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Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, Second Edition

Dennis Greenberger, PhD; Christine A. Padesky, PhD

New York, The Guilford Press, 2016, 341 pp., $26.95, paperback

Tom Wingo, the 37-year-old narrator of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, is determined to change his life. Early in the novel, he loses his job as a high school football coach. He soon becomes depressed, negative, and down on himself. During this time, his twin sister, Savannah, is admitted to a psychiatric ward in New York City. Tom travels to New York to share family secrets with her psychiatrist, hoping history will shed light on his sister’s psychosis. By talking about his family, he begins to make sense of his own life:

“And each year, I lose a little bit more of what made me special as a kid. I don’t think as much or question as much. I dare nothing. I put nothing on the line. Even my passions are now frayed and pathetic. Once I dreamed I’d be a great man, Lowenstein. Now, the best I can hope for is that I can fight my way back to being a mediocre man.”1

In addition to a good therapist, the first thing I would recommend to Tom is Drs Greenberger and Padesky’s remarkable book, Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think. Although we cannot change the past, we can change the way we think about it. Just as physicians recognize the distortions, overgeneralizations, and exaggerations that patients make about themselves, readers do the same thing when they encounter characters like Tom. They learn that Tom thinks a lot, dares a lot, and puts himself on the line—despite what he says. The reader has a more balanced view of Tom.

Mind Over Mood provides effective cognitive techniques for patients to develop a more balanced view of themselves, to challenge the automatic thoughts, assumptions, and core beliefs they dearly hold. Many of these techniques center on asking oneself questions, such as “What evidence supports my belief? What contradicts it? How would a friend interpret the situation? What positive qualities about myself am I ignoring? What behaviors could I change that would improve my mood (eg, exercise, drink less alcohol, practice yoga). Of course, some situations require patients to do more than simply modify their thinking to feel better, eg, develop an action plan to leave a violent partner.

Mind Over Mood has many great features, including: (1) clear organization and structure, (2) readability, (3) analogies to supplement explanations (“In many ways, automatic thoughts are similar to flowers and weeds in a garden. Thought records, as well as Action Plans and acceptance are tools that enable you to cut the weeds—negative automatic thoughts—at ground level from your garden, making room for the flowers.” (4) Summaries, helpful hints, questions, worksheets, and exercises that reinforce learning for patients, (5) excellent chapters on specific problems such as anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, and shame, and (6) helpful sections on mindfulness, assertiveness, gratitude, forgiveness, and positive psychology.

As much as I like this book, I think it takes a very motivated, disciplined person to read it and complete the various exercises (There are 60 worksheets). I also think most patients, particularly patients with more severe forms of anxiety and depression, will need a coach to guide them through it. Similarly, I cannot imagine learning how to play the piano or golf without one. Furthermore, without daily practice, change and improvement are unlikely to occur. Indeed, this is how the authors envision clinicians using the book: “Clinicians can use Mind Over Mood to structure therapy, to reinforce skills taught to clients, and to help clients continue the therapeutic learning process after formal therapy ends.”

Another minor criticism: for those looking for references to other books on cognitive behavioral therapy and related topics, you will not find them here. It is more workbook than theory or scholarly review.

Finally, for physicians like me who are looking for ways to prevent burnout in these chaotic times in medicine, the greatest benefit I had reading and underlining the pages in this book was what I learned about my own cognitive distortions, assumptions, and biases. I gained a renewed sense of self, one that is mentally and emotionally more flexible to challenge core assumptions and beliefs about myself, spouse, patients, colleagues, and friends—and electronic health record administrators!

Dean Gianakos, MD

Centra

Lynchburg, VA

 

References

  1. Conroy P. The prince of tides. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986:169.

Copyright 2018 by Society of Teachers of Family Medicine