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BOOK REVIEW: Good Thinking – A Teenager’s Guide to Managing Stress and Emotion Using CBT by Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond

BOOK REVIEW: Good Thinking – A Teenager’s Guide to Managing Stress and Emotion Using CBT by Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond

ABC Books
June 2017
Softback, $29.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Self-Help & Personal Development

8.5/10

If we want to change how we feel we need to start with changing how we think. This is particularly important for teenagers because this period of their lives is when puberty and change occurs, and developments in the brain shape the kind of person they will grow into as an adult. The book, Good Thinking- A Teenager’s Guide to Managing Stress & Emotion Using CBT is a useful volume that brings a lot of beneficial information together and explains things in such a clear and concise manner that adults will also benefit from the techniques that are described here.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psychological skills-based approach to managing stressful life situations and upsetting emotions, by enabling you to challenge unhelpful thinking habits and see things in a more reasonable, balanced way. Hundreds of studies have shown that using techniques based on CBT can help people reduce their chances of becoming emotionally overwhelmed, and allows them to recover more quickly when they experience mental-health problems.

The authors of this self-help guide include Sarah Edelman, a clinical psychologist who wrote the best-selling book about CBT, Change Your Thinking. Louise Rémond is the other co-writer and a clinical psychologist who also contributed to the Dolly Doctor column. Over the years they have used CBT in practice and have found that this yielded positive results for their patients, so the pair clearly known their stuff. This guide is a good starting point for people wanting to learn more about CBT, especially if they are about to embark on it with their own therapists.

The writers cite the work of psychologist Dr Albert Ellis who described the connection between our thoughts, emotions and behaviours through a method he called the ABC of experiences. Ellis claims our emotional responses are often triggered by some kind of activating event, situation or trigger. The reaction we have is then effected by the beliefs or thoughts that we have about said event. The consequences ultimately look at how we felt or what we actually did. It is useful to consider these things to and write them down in a stress log because this can help us to notice and establish when negative patterns exist and when our thinking has become unhelpful or unproductive.

This volume details ten common thinking errors humans have and offers up some examples and strategies to reframe all of this. The thinking errors include:

  1. Black and white thinking: considering everything is either good or bad with no in-betweens.
  2. Comparing: making comparisons between ourselves and other people. This is biased because we contrast ourselves with those people who are “better” than us and this leaves people feeling inadequate.
  3. Filtering: involves honing in on the negative parts of a situation and dismissing all of the positive elements.
  4. Personalising: making a situation about us when the matter was not a personal one at all.
  5. Mind-reading: making assumptions about what others are thinking.
  6. Catastrophising: exaggerating the negative consequences when things go wrong.
  7. Over-generalising: exaggerating the frequencies of some things in our lives like our mistakes or failures.
  8. Hindsight vision: when we look back on things and think we could have done better even though you cannot foresee everything at the outset.
  9. Labelling: summing up ourselves or others using simplistic or negative labels.
  10. Can’t stand-its: perceiving that you cannot stand something instead of acknowledging that there are things in life that aren’t fun and won’t last forever.

It is important to be able to identify these things so that we can start to view them in a different light. The authors also offer practical advice and strategies to overcome different psychological problems. In the case of overcoming fears it can be to stop avoiding things and to actually confront these dreaded situations through some small, easy tasks and to gradually increase the challenge over time. In doing so, people learn to reduce their anxiety and discover that the experience in such situations is not as difficult or as terrible as they initially thought.

In the case of worry the authors advocate practising mindful awareness of these thoughts, delaying these worries and examining the evidence to gain a different perspective. A whole chapter is devoted to mindfulness, which is something that is gaining popularity because it forces people to focus on the things they are experiencing as it happens in the here and now. There is also a chapter on self-care and reminding readers of how important this is in promoting good mental and physical health.

Good Thinking is a comprehensive look at strategies for managing stress and the other unhelpful negative emotions we may experience. It uses simple language to explain different psychological constructs and real-world examples to get teenagers to think about how this applies to their own lives and some practical exercises that they can employ on a daily basis. But this is a good resource for people of all ages because it is filled with informative and educational chapters, handy advice and additional resources that will help crystallise the key points.

In sum, Good Thinking is full of applicable and useful examples and exercises that should help teenagers and adults and could also be renamed “smart thinking” because it’s a helpful and useful guide overall.

BOOK REVIEW: Good Thinking - A Teenager's Guide to Managing Stress and Emotion Using CBT by Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond

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