Confidentiality (Week 1)

The MAST project does not rely upon legal contracts and the false sense of security they seem to provide. Within the context of MAST, confidentiality could be seen as behaviors, sensitivities, and foresight about privacy, which develop trust between individuals. In light of this, each group of MAST participants should discuss, and work out what confidentiality means to them and how it is to be respected. Often what seems like common sense to one person may not be to the other, and this is no different when it comes to privacy and confidentiality.

Two Basic Axioms:

A triad is not a confessional or interrogation, and each person involved in MAST is free to consider and behave in accordance with their desire for privacy.

The responsibility to maintain confidentiality falls on individuals, each triad, and the MAST group, with equal measure.

Continue reading

Automatic Thoughts and Cognitive Distortions (Week 2)

Understanding the way we think about things is crucial to understanding how and what we feel. Many times, we accept negative thoughts as truth when in reality they are irrational thoughts that lead to negative feelings. If we can get in the habit of recognizing the thoughts we have, we may be able to see the connection between thinking them and these negative feelings.  If we’re able to do this, we may be on the road towards being able to replace the negative thoughts with ones that help us rather than hurt us.

Our thoughts are hypotheses or guesses that can be reality-tested. It’s not the thoughts that unnerve us but the meaning we give to those thoughts. We often think “if I think this, then it must be true.” After we get good at noticing our thoughts, our next steps are: looking at the validity of these thoughts then and offering yourself a more rational, balanced, open-minded alternative view.

But the first step is noticing. You can approach it from the beginning or the end. You can start w/looking at the initial thought, and try to notice whether it’s a negative thought.  Has it led to a bad feeling? Or, if it can’t work to start from the present, try to retrace your steps. Think about a possible precipitating event or interaction that may have triggered your bad mood. You can examine it closely and try to notice the thought(s) that came after it. This thought led to an emotion. We can turn this thought on its head and next time, we may not get hooked by it. It may not send us on spiraling downward if we prove it wrong, and find another thought that has been proved (with evidence) to be more accurate and helpful.


Examples of common types of negative thoughts or “Cognitive Distortions:”

Continue reading

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Tool Summary (Week 2)

Data Collection: The goal of data collection is not to get bogged down in extraneous details, but to find out what the activating event is and then elucidate the core beliefs in order to challenge them.


Scaling: Challenges black & white as well as either/or thinking.  It also challenges ‘tacking’ or when a person is providing conflicting descriptions.  First, ask the person to place themselves on a scale of 1-10 being clear about what 1 represents and what 10 represents.  Then ask them where they want to be on that same scale, and what it would take to get from where one is to where one wants to be.


Helicoptering: Zoom out like a helicopter hovering above, we’d be able to see the bigger picture. We could stand back, be less emotionally involved, and see a different perspective. Questions to employ this tool include:

-Self: What am I reacting to? What does this situation mean to me?

-Others: What would this look like to others involved?

-Outsider: How would this seem to someone outside the situation – not emotionally involved?

-Wise Mind: What would be the best thing to do – for me, for others, for this situation?


Telescoping: Telescoping is used to look both backward and forward in time to compare how perspective shifts when looking into the past or future. For instance, you may find that the negativity of a situation would wear off after a relatively short amount of time, or that something seems unbearable today that not too long ago would not have been a big deal.


Modeling: Ask them to imagine what someone they know and respect would do


Exposure: Challenges catastrophizing by asking someone to do something in real life (or imagine doing it) and check in about their anxiety level.


Reframing: Changing the meaning of an activating event, by turning negative thoughts or beliefs into ones that are neutral or positive.


Substitution: The conscious component of reframing; look at alternative views

Continue reading

Challenging Core Beliefs & Creating Alternatives (Week 3)

Challenging Core Beliefs


As you’re describing a feeling or event, ask yourself: “And what does that say about me…?”  Keep asking it until you get to the belief.


Ask yourself next : “What are the advantages to you of holding onto this core belief?”


Creating Alternative Core Beliefs


Try to come up with a more useful, balanced Core Belief you’d prefer.  To get there, ask yourself:


“How would I like it to be?”

“If I weren’t _________, how would I like to be?”

“If (others) weren’t __________, how would I like them to be?”

“If (the world) wasn’t __________, how would I like it to be?”

Continue reading

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (Week 4)

Developed in the 80’s as a cognitive behavioral approach, in reaction to clients feeling that their suffering was being underestimated by therapists (and maybe that the therapists were also overestimating how helpful they were being!). DBT aims to create a better balance between ACCEPTANCE and CHANGE strategies.


Dialectic means weighing and integrating contradictory facts or ideas with a view towards resolving apparent contradictions. Everything is connected to everything else; change is constant and inevitable; opposites can be integrated to form a close approximation of the truth (which is always evolving).


Learning new behaviors is the focus. People track their problem behaviors in a diary, attend skills groups, do homework and role-play new ways of interacting with people. With therapists, they work to identify how they are rewarded for maladaptive behavior or punished for adaptive behavior. They expose themselves to feelings, thoughts or situations they fear or avoid and change self-destructive thinking. Counselors emphasize validation (‘your behavior makes sense considering…’) not because they agree with it.



Continue reading

Goal Setting (Week 5)

Notice that when you’re not feeling good, it’s more likely that you’ll stop or avoid doing activities that used to be pleasurable. This may make you avoid activities in general that could potentially make you feel better.

-> What activities did you at one time enjoy that you’d like to start participating in? or….

-> List activities that you need to do to improve your current situation.  Writing down goals has been proven as one of the best means to help you achieve them.

-> Create a schedule for these new activities.

General rules:

Make sure your goal is realistic, concrete and specific.

Start small, be patient, and don’t think in “all or nothing” terms.

If this doesn’t work, break goals into smaller ones, or steps to reach goal.

Be flexible. Sometimes things will get in the way that are out of your control. Be willing to come up with an alternative plan.

Continue reading


The ABCs


Awareness / Activating event

Belief (Positive, Neutral, Negative) – This is what we can affect with CBT




Broaden (Belief)

Comprehend (Figure out how you got that consequence)


Automatic Thoughts

Bad Behavior

Coping (Wrong conclusions like it is impossible to change, avoidance, inauthenticity)

Functional Assessment



(What happened before?)


(What did you do?)

Short-term Consequences (What was the result 1 second and 1 hour following behavior?) Long-term consequences (What were the lasting results?)