We Still Love John

October 15, 2009

Solution Presentation

Filed under: #4: solution presentation — welovejohn @ 1:18 am

We propose an amalgamation of cognitive therapy infused with the essences of positive psychology and resilience. Because John cannot control his external environment, i.e. his parents’ marital disputes and his teachers’ prejudices against him, it is imperative for him to effectively manage and regulate his internal landscape as this is the only way he can successfully change for the better. Positive thinking is of utmost salience to John because he is arrested in extreme negativity and learned helplessness coupled with potent dosages of cognitive distortions like catastrophization, magnification/minimization, overgeneralization and absolutist all-or-nothing thinking. Thus, John has to be taught positive psychology in combination with cognitive therapy, as cognitive therapy per se might not be value-added and positively constructive enough to equip him with a solid set of positive thinking skills that keeps him healthily self-sufficient and autonomous in the face of future problems.

This solution can be implemented with particular emphasis on teasing out John’s expectations and core beliefs in the cognitive therapy process of Socratic questioning. Knowing his expectations and beliefs enables us to identify his cognitive distortions and inculcate a more resilient disposition by inviting him to look at his own fears and question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and “How likely is it that this will pan out?” so as to allow him to gauge if his expectations are realistic. From here, a natural lead-on would be to encourage John to re-cognise his erroneous perceptions through more Socratic questioning and methods like thought diary so as to help him dispose his maladaptive thoughts that do not help him to cope. This creates space for positive, adaptive and logical thinking that taps on his strengths and virtues. Asking him to articulate his fears also helps in his metacognition that sharpens his individual control of behaviour and emotions, and, integrated with positive thinking, Seligman’s conception of positive psychology as a balanced psychology will create a healthier and happier John founded not on idealistic abstraction, but on his inalienable reality.

Nevertheless, this solution presupposes two important make-or-break factors: (1) John’s willingness to share his problems and withstand Socratic questioning; (2) Discipline to carry out metacognitive reasoning and keeping documents like a thought diary. Having already been maligned and abused in school and at home, cognitive therapy might initially turn John’s sensitive and bruised soul away because it seems like another form of mental torture that ostensibly downplays the grim realities of his situation and implies that he is ‘wrong’. Because of these reasons, any practical experiment of our solution with John-like characters must be undertaken with utmost gentleness and care, as a wrong delivery might spurn John off educational psychologists for good. Also, John does not seem to possess the discipline and rigour needed to monitor his thought and emotional processes. Instead, it might seem like judgmental homework to him, and he might be put off the healing process.

The pros of our solution have been enumerated constantly over the course of this e-portfolio, and the cons have been described in the above paragraph, so I will not elaborate. For consequences, John will never learn to be an independent regulator of his feelings if our solution excludes cognitive therapy, but if we exclude positive psychology and resilience, he will never discover his strengths and virtues and always think that he is worthless. As such, a good balance and integration of cognitive therapy with positive psychology and resilience are vital for an optimally functioning John who grows to have faith in his self-worth.


October 14, 2009

We Love John Skit

Filed under: #4: solution presentation — ingenuity @ 6:41 pm

Scene 1

As the class is dismissed, Ms Lee pulls John aside for a private chit-chat…

Ms Lee: John, may I see you for a moment?

John: Yes Ms Lee…

Ms Lee: John what’s going on? I’ve been noticing a change in you John, and it’s affected your school work. How do you feel about that?

John: Who cares? Why should I bother? Ms Lee… I’m just no good at the studying..

Ms Lee: I’m sorry you feel that way, John, because I care! Anyway, why do you think you’re no good at studying? [ACKNOWLEDGING EMOTIONS]

J: I stupid what! Get bad grades, everyone dun wanna be in my group..

Ms Lee: Was the bad grades really the result of you studying or not studying? [BEGINNING OF A SERIES OF SOCRATIC QUESTIONING TO SIEVE OUT IRRATIONAL THINKING]

J: Errr.. not studying?

Ms Lee: So actually, you didn’t do well because you have not been studying or doing your homework?

J: Maybe..

Ms Lee: Maybe, if you actually study, you’ll do well. Let’s try this out: study for the next test, and we’ll see if you’re really “stupid” as you said. If a stupid person studies, then no matter what, he would do badly. But if you’re not a stupid person, and the real reason is a lack of studying, which I think is the real case, then we should see results. We’ll compare the test which you studied to the last test which you didin’t study for and we’ll see for sure if you’re stupid or not or it’s because of the studying. Will you be willing to study for the next test and see how this works out? [BEHAVIOURAL EXPERIMENT TO TEST HYPOTHESIS CONSTRUCTED FROM ILLOGICAL THINKING]

J: But Ms Lee, I don’t want to study.


J: It’s no use, my parents will still hate me.

Ms Lee: How do you know?

J: They…

Ms Lee: I’m here for you John, but if you’re not ready to share it’s perfectly okay.

J: Well… my parents think I’m stupid.

Ms Lee: How do you know they think like that? Have they actually told you? [BEGINNING OF A SERIES OF SOCRATIC QUESTIONING]

J: No, but I can tell…. They always scold me..

Ms Lee: So when they scold you, it’s because you’re stupid? [FINDING OUT THE CORE BELIEF: “No one loves me because I’m stupid”]

J: Yes…

Ms Lee: And when they scold you it means they hate you.

J: Yes..

Ms Lee: Well, that’s interesting. Because I met up with your parents, and I never heard them say that you’re stupid or they hate you. They were so concerned with how you’re doing in school, and they wanted to ask me how to help you do well. (pauses for effect).  John, your parents want you to do well, but they don’t hate you for doing badly in school. They seem distracted with their own problems, and it is probably a hard time for them so they haven’t actually been able to be there for you 100%. Is it very stressful at home? [CHALLENGING FAULTY THINKING; ACKNOWLEDGING FEELINGS]

J: Sort of. I don’t know what to do…

Ms Lee:  Then I think it is important that you don’t allow yourself to be affected, as hard as it sounds.  Sometimes, it is better not to be involved because parents can be so stressed up they forget about how to take care of you.  All of us care very much about you John, and not just about how you do in your school work. Whatever is going on at home, I want you to put it aside for now. Just think about YOU. Think about your future. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? [BUILDING SELF-CONCEPT; MAKING PROBLEM MORE ACCESSIBLE & CONTROLLABLE BY SHIFTING FOCUS AWAY FROM PARENTS]

J: Don’t know… so far away..

Ms Lee: I want to meet up with you again after the test, and I want you to think about where you want to see yourself in at the end of PSLE and 5 years later, write it down and show it to me. I want you to consider which secondary school you want to go to, what would be a perfect life to you in 5 years time and how you are going reach this perfect life. The point is that I want us to set goals together so that you can help yourself achieve greatness. Many people were successful, but did you know they were not always very happy in their life? Have you heard of Helen Keller? [SETTING GOALS; PROMOTING RESILIENCE BY REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES]

J: The blind woman?

Ms Lee: And deaf too. She was a great person, but her life was not smooth-sailing. You can read up about her life story. I had another student who… [goes on to elaborate on a similar  story of a trouble-maker who has a change of heart and goes to a good secondary school/becomes rich and successful]

J: Ok, so what? How to be like them… I’ll never be that good.

Ms Lee: Well, we’ll have to put that to the test before we conclude, right? Be more confident of yourself – you have a lot of strengths John, like you’re good at basketball and before all of this nonsense, English. Just study for the next test and think about your future for a bit. I’ll meet you after the test is over here, okay? [REINFORCE POSITIVE THINKING]

J: Okay..

Scene 2:

Some time later…

Meng Chong: Hey bully! What you want?

J: [thinking out loud to himself] Oh great. It’s them again. I promised Ms Lee that I won’t get angry with them. I don’t know if I can leh, they’re so mean to me. Good thing we practiced during our role-playing sessions so I know what to do now. [PRE-TAUGHT PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS]

Hi guys! I’m sorry about last time, I shouldn’t have hit you first. Can I watch you guys play basketball? [ACKNOWLEDGING AND RESPECTING OTHERS]

Meng Chong: Why should we?

J: Because I can be the referee and help get the ball for you. [USING ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS TO SOLVE A PROBLEM]

Meng Chong: Why… you …so nice to us huh??

J: Cannot meh.. don’t want then never mind lor. Your loss.

Meng Chong: Don’t want referee! We want to play 3 of us versus 1 of you. See how you like it!


[Since John is good in basketball, he scores a few goals. But because he is up against 3 people, he still loses to the other team. But he doesn’t lose his cool.]

J: Thanks guys, that was a good game.  [POSITIVE THINKING]

Ravi: You’re not so bad, next time play with us again. Actually… not very fair lah. We do 2 v 2 next time, more fun also.

J: Cool. See you!

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