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A moderately effective course in cognitive therapy
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.