Who Are You?

Today I want to share a simple activity that I utilized with one of my younger client's last week.  This activity is usually used with my adolescent clients but can also be used with adults that are uncertain about the direction they want to go within therapy and in their lives.

Many individuals enter into therapy wanting to make changes within themselves.  However some individuals, especially young individuals, don't know exactly what those changes are.  Here is my challenge for you...take a look at the tree image below and see complete the activity.



1. Print the above image of the tree.

2. On the trunk/ roots portion of the tree, list the aspects about yourself that you are and want to stay the SAME.

3. On the leaves/ branches portion of the tree, list the aspects about yourself that you are but want to CHANGE.

* The items you list should focus mostly on your emotional self.

After you complete the activity consider the following questions:

  • Was this activity easy or difficult for you? Did you have an easy or hard time listing aspects about yourself that you like?
  • Did you list more aspects in one category rather than another?
  • How do you make changes? Do you have people in your life to help support you in making those changes? Are the changes you want to make situational (going on in your life now) or consistent (always been an issue)?

I hope the activity brings a little insight into your life! If you have any questions or comments about the activity, feel free to email me at michele@ocfamilyhelp.com.


Are Your Thoughts Making You Unhappy?

Whether you think you can, or you cant, you’re right – Henry Ford

Do you ever notice that when you are around negative thinking people you start to feel negative yourself?  Most of us avoid being around negative people because they tend to make us feel run-down and irritated, but there are others of us that gravitate towards those types of negative people.

Automatic Thoughts

Chronic negative thinking leads many people into therapy and this is why the practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck has become a highly used form of psychotherapy.  CBT has been shown to work very well with individuals experiencing depressive and anxiety disorders.

We all have automatic thoughts about our self, world and future (A. Beck), it’s just that some of us tend to have constant negative automatic thoughts while many of us have a healthy combination of both negative and positive.  An example of a negative automatic thought:

“I am not smart” – self

“My co-workers know I am unintelligent” – world

“I will never successful” – future

Core Beliefs

The development of our automatic thoughts for some may have started in childhood.   The messages we receive from our immediate family, environment, media, etc. have led to our core beliefs about our self, which later becomes our automatic thoughts.  Core beliefs are our beliefs about our selves; how we think and feel about ourselves.  Some individuals were raised with the beliefs that they are good, smart and wonderful while others were raised with very different and negative beliefs about themselves.


As a Marriage and Family Therapist, when I work with individuals stuck in negative thinking I often teach them the following cycle:

The cycle is fairly simple; our thoughts affect our feelings, our feelings affect our behaviors, and our behaviors continue to affect our thoughts.  For example: “ I am boring” (the thought) – sadness (the feeling) – alcohol intoxication (the behavior), and the cycle continues.  The cycle looks differently for each person, this is simply an example.  Individuals are often stuck in their cycle of negative thinking.  Within treatment, I help individuals identify their cycle of negative thinking and work with them to change their underlying core beliefs and eventually changing their negative automatic thoughts.

How does your cycle of thinking go? Are you the one making others feel run-down with your negativity or are you the one striving to live a positive an happy life?