(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: The goal in life is not obviously to stand alone and rebel. The goal is to own your own life
, to really speak your own mind
, without attacking other people's character in the process. But really, loving your life
. And if you tend to go along with other people or let's say your anxious
or you have anger
problems, how do you deal with those? With me today is Dr. Jeff Riggenbach
. He's a cognitive therapist
in the state of Oklahoma, practicing at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital. He has completed training with the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy
and he's certified with the Academy of Cognitive Therapy
, which in my book is totally the gold standard of therapy
. So if you're looking for therapy
, you can go to the AcademyofCT.org - that's for cognitive therapy
- and look up a therapist in your neck of the woods. I am delighted to have you onboard today Jeff. Welcome.
Jeff: Hi Ellen. It's good to talk to you.
Dr. Kenner: Very good to talk to you. Let's say I was a client coming in and I'm very anxious
. What's the type of thing that you would do in the first session?
Jeff: Well, in the first session, if you were presenting and you were anxious
, I would want to figure out what it is that your fears
really were about. Try to figure out what your thoughts were about those fears
. Anytime somebody is anxious
, there's really sort of three questions to ask. Number one, what am I afraid
of and what is the risk? Patients who are anxious
, often times have an over-valued sense of what the risk is. Number two, what are my resources to deal with this risk? And a lot of times, people really do have the resources that they need to deal with the risk, but they just aren't able to see it, because of the way they've kind of been trained to think over the years. And thirdly, then, if I don't have the resources, where can I get them? Where can I go to develop the resources? Depending on what you were anxious
about, that would look a lot differently.
Dr. Kenner: Let's just say I'm somebody who is very anxious
to be around other people. I'm afraid
they're always judging
me and obviously not positively and I am afraid
to go out. I just feel like I can't handle it and I used to go to the store, I used to even take some classes and now I find I stay home and my husband does everything for me.
Jeff: One of the things I'd want to do is see where you are spending your time and who you are spending your time with. Some people really do spend enough time with people who are negative and who do judge
them and are critical
enough that their complaints really aren't irrational or off base. They really are being treated that way.
Dr. Kenner: So they really need a change in friends!
Jeff: Sometimes you really do need a change in friends or who they spend their time with.
Dr. Kenner: If I were that anxious
person, what would cause me to choose my friends
? Why would I be picking people who are picking on me?
Jeff: Well, that's an interesting question. A lot of times, in terms of our friendships
or our dating relationships
or even who we choose to marry, we seek people who treat us the way we see ourselves.
Dr. Kenner: Very interesting.
Jeff: That is a hard thing for a lot of people to hear. When I give a lot of my self help lectures, I'll usually make this statement and it'll usually ruffle quite a few feathers of people in the group, but I always say we generally marry somebody about as emotionally healthy
as we are. You usually get several responses of, "I'm way healthier than my spouse."
Dr. Kenner: Right, I can hear the screams and cries already.
Jeff: But then you've got to ask yourself, if this person is really that sick, then what is it in me that was attracted to them to begin with?
Dr. Kenner: I didn't know it when I first married my husband, I didn't know he would be mean
like my dad. He's angry
. He's angry
all the time and I just am afraid of him and I'm afraid to speak my mind
and he makes the choices in the family. That's it and there's no way I could speak up. My friends are the same way. It's pretty hard. What do you do in a situation like that?
Jeff: In a situation where somebody is already into the marriage or into the relationship
, and especially if there are children involved, it's not as easy to get out of as if it's somebody you've been dating
for two or three months and are able to see the situation a little bit sooner. But I would just help them look at small steps they can take. Again, depending on how mean the person is being - if there is violence
involved, we're going to handle it differently if it's just a derogatory comment here or there. But we'd want to look for small ways for that person to be able to stand up for themselves or get their needs met, and unfortunately for some people, that means getting friendship
needs or conversational needs or some of those sorts of needs met outside the marriage.
Dr. Kenner: So sometimes they can do that and eventually gain the courage
to even get a divorce
or to bring the partner into therapy
, which is very hard if you've got a controlling partner
Jeff: Yeah, it is hard, and it's especially hard, again, depending on how far into it you are. That's why I always like to encourage people, try to come in and do a little counseling
. Get a little pre-marital counseling
and try to get to know about yourself, how you see yourself and how you see others. I mean, if I'm a person who generally thinks that I'm not worthy
to be loved and don't deserve good things in life, I'm probably going to find a person who also sees me in that way. Once I get in, that's going to be hard for me to stand up and express my opinions
because I'm afraid I'll be left and if I see myself as kind of damaged goods
- nobody would ever want me anyway - and so at that point it becomes a lot harder. Whereas on the other hand, if I see myself as somebody that's pretty healthy and pretty deserving of having somebody that loves me and will be there for me, I'm more likely to attract somebody
who also sees me in that way, because I'm not going to put up with somebody who doesn't respect
me in the same way I respect
Dr. Kenner: And you want to be able to respect
that person too, so you're looking for different character traits
when you're shopping, even though most of us will never name them explicitly. We just go by feeling. But cognitive therapy
, one of the beauties of cognitive therapy
is you train yourself, especially in important areas in your life, in important choice-making
areas such as marriage of course, or career, to not just go by, "Oh, I really think I would love to be in the movies." Not just go by feelings, but to figure out what is it that attracts me to the movies? Why would I want to be an actress or an actor? You need to figure out your reasons underneath the feelings
, is that correct?
Jeff: That's right. The reasons are important behind the feelings
and not only in terms of understanding the feelings
, but also to put yourself in context to be successful, to find the right friends
, to marry the right people
, to choose the right career
. I mean, all of those sorts of issues are things that can be explored through cognitive therapy
Dr. Kenner: You would look at my childhood a little bit, but you wouldn't get stuck there like they used to in other therapies? You would be using it just to figure out what?
Jeff: That's right. I mean, I will always ask if there are serious crisis like abuse
or loss or those sorts of things. But actually, researchers are suggesting that what's maybe more powerful in determining those core beliefs that we talked about are just those everyday events, just those everyday messages that get sent. Maybe the critical parent
, the child can never do good enough
in school and the grade is not quite good enough and the house isn't quite clean enough and the coloring is outside of the lines or those kinds of things, that kind of gradually send that message that one isn't good enough.
Dr. Kenner: And it's hard for a child
to think through that. There are children
that do think through that and think, "Oh, this is my mother. Not everybody is like that." Those kids
are much more protected than a child
that just buys into it and feels inadequate on a very profound level. But cognitive therapy
can help you turn that around. And if you're looking for a good cognitive therapist
, I'm speaking with one right now. He's Dr. Jeff Riggenbach
, a cognitive therapist
in Oklahoma at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital. You can also go to the AcademyofCT.org - that's cognitive therapy
- and look for a therapist
in your neck of the woods. I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner. Thank you so much for joining me today Jeff.
Jeff: Thank you for having me.