Sunday, January 24, 2021

Change the Channel: The TV Mind Analogy


Change the Channel: The TV Mind Analogy

One of the primary aspects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves enhancing the ability to effectively manage our thinking. One basic way to do this is to recognize negative thinking patterns and then try to shift our thinking in a more reasonable and positive direction. This can be challenging, and it takes patience and practice, but with time, when we are able to change our thinking, we will likely feel better and also make better decisions (with improved behaviors).

For this exercise, one way to view our thinking is to imagine our mind like a television with many channels. Some “channels” of thought are much better for us than others. Although the process of managing our thinking can be a lot more complex than described here, it can still be helpful to consider the idea of “changing the channel” as a way to shift away from negative patterns of thinking toward a more positive focus.

So, for the purpose of this exercise, look at your mind like a TV. The with your “remote” in hand, consider and discuss some of these common “channels” of thinking. Some channels tend to be unhealthy while others are more “in the middle” or neutral and other channels are actually much more positive and beneficial.

DIRECTIONS – For this list of fictional mental “TV Channels” below, discuss the following points:

If you can identify with this channel, what specifically comes to mind for you personally when you are mentally focused on this channel?


For the negative and neutral channels: What positive thoughts and coping strategies can help you change the channel to something more positive?  - For the positive channels at the end: Discuss how you can try to increase your focus on these positive things more in life


“Negative” Channels

Focusing on these channels of thought can lead toward negative feelings, bad moods, and if you are not careful: harmful behaviors.


The Obsession Channel – This channel is very repetitive. When you turn on the obsession channel you may find yourself going over the same ground over and over. There can be many subjects on the obsession channel but whatever the topic is, it goes round and round in a circle rarely if ever going anywhere productive.


The Self Doubt Channel – This channel features programs that review all of your perceived flaws and mistakes. This channel can also feature your insecurities and areas where you lack confidence. If you spend too much time on the self doubt channel and allow yourself to dwell on this channel’s programming too deeply the self doubt channel can become the “Low Self Esteem” channel or even worse the “Self-Hate” channel

The Self-Pity Network – Some of the popular “shows” on this channel are: “Why I have it so tough” and “All the ways I am the victim” This channel is always all about being absorbed in your own troubles and you won’t find many solutions on this network.

The Anger Channel – This channel plays some shows about things that are annoying in the morning and as the day goes on it can be all about things that make you mad and irritable each day. There is also an “oldies” network on the anger channel called the “Resentment Rewind” that plays reruns where you watch things from the past over and over that upset you, just so you can relive them in your mind and hold onto resentments.


The Classic Regrets Network – This channel goes over life’s regrets and one of the most popular shows on this channel is “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…But Didn’t” as well as the show “My Worst Mistakes Rewind.” and the popular show “If Only….:”


The Jealousy Broadcast – This channel is just what it sounds like – “I Wish I Had What You Had” is the most common show on this channel and another show is “Compare and Complain.”

The Stress and Worry Racing Thought TV Marathon – This channel is similar to the obsession channel, but it is specifically focused on all the things in life (some real and some imagined) that may stress you out or cause anxiety. Anxieties, worries, fears, speculation, paranoia, stressors, overthinking, perfectionism and other uncomfortable thoughts can be played repeatedly and even nonstop on this channel. Reruns of negative events are also commonly viewed on this channel.

Some other “Shows” you can binge-watch on some of these networks – Discuss:

The Days of Disappointment

“Its Just Not Fair!”

Everybody Hates Me

The Drama and Gossip Review

Why? Why? Why?!!!!!

What if ____ Happens!


“Middle” Channels – These can be good, bad, or neutral depending upon the topic.

The Financial Channel - Sometimes thinking about goals and budgeting can be positive when done at the right time. But worrying unnecessarily about debts and financial regrets can be a waste of time and so can thinking about finances in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep.

The Relationship Channel – The outcome involved with this channel depends upon who you love and the types of relationships you are in. Supportive and mutually loving relationships can be positive to think about, but abusive relationships and other negative associates can be harmful to focus on and cause lots of stress.


The Fantasy Channel – Some healthy fantasies can be relaxing but fantasizing about things we know we aren’t good for us (like criminal ventures, self harm, getting high, vengeance, hate or violence) can be damaging and lead to negative behaviors.

Positive Channels – These channels are good for you and can build you up and even make you stronger. Spending time focused on these channels can even add to your happiness.


The Gratitude Channel – This is focused on all the good things in life you are fortunate to have- All that you appreciate and feel grateful for are the topics when this channel is “on”

The Goal Channel – This forward-looking channel is focused on the good things you plan on achieving both in the short term and the long term that make you a better person with a better life.

The Hope and Inspiration Channel – This extremely positive channel elicits upbuilding and motivational thoughts that drive you to want to make progress and energize you to keep going forward.


The Spirituality and Self-Help Channel – This channel is deep, and it involves both looking inside yourself to think about how you can strive to be a better you while also looking outside yourself to search for your bigger purpose in life and how you can make the lives of others better too 

The Creativity Network – This highly imaginative channel is focused on how you can think outside the box and explore new interests, hobbies, ideas, and perspectives. Designing, making, building, decorating and creating are huge parts of this network.


The Love, Goodness and Kindness Channel – This channel is focused on what is good in life and on the positive quality of love, not in the romantic or sexual sense but in the sense of connection, commitment, affection, intimacy and closeness. Thinking about others in a positive light is highlighted on this channel as well as thoughts about ways to show others that we love them with our words and actions.


Close out discussion: Plan to focus on the positive and “Change the Channel” with the negative


Which channels stood out to you the most that you need to avoid personally?



How can you increase your ability to change the channel when negative thinking takes over, and instead effectively cope?


What positive things are you going to try to increase your focus on mentally, going forward after this group today?


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Fill in the Blanks Discussion Generator


Fill in the Blanks Discussion Generator – This activity is easy and can be done in person or through telehealth. It is good for both adolescents and adults and for people with any type of presenting problem as the directions are clear and simple: Just take turns reading out loud each of the “fill in the blank” discussion points and let group members give their answers. It is up to the group to see where these discussions go by asking follow-up questions and sharing support and feedback. This is better done as a discussion than as a worksheet - Remember there are no right or wrong answers and this is not a contest to see who can be the cleverest – Just say what is on your mind:


Random Conversation Starters

Before I _______ I definitely have to _________

I am not going to ________ without my _________

When I look at ________ I can’t help but seeing ____________

If I was getting paid to ____________ I would have over a million dollars by now

If I could just figure out __________ then I would  ___________

I think I could get into ________ if it wasn’t so ___________

People sometimes think I’m ___________ but I am actually ___________

If _________ was here right now I would probably _____________

If I could just have ____________ then I would make sure to _____________

The key to understanding ___________ is that you need to _____________

I can ______________ better than most people

If you want to learn the right way to ____________ then you should ____________

Sometimes when people _________ I really want to _________ but I usually just __________

One good thing about my life is ___________ even though sometimes I have to ________


_______ can make me cry

______ makes me laugh

I am happiest when I am __________

One sure way to make me angry is to ____________

I try never to ______ because later I will feel guilty about it

I need ________ in my life in order to feel like I am at peace

When I  am able to ___________ I feel proud of myself

I can feel confused by ____________

I get upset when people _______ but I don’t care much when they __________

One thing that gives me anxiety is ___________ but one thing that helps is ______

If you want to see me stressed out, then make sure to _____________

Thoughts and Opinions

___________ is okay, but ___________ is better if you ask me

The main difference between a friend and an acquaintance is ______

________ is the best part of ____________

I like _________ except that I could do without the ___________

I will choose _____ over _____ just about every time

I like __________ even if some people say _____________

I think that ____________ is one of the best  _________________

Even though some people think _______ is important, I just don’t care very much about _________

I can handle _________ but I sometimes I have a hard time with __________

I often want _________ but I really need _____________

One of the most important things in my life is _______ and I would like to rid my life of ________

I’d rather ________ for a month than have to __________ for one day

I don’t trust it when people say ___________ because I know that people ______________

I appreciate it when people _______ but I often say “no thanks” to ___________

I like thinking about _________ but I would rather forget ________

I love to go __________ but you won’t find me anywhere near ________

I have pretty good self-control when it comes to ________ but I have to watch myself around _____

________ sets a fire under me (gets me motivated) but _______ slows me down

When people think of me, I would like ____to come to mind but I would never want to be associated with ____


Deep thoughts

Love is _________

Strength is _______

Recovery is _________

Family is _________

Faith is _______

Hope is _______

Forgiveness is ______

Serenity is ________

Success is _______



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Thinking, Feeling and Coping in Challenging Scenarios


Thinking, Feeling and Coping in Challenging Scenarios

Introduction - For this activity you will be reading some scenarios and you will be asked to try to do your best to answer some self-examination questions about thinking, feeling, behaving, and later, coping. When reading the scenarios, keep in mind not every detail is provided, so try to use your imagination to fill in the story in a way that best matches your real life. Feel free to discuss how these scenarios can be different depending upon these different details. This activity is a way to practice the following important skills for self-improvement:

Accurately identifying emotional triggers, as well as related thoughts and feelings

Deciding on appropriate vs inappropriate behaviors and reactions to trigger situations

Directions – As a group discuss the following scenarios. The counselor can choose which ones to cover if there is not enough time for all of them. Remember when processing each one, try to identify these areas:


  • Thoughts – What is going through your mind? – (Your cognitions)

  • Feelings – This goes a little deeper: Can you describe what is going on with you, using feeling words?

  • Actions – What do you think you would do or say?  What are your likely behaviors and choices? What coping skills will help you make the right choices?


Also – Make these scenarios even more interesting by adding some “what if” details in the discussion




Left Out – You show up at work or school and everyone is talking about a great time they all had together over the weekend. People are laughing and sharing stories with enthusiasm and joy. As time passes you see that even more people were there, but you were not – You were not invited, and you have no clue as to why. You find out who was behind putting the event together


Strange Connection – You are out somewhere with your significant other (If you don’t have an SO, use your imagination based on your experience) You notice that there is someone else there who your SO seems to have a connection with. They seem all too familiar with each other. There is no overt flirting going on however you get the sense they know and like each other more than you had realized.


Something’s “Off” – Your close friend introduces you to the new person who they are dating, telling you that they think they may have finally found “the one”. It does not take long until your instincts tell you something just is not right with this person. You do not have any specific proof or examples yet as to how you know that there are probably some red flags with this person, but you can just sense it based on your experiences and your instincts.


Trash Talker – You unexpectedly make a new acquaintance. You meet someone who is interesting, fun, has a lot in common and who just clicks with you in all the right ways as a potential friend. However, there is one downside. This person gossips and talks negatively about just about everyone that comes up in conversation the whole time.


Triggered – You meet someone new at work or school and you are engaging in conversation. The person does not say anything overtly offensive, but your instincts just tell you that this person is ignorant and insensitive and has values that are not in agreement with your own. You know that you will have to be around this person at times for the foreseeable future, possibly even working on projects together

Forgive or Re-live? – You get into a disagreement with a close family member and some words are exchanged and you both end up walking away from the argument before things get too heated. The next time you see this person, they offer you an apology and they say that they just want to drop it. However, in your mind it’s not over, you just don’t feel satisfied with the apology and big part of you does not want to let it go just yet.


Ganged up on – You are involved in some kind of group project (whether it be at work, school or planning something together with friends) where everyone had different responsibilities and tasks assigned that they agreed to. When you meet up with the group everyone seems like they are complaining that you did your part of the assignment wrong. In your own head you feel so sure you did everything right and you did a good job, but the group is unanimous that you screwed up your part of the project


Out of the Loop – You are in a conversation with people who aren’t strangers, but they aren’t close friends either. Everyone is talking about something and as the conversation goes on you realize you just don’t know what they are talking about. You find yourself smiling and nodding to be polite, but you fear at any point they may ask you to give your thoughts or opinion on this topic you know little or nothing about.


Stoned Contractor – You hire a contractor to do work in your home and when the crew gets there you can tell that one of the guys is high on something. He is functioning as far as you can see but you can tell that something is off by looking like his eyes and listening to the way he speaks and other telltale behaviors. He is going to be coming in and out of your house for at least the next day or two.


Fun at First – You are introduced to someone new and you hit it off with this person very quicky – Instant friendship! – However, the more you talk to this person, you can tell that this is the type of person who was fun for you to hang out with in the past but usually lead to trouble. So far in the conversation everything is innocent, but your instincts are telling you that this person, although entertaining and fun, is probably bad news for you especially if you want to stay on the right path with your own goals


Against the Crowd – You are with a group of people and everyone is getting along and connecting and there is just a good vibe in the room with this group of people as you all seem to just “click” together as a group. After a while of having innocent fun, things start to take a turn. The group unanimously wants to do something that you know is not a good idea. You don’t want to be a “downer” and ruin the fun, but you also know there is potential risk involved with what you think may be about to go down


Social Media Stress – You post something meaningful to you on social media and someone makes a comment that just does not sit right with you. It is not overtly hurtful or mean however at the same time the more you think about what is said, it is not supportive and can be even be interpreted as a little bit condescending or passive aggressive


Jealous Jerk – Someone in your social life seems like they are always trying to “one up” you and show how their life is better than yours. They are very subtle about it, but you can’t help but notice how they always try to paint themselves in such a good light and they seem to always tell their stories making it out so that they are either the hero or the victim.


Indirectly Insulting – Someone who you have to interact with regularly seems to at times be condescending and at times even a little bit rude or dismissive but in a very subtle way. They aren’t doing or saying anything in particular that alone is something inappropriate but it is just the overall way they seem to speak to you and treat you that you just do not like


For more group therapy material like this