Friday, September 2, 2016

The 4 P's for Success

We live in a world where we can receive information the very instant something happens. We live in a country where many of us can go out and buy things when we want (within reason, of course!). Because of this, we live in society that thrives on instant gratification and the expectation that things will or should happen quickly.

This happens frequently in the therapeutic setting. Parents come in with their child and have the expectation that the clinician, as the professional, will fix that child and do it quickly! Patients come in and expect to learn this form of therapy quickly and that it will make them better without effort. The problem is that this type of therapy does not work that way. This type of therapy actually teaches the skills that are needed for the patient to help themselves. What does this mean? It means that the child and parents need to work together with the clinician to reinforce the taught skills as well as learn an effective way to get the behaviors they want from their child. It also means that the patient has to use the 4 P’s for the most effective treatment possible. What are the 4 P’s? This is pretty much what we need to be successful not only in treatment, but in life.

Patience – Learning how to recognize well learned, ingrained irrational thoughts is not easy. It is difficult to learn how to change those irrational thoughts into rational, calm thoughts. Calming self-talk and being patient with yourself will go a long way.

Practice – Yes, it takes practice. Just like it took a great deal of practice to learn how to walk, ride a bike, write a paper, and drive a car, it takes a great deal of practice to be able to challenge your well learned irrational thoughts and change them. The more you practice, the better you will get at this. The better you get at this, the better you will feel!

Perseverance – Keeping with the “P” theme, you will be required to pledge yourself to the techniques that you will learn. You will need to be purposeful! Motivation, commitment, 
stick-to-itiveness, and refusing to give up is what is important! All good things are worth the work. Changing your irrational thinking and having the result of feeling better is worth the effort! 

Progress – The above 3 P’s will result in a great deal of progress toward feeling better. Look at the testimonials on our webpage:, and you will see the progress that previous patients report.

Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is highly effective. If you have patience, practice and perseverance, you will make great progress toward a healthier and happier you! 

Bonnie Lillis, LPC
New England Center for CBT

Bonnie Lillis is a Psychotherapist with New England Center for CBT (NECBT), located in Glastonbury, Connecticut.  NECBT specializes in the highly effective Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I-CBT) modality invented by Dr. Thomas Cordier. I-CBT is a hybrid of Emotional Intelligence and CBT rudiments. I-CBT empowers patients to overcome and subdue their mental health issues by changing their thoughts. You can learn more about I-CBT at Coming soon –

Monday, August 22, 2016


As a mother I only wanted for my children to become responsible human beings who had compassionate hearts and good people in their lives. Did you notice that I didn’t say anything about success? That’s because my first sentence is what I consider success. On to my main point; I also wanted my children to be who they are, to follow their own path without telling them who they should be.

Every year at the parent-teacher conferences I would be advised that my oldest child was “too quiet” and not outgoing enough. At first I accepted this observation and as a first time mother wondered whether I was doing something wrong. This is very common with first time mothers….always the questioning of parenting skills….always the guilt that maybe I wasn’t being a good enough parent. As the years went by, my attitude changed. I began to feel resentment toward the teachers. Here is my child, getting good grades, never getting into trouble, and having friends and the teacher is complaining that he is “too quiet”??

Why was I resentful? Because I know my child and I know his strengths and weaknesses. I do not consider his being quiet a weakness. My son was shy just like his mother. My son was an introvert. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Introverts just get more benefit from being introspective instead of getting their energy from being with people. Having said this, if my son was socially anxious it may have been a different story.

Now let’s talk about the difference between being shy and having social anxiety. The main question to ask if you wonder whether your child is shy, introverted or has social anxiety is this: Does this behavior negatively impact the child’s life? If the child seems well adjusted and mostly content, then the child is just shy. However, if you child seems anxious and does not interact much, perhaps it is social anxiety.

Social Anxiety Disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, version 5 (DSM-V) has symptoms of marked fear about one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others, the social situations are avoided or endured with intense anxiety, the fear is out of proportion to the actual threat and causes clinically significant distress or impairment. Frequently people who have this disorder feel that they are being watched and judged. Usually they feel that they are being judged negatively. In most cases, they believe that they will behave incompetently or inappropriately and that they will suffer disastrous consequences. These people make more comparisons than the rest of us and compare themselves with people they perceive are better than they are. This way of living can be very distressing for a child, the parent of the child and for adults. Fear not! There is help!

Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – I-CBT is a very effective method for treating children and adults with Social Anxiety Disorder. In order to change feelings of anxiety and negative behavior, the thoughts have to be changed. We teach children to look at their thoughts realistically, challenge their anxious thinking to calm thinking and help them engage with others in a rational way. We look at their negative core beliefs (self perceptions) and help them to challenge those effectively. We help them stop avoiding stressful situations by slowly exposing them to these so that they can learn that not everyone is judging them (and even if they are it doesn’t mean it is a negative judgment.). We search to see if they have received a negative message somehow that has changed their self-perception and help them challenge this rationally. We have them join our children or teen groups so that they can learn appropriate interactions, as well as being more emotionally intelligent. We also teach their parents how to appropriately reinforce the behaviors they want their children to exhibit. All of these interventions, along with the child, teen or adult’s motivation for change can be extremely effective.

So what happened to my child? He has a wonderful soul mate, a terrific son of his own, and is working in the job that he enjoys. He still is a quiet guy but has great insight and empathy. It’s okay to be shy unless it is negatively impacting your life. He and I are proof!

Bonnie Lillis, LPC
New England Center for CBT

Bonnie Lillis is a Psychotherapist with New England Center for CBT (NECBT), located in Glastonbury, Connecticut.  NECBT specializes in the highly effective Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I-CBT) modality invented by Dr. Thomas Cordier. I-CBT is a hybrid of Emotional Intelligence and CBT rudiments. I-CBT empowers patients to overcome and subdue their mental health issues by changing their thoughts. You can learn more about I-CBT at Coming soon –

Friday, July 8, 2016


Why is it that we get ourselves in such a tizzy about something that hasn’t even happened?  Also, why do we allow ourselves to get in such a tizzy about having to deal with other people’s bad or negative behaviors?

I was teaching someone I-CBT today and used a scenario surrounding a family dinner and the person’s fear that her mother will behave badly. There are many things wrong with this scenario but I only want to focus on a few. First of all, the person talking about the scenario is using a mental mishap that we all use – jumping to conclusions through fortune telling (stating what the future will bring without real evidence). Already she is telling herself that this bad situation will happen when she does not have any evidence for it! She is just basing this on something that probably happened in the past and now expresses fear that it will happen again (another mental mishap – generalization).

There are two problems with this. First, she is allowing herself to become anxious and agitated about something that has not yet occurred. This is such a waste of energy and her anxiousness will end up clouding the rest of her life until the actual event arrives. This doesn’t make much sense but it is something that all of us have done. I call it being a Tizzyhead. Makes me crazy when I do this to myself.

The second problem is this person is allowing her mother’s possible negative behavior to steal her joy with the dinner event. I can hear you saying to me “but it is her mother!!!” Yep, mother’s can definitely have power over us….however, if we have reached adulthood, we no longer need to feed into the old child baggage.

The point is she (and we) do not need to allow any of this to happen if  I-CBT is used to calm the anxiety when it occurs. She can tell herself this, “my mother may behave badly as she has in the past but that is her stuff, not mine. I do not have to allow her behavior to impact me negatively and I can choose to ignore. Remember it is not the people who are making us feel bad, it is what we think about the people and their behavior that is making us feel bad. You do have the power to change how you feel just by changing how you think. Imagine how empowering that is!

The other reason we become a Tizzyhead is that we may be anxious about confronting people who are behaving badly. Instead of communicating assertively, we avoid the discomfort and just become anxious (and angry). The more we avoid these situations, the more upset we become.

Don’t let others steal your joy. Change your thinking and communicate assertively. That way you won’t waste precious time and energy being a Tizzyhead!

Bonnie Lillis, LPC
Clinician, New England Center for CBT/Cordier Institute

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fireworks and PTSD

Every year millions of Americans look forward to seeing fireworks displays on the 4th of July, but for many combat veterans fireworks are anything but enjoyable. For combat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) fireworks can be triggers that cause them to relive their worst days in combat. PTSD is developed from having experienced a traumatic event such as mass violence. In fact, 67% of people who have experienced mass violence develop PTSD.
Last year Military with PTSD launched a campaign, Explosion of Kindness for which signs were distributed to combat veterans allowing them to let their neighbors know to be courteous with use of fireworks.
By spreading awareness, less veterans were subject to unexpected triggers coming from fireworks being launched near their homes. If you do not know if a combat veteran with PTSD is living near you, consider going to a public fireworks display instead of launching fireworks from your own backyard.

There are 7.7 million American adults suffering from PTSD and one of them might just be your neighbor. When celebrating this weekend please be mindful of those around you.

NECBT intern
Kelly Masotta

Friday, June 24, 2016

5 Ways to Rediscover Joy

Dreams are strange. I have not studied dream interpretation but do find dreams to be fascinating. I generally do not remember my own; but when I do, I pay close attention. This week I had two memorable dreams. The first was actually a nightmare that included terrorism. The second was about a patient that came into my office (never saw this person before) and she said to me, “I’m too serious all the time”. She wanted to find out how to get her joy for life back. My response is inspired by both of these dreams. How do you get less serious and find joy?

1.      Turn off the news – Yes, I realize that it is important to know what is going on in the world but when we are bombarded over and over again with negativity and bad news it can have a disturbing impact on us. There seems to be no good news, which inspires hope, to balance the bad. Negativity breeds negativity and when terrible events in our country and world are replayed over and over, it can bring on a sense of angst, anger and fear. What also happens is one of our Mental Mishaps (general irrationalizations), Generalization. This means when something negative has happened, sometimes we believe it will keep happening even if it hasn’t happened to us. I have patients who are not living fully by deciding not to do things even if the possibility of something negative happening is so remote. Imagine the good things they may be missing because of their fear. Fear may eliminate the possibility of joy.

2.      Go outside – Yes, spend time in nature. Go to a state park, national park, botanical garden, beach or wherever you can find some beautiful nature to see, smell and feel. Beauty in nature can take you outside of yourself, remind you of how beautiful life on this world can be and distract you from negativity. Nature can build joy.

3.      Endeavor to take yourself less seriously – Oh boy, there are so many ways we do this. The most common way is with negative self-talk. Why do we beat up on ourselves so viciously? Try to be more empathetic to yourself. Be kind to your mind by changing your negative thoughts through I-CBT and you will feel more joy.

4.      Resolve conflict - Another way that we take ourselves seriously is through our righteous indignation. You know, when we feel we are right or have been wronged and no one can tell us any different….wow, does that sap some joy. That is the time to assertively and diplomatically start a conversation toward resolution. Then try to let some of that indignation go and move forward. Forgiveness can give you more peace which can lead to the possibility of joy.

5.      Do something for others – It is wonderful when you decide to do something for someone else and receive the unexpected benefit of feeling really good inside! Reach out to others in some way. It doesn’t take much; random acts of kindness are easy. Volunteer or even just talk in a friendly manner to the person waiting in line. It just may brighten the day for both of you.

Some of these actions are easy while others are hard. The point is that the more we allow situations, things or people to have the power to steal our joy, the less joy we will feel. Remember the first Cognitive Emotive Rule: It is not people, situations or things that make us feel bad, it is what we think about people, situations and things. Change your thinking and choose joy!

Bonnie Lillis, LPC

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Moving Toward the Middle Ground

I have someone in my life that tends to live in the zone of inflexibility. What is this? It is called “rigid thinking” or thinking in black and white terms. I like these definitions: “unable to bend or be forced out of shape; not flexible, not able to be changed or adapted.” Now, before I go on I should say that there are occasions that we all have rigid thinking, especially when it comes to something that pushes against a strong belief system. Rigid thinking only becomes problematic when our passion to be right overrides our rationality.

Another term for this is all or nothing thinking – what we call a mental mishap taught through Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. What is the matter with this type of thinking?  THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND! Unfortunately, this type of thinking is so problematic because it does not allow for the sharing of ideas, being able to communicate effectively, and can be extremely destructive in relationships.

One of the things I notice about people who live in the zone of inflexibility is that they seem to feel that they are right. There is this righteousness (arrogance?) that comes across in their language. Almost as if they are thinking, “how can you not agree with me???” When I hear a patient express this type of thinking, I frequently hear myself say something like, “how is this thinking helping your relationship? Will your rigidity hurt or help your relationship?” You see frequently people who have all or nothing thinking often struggle in their relationships. It is hard to live with someone who is inflexible.

It is my job to point out the irrationality of this form of thinking. With I-CBT I ask people whether their thinking is actually factual or is it just their interpretation. I ask them if they are getting their needs met, whether they ultimately end up feeling good and meet their goals. The answer is generally no, no and no…..yet somehow it is hard for them to challenge their irrationality even if they can see that it doesn’t help them. This is one of the most difficult challenges for an I-CBT clinician – to watch such self-destructive behavior all in the name of feeling “I’m right and you’re wrong!!”

Guess what – there is always a middle ground. It occurs when we are able to step back, push the emotion aside, listen to the other person, challenge our irrational thinking and then compromise. Even if it means to agree to disagree, it still has a much better outcome than pushing others away with inflexibility.

What are your areas of rigid thinking? Do you recognize when you are using this? If not, ask a family member. I bet they would be happy to educate you! Next see if you can become more aware when it happens and then use I-CBT – life can be much more rational when you can learn where the middle ground lies.

Bonnie Lillis, LPC


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Bring Back Playtime!

I love having my grandson around. Jack has only one job – to play! Through his play he learns how things work, learns disappointment when it doesn’t work and gets downright silly when his Grammy makes funny noises. It made me remember what my playtime was like.

How many of you remember these games?

Red Rover
Mother May I
Hide and Seek
Kick the Can
Chinese Jump rope
Roller skating or Skate boarding in the street
Building forts and pretending we were King of the Mountain
Pick-up basketball, baseball or football

I come from a ridiculously large family and grew up in a variety of houses and neighborhoods as we moved frequently. My favorite memories took place in a large stone house in Buffalo, New York. The rule was to go outside and don’t come in until the street lights came on. This neighborhood was full of kids to play with. However, even if there was no one to play with, we made up games to play with each other. Some of the games we made up were Medusa, Bombs over Tokyo (yep, post -World War II offspring) and Sock War. There was another one but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. Most games involved chasing after one another or using objects to throw at each other. Kick the Can was my favorite – we almost always had a lot of kids around to play that game. I had this memory that our yard was huge with so many places to hide. Years later I visited this house and found the yard to be quite small. The point was that it seemed like a vast adventure land full of fun memories.

My kids had it a bit different. We didn’t live in a neighborhood that was swarming with kids but we had a large back yard and bikes for them to ride around town. I remember them having friends over all the time (not arranged) and they would be wrestling, playing karate, shooting hoops, making music or riding their bikes in the woods. They didn’t have a video game console. There were no cell phones and computer time was limited. They did go to other kid’s homes and played video games and computer games. I’m sure they could tell me some of the other things they did but that’s okay – sometimes a mother doesn’t really want to know!

I wonder what the kids of this generation would tell me. When I walk through the waiting room at work I see just about every child and teen playing video games on I Pads, or scrolling through social media on their cell phones. Their lives are more scheduled with structured activities like gymnastics, dance, structured baseball, basketball, soccer leagues, and scheduled play dates. One teen I counseled didn’t have friends, but boy oh boy, did he have a lot of friends through on-line computer games! I found this to be very scary.

What may be lost in this electronic age is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is important because it will determine your ability to navigate the world and have your needs met. Some of the most successful people in the world have a higher level of emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence? It is being able to be intelligent about emotions. It is being able to connect with your own emotions, manage them appropriately, recognize emotions in others and relate to others in a healthy manner, feel with people (empathy), have motivation to work toward goals, have good social skills and adaptability to different environments.  How can kids today develop emotional intelligence if the majority of their time is spent on electronic devices? Will they understand the difference between what is actually going on and what others are choosing to show them on social media? Will all of their text messaging help them to learn the importance of recognizing non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language? How will they learn to have imagination if their time is always scheduled? How will they learn to manage disappointment if everyone on the team gets a trophy? How will they learn to make friends if play dates are arranged for them? How will they learn to manage conflict or develop empathy if their world is social media and video games?

Although there is research that the use of electronics may have a positive impact on the brain due to strengthening the neurons that help with focus and concentration, the negative impact is the lessening of social skills. What gets lost? The ability to recognize their own emotions and the impact their emotions have on others, their ability to manage their impulses (just look at Facebook and Youtube!), learn the importance of goal setting, empathy (again, look at Facebook and Youtube), manage conflict, develop leadership qualities and adapt to different social situations. Dropping the electronics and having unstructured play can help build emotional intelligence.

I hope that unstructured play will be a big part of Jack’s life. When I am with him, I plan on modeling good emotional intelligence. If he didn’t get this, he would be missing out on the most important learning process in his life as he wouldn’t be able to relate to others in a positive way as well as get his needs met.

How about you? Is it time to limit your kid’s time on electronics? Is it time to tell them to go outside and use their imagination? Let’s see Jack, where can we play Kick the Can?

Bonnie Lillis, LPC

Clinical Director, NECBT