one else can tell you exactly why you're depressed and what's going to make it change for you. This book is for people who really want to feel better and are willing to make an effort on their own behalf but want to do it at their own pace and not feel bullied. It isn't easy to come through depression - it's paralysing by nature. This book can't do it for you, but it can be a companion through it.
I still do refer to this book and use the exercises when I get stuck (it also includes a fantastic section on procrastination which I would recommend to anyone, depressed or not!) I also want to add, though, that at the time that I was first using the book I was also taking anti-depressant medication - without that I wouldn't have been able to even pick up a book like this, never mind work with it! It's not the same for everyone, but don't beat yourself up if you need the medication too.
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on January 13, 2002
The advice in this book is extremely beneficial. It does work. Some of the things Dr. Burns states a depressed person must do is get out of bed and get busy. He also states you must face your fears and suggests that you make yourself "crack up" It is impossible. You can face your fears or phobias using a proces he calls "flooding." I forced myself to face my fear of going back to work. Once I made it through the first day and was successful, I had disproved my distorted thoughts. Dr. Burns gives some incredible writing exercises to do. You state your automatic (negative) thoughts . He has you identify the distortions and then write a realistic thought. You then rate your realistic thought and then again rate your belief in your "automatic" thought. The writing exercises really help, but it does take time and practice. You start feeling gradually better and within a month of hard work, you actually do feel good most of the time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with any level of depression, phobia, or anxiety attacks.
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on May 22, 2002
Many people don't buy into the whole "root of your problems" mentality that seems to infect the mental health fields nowadays. That's understandable. There certainly is something to be said for a more pragmatic, straightforward approach to the treatment of certain mental states. It is to this group of people that Dr. David Burns addresses his Feeling Good Handbook.
The methods in The Feeling Good Handbook are aimed at helping those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other "mild" mental issues to train themselves into healthy mental patterns. Burns has put together a series of writing exercises and journaling that is intended to help readers recognize fallacies in their thought processes. He then spends a great deal of time on each of these fallacies of thought and how to overcome them.
Burns is an avid supporter of cognitive therapy. It is obvious that Burns feels the best way to mental health is through learning to master these negative thought processes. Furthermore, he states outright that it is possible to train yourself to be positive and happy by following these exercises.
Like most self-help books, Burns' popular book has both positive and negative attributes. Burns has managed to accurately classify the thought traps that those suffering from clinical depression and anxiety fall into. He also presents them in such a way that they are easily memorable and will often return to the reader's mind throughout the course of the day. Burns also includes a surprisingly accurate quiz to gauge the progress of the reader.
However, Burn's book depends very heavily on the reader following his instructions with exactness--and some of them are extremely tedious. This is, perhaps, not the best way to help those suffering with depression. Usually depression saps an individual of their desire to do anything at all. Additionally, Burns tends to be a little over-simplistic about his methods and even more over-enthusiastic about their results.
On its own, The Feeling Good Handbook is a moderately useful book in the amateur diagnosis and treatment of mild depression. When used in conjunction with a counselor who understands cognitive therapy, this book is an excellent tool in training the reader to think in a new way.
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on September 2, 2001
In both this book and its predecessor ("Feeling Good"), David Burns has done an excellent job of putting tools into our hands so we can change the feelings and behaviors that we want to change. The tools in this book that I've found most helpful include (i) instruments to measure both anxiety and depression, (ii) a "pleasure-predicting sheet," (iii) a daily mood log to help identify and change unwanted feelings, and (iv) tools to help you overcome procrastination.
I agree with another reviewer who said that this book and "Feeling Good" overlap to a great extent, and I recommend this one. You don't need to read "Feeling Good" first, and the worksheets in this "Handbook" are larger and easier to copy and work with.
While Dr. Burns uses tools from cognitive behavioral therapy, I strongly recommend that you also obtain "A Guide to Rational Living," by Albert Ellis. Dr. Ellis invented rational (cognitive) behavioral therapy in the mid-1950s and still writes, lectures, and works with clients. While Burns' books are generally better written than Ellis', Dr. Ellis teaches you how to use cognitive techniques more effectively than Dr. Burns does. Instead of just showing you how to recognize faulty thinking that produces unwanted feelings and behaviors and think of alternative thoughts, Dr. Ellis teaches you how to PERSUADE YOURSELF that this faulty thinking is both irrational and counter-productive. In my view, the difference in their approaches is similar to that between an intellectual discussion and a thoroughly persuasive speech. In order to make the desired changes, you need to convincingly and powerfully persuade yourself to change your thinking.
Together, this book and "A Guide to Rational Living" give you most all of the tools you need to experience the changes that you want in your feelings and behaviors. The approaches in both books require work. Passively reading them (or anything) will not lead to significant changes. The best news of all is this: There is hope! And you can have the tools at your fingertips.
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