Umberto CrisantiCBT, EMDR, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Canterbury and Online

What are some good books to read about psychology and human behaviour?

1) Thinking Fast and Slow
The book's main thesis is that of a dichotomy between two modes of thought: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book delineates rational and non-rational motivations or triggers associated with each type of thinking process
2) The Body Keeps The Score:
This book teaches you how to get through the difficulties that arise from your traumatic past by revealing the psychology behind them and revealing some of the techniques therapists use to help victims recover.

In therapy, we will work on updating the memory from "I am stuck and in danger" to "I can take action and I am safe now". We need to a) draw out blocked sensory information b) help clients befriend, not suppress, body energies needing to be released and c) complete the self preserving physical actions that were thwarted when the survivor was restrained or immobilized by terror. (p. 96).

Trauma therapy involves the following steps for clients to achieve (p. 203-204):

1) finding a way to become calm

2) learning to maintain that calm and focus when triggered with past thoughts, emotions, reminders, etc.

3) finding a way to be fully alive, in the present, and engaged with others

4) not having to keep secrets from self including the ways the person has managed to survive.

And that the trauma has to be revisited in more than the logical brain:

"The fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional part of the brain." (p. 205), this aspect is similar to a paper I published in 2019 (Crisanti, 2019):

"The therapeutic implication is that therapists need to be able to understand and attune to their clients both emotionally - by considering a fundamental problem in an implicit emotional system (Gilbert, 2010) - and cognitively."

3) Why We Sleep - by Matthew Walker

It is a summary of scientific research on sleep to date, providing insight on how sleep affects cognitive and physical performance in both the short and long term, and what you can do improve your own sleep (which often involves avoiding things causing bad sleep). Recommended for everyone, as sleep affects us all.

4) Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

The book stands out extraordinarily as Frankl, by narrating his life instances in the Auschwitz concentration camp, presents the remarkable idea of how we can choose to see a purpose or meaning in any situation, including the worst conditions. He descriptively illustrates his personal experiences and observations of minute human changes which infuses hope into the reader.
Research you need to know:
What common factors contribute to your health?

Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatmentc

The possibility that magnesium deficiency is the cause of most major depression and related mental health problems including IQ loss and addiction is enormously important to public health and is recommended for immediate further study. Fortifying refined grain and drinking water with biologically available magnesium to pre-twentieth century levels is recommended.

The impact of sugar consumption on stress driven, emotional and addictive behaviors


• A diet high in sugars has been linked to cognitive impairments, negative neuroplasticity and emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.
•Sugar consumption increases the impulsivity to feed.
•Sugar overconsumption leads to changes in neurobiological brain function which alter emotional states and subsequent behaviours.
•Addiction, stress, fear, anxiety and depression involve overlapping neural mechanisms.

Personally I believe that:
Sugar is the enemy of health
Comfort is the enemy of growth
Conformity is the enemy of creativity
Entitlement is the enemy of sovereignty.

Poems, Prayers, Mantras, and Meditations
Touch the wholesome seeds in your consciousness and water them. These are seeds of compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness, and joy. If while praying you can recognize these seeds in you and help them grow, your prayer is already a deep practice.

Buddha and the path to happiness
Buddha says that if you practice:
the Four Immesurable Minds along with the Four Noble Thuths and the Noble Eightfold Path, you will never again descend into the realms of suffering.
- from Teachings on Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Twenty Four Brand New Hours

Every morning when I wake up, I say the same thing, a verse from the Plum Village practices of Thich Nhat Hanh:

Waking up this morning I smile, 24 brand new hours before me. I vow to live fully in each moment,
and look at beings with eyes of compassion.
-from Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh

“The Nine Prayers,” as conveyed by Thich Nhat Hanh

NOTE: “He/she” is the first the person we like, then the person we love, then the person who is neutral to us, and finally the person we suffer when we think of. “They” is the group, the people, the nation, or the species we like, then the one we love, then the one that is neutral to us, and finally the one we suffer when we think of.

1. May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May he/she be peaceful, happy, and light in body in spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body in spirit.

2. May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
May he/she be free from injury. May he/she live in safety.
May they be free from injury. May they live in safety.

3. May I learn to be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety and worry.
May he/she learn to be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety and worry.
May they learn to be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety and worry.

4. May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May he/she learn to look at him/herself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May they learn to look at themselves with the eyes of understanding and love.

5. May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May he/she be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/herself.
May they be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in themselves.

6. May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.
May he/she learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in him/herself.
May they learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in themselves.

7. May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May he/she know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/herself every day.
May they know how to nourish the seeds of joy in themselves every day.

8. May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May he/she be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May they be able to live fresh, solid and free.

9. May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May he/she be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

Have you heard the story about the Zen Master and the Little Boy?

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"We'll see," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"We'll see," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"We'll see," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"We'll see" said the farmer.

As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realise that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground—something predictable to stand on—seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not. I think this story can help us to abandon our traditional rationality and to train our minds to embrace (and myabe even welcome) uncertainty in our lives.

Behavioral Activation (BA)
When we are depressed we become less active. The less active we are the fewer opportunities there are for positive and rewarding things to happen to us. And the fewer rewarding things that happen to us the lower our mood becomes. Behavioral Activation (BA) is one way out of this vicious cycle. It is a practical and evidence-based treatment for depression.

A walk, for example, can help relieve stress and promote positive emotions by way of instant mood boosters like sunlight and fresh air.
Walkig is also a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth.

We breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home, says Thich Nhat Hanh.

If you are busy but you want a full workout, the below 12 exercises in the 7-minute workout target all the body's major muscle groups.

This is a science-backed circuit routine that uses only body weight. The high-intensity interval-training program was designed by two exercise scientists, Chris Jordan and Brett Klika, to be the most efficient workout.

Jumping jacks (total body)
Wall sit (lower body)
Push-up (upper body)
Abdominal crunch (core)
Step-up onto chair (total body)
Squat (lower body)
Triceps dip on chair (upper body)
Plank (core)
High knees/running in place (total body)
Lunge (lower body)
Push-up and rotation (upper body)
Side plank left (core)
Side plank right (core)

You do each exercise for 30 seconds -- long enough to get in about 15 to 20 repetitions. In between sets you rest for about 10 seconds.
Depending on how much time you have, you can do the 7-minute workout once, or repeat the whole series two or three times.

Apparently science has proven that working out for just seven minutes can have serious health benefits, according to an article published in the American College of Sport Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

There are other 2 exercises that are part of my routine:

Jumping rope and jogging.

Personally I love the jumping rope because among the benefits it improves my posture and concentration (and it's fun!)
Generally speaking, regular physical activity can significantly improve mental health, self-confidence, healthy ageing, and quality of life.

What else should I know?

Good for beginners?
No. It's too intense. Check with your doc or a trainer they recommend to find a program that’s right for you. Then, once you’re ready for the challenge and your doc says it’s OK, talk to a trainer about adapting the 7-Minute Workout for you.

Can it help to lose weight?
If you're working on losing weight, the 7-Minute Workout can help, along with a healthy diet. It’s an extreme, calorie-burning workout that will help shed the pounds and keep them off.
Can it help with diabetes?
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or another condition that could benefit from dropping some extra weight, this routine could be what you’re looking for if your doctor agrees.
Is it good if I am pregnant?
No, because you would need to make some changes to this specific workout. The main concern during exercise is falling, so you don’t want to risk it by stepping up onto a chair. Plus, jumping jacks and high knees later in pregnancy could be painful. You can replace those exercises with others or find a workout program that doesn’t involve jumping and climbing.
Is it good If I have joint or back problems?
No, this workout is not for you - at least not yet. You need a kinder, gentler program to get your muscles stronger to better support your joints. Check with your doctor.

Behavioural Activation when to check with your doctor first.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised and you have health issues or concerns, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Please talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program if any of the following apply:

You have heart disease.
You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
You have kidney disease.
You have arthritis.
You’re being treated for cancer, or you’ve recently completed cancer treatment.
You have high blood pressure.
If you haven’t exercised regularly in a while, you may generally start exercising at a light to moderate level without seeing your doctor and gradually increase your activity.

You may also check with your doctor if you have symptoms that may be related to heart, lung or other serious disease such as:

Pain or discomfort in your chest, neck, jaw or arms at rest or during physical activity
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting with exercise or exertion
Shortness of breath with mild exertion, at rest, or when lying down or going to bed
Ankle swelling, especially at night
A rapid or pronounced heartbeat
A heart murmur that your doctor has previously diagnosed
Lower leg pain when you walk, which goes away with rest

If you’re unsure of your health status, have multiple health problems or are pregnant, speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Working with your doctor ahead of time can help you plan the exercise program that’s right for you. And that’s a good first step on your path to physical fitness.

Happy New Year 2022!

My average client last year contacted me with a theme of 'joyless emergency'. They had an understanding that life was supposed to be more joyful than this, more authentic and meaningful.

The majority of these clients hated Mondays, lived for the weekend or holidays.

Many of them were compensating personal feelings of wrongness with drive and stamina. As a result, they also struggled to stay on top of everything; working longer hours, getting unwell, and using extra money to buy more consumer goods ... so making themselves anxious.

They come to therapy and they ask for strategies for 'time management' then. Sure, so they can squeeze even more activities in and so that they can fit in better with the economic machine?

For the new year, I wish you to reflect on your productivity, on how you spend more of your finite time on those people, nature, and activities that you care most deeply about.
Happy New Year

The third wave of CBT includes some practices of Buddhist psychology, and this below is borrowed from the book 'Walking the Walk' by Pema Chödrön. She has outlined the practice in a helpful four-step process with the acronym FEAR:

1. Feel the feeling. Don’t resist it but welcome it.
2. Embrace it. Be curious about the feeling instead of becoming overwhelmed by it. Where do you feel it? What are the physical sensations that accompany it?
3. Allow it to dissolve. Simply watch as it dissipates on its own. Neither push it away or stop it from dissolving!
4. Remember that you are not alone. Others are feeling this same feeling right now too.

The message of winter is to become quiet, keep your attention focused inward and stay mindful of the enormous amount of healing activity.
Cold promotes the browning of adipose tissue, which creates an energetic trade-off at the expense of T cell activation: a benefit in the context of neuroinflammation.
You may not need another morning routine, productivity hack or self-help book, but you may need to remove 1 or 2 mental blocks holding you back from being your most successful self.
Find your blocks and everything else may start to fall into place.

Nothing wrong with a 9-5 but if you can spend 8 hours a day working for someone else, why can't you spend one hour a day working for yourself?

Happy New Year 2021

Wishing you all strength, self-compassion, and the joy of living every day 🙏

Syncope / Fainting 9/12/2020

You go to Uni and they teach you that anxiety can't make you faint. You meet your clients and they tell you that they have done all the medical checks and they faint because they are anxious. You go to Uni and you learn that you shouldn't believe them, actually you should correct/challenge their thinking rather than supporting them with the fear of it.

Who tells the truth? The client obviously!

For example, people may experience hypotension which can have different causes including emotional stress or anxiety and which can lead to fainting.

This is so true that "the mainstay of management is education of the patient to avoid situations that predispose to syncope [fainting], with anxiety management, coping skills, and reassurance of the patient and others that this is a benign condition"

Grief 4/12/2020

How foolish is all this talk of ‘getting over’ grief. How self-negating is the wish that others should not feel sad when they think of their loss? Of course, they should feel sad!

There is no “normal” timetable for grieving, nor ‘get things into perspective’.

Reflections (29/11/2020)

We can choose to live inside protected by technological comfort, to work 40 hours a week, to have a full retirement plan and ultimately die comfortably in bed.

However this is not risk-free either, it is an illusion. I think that:

1) there is no safety for anyone from ordinary misfortunes (cancer, car accident, heartbreak etc)
2) when we obsessively seek safety and avoid risk, we get stuck because we are unable to face the challenges that make us healthier and more confident about just about anything.
3) when we become comfortably numb (I love Pink Floyd) we can miss out on the opportunity for unexpected rewards.

What a big risk, isn't it? What if on your deathbed you have to deal with regret?

Practice the pause. 13/11/2020

Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you're about to react harshly and you'll avoid doing and saying things you'll later regret.”

― Lori Deschene

Who is the adult? 12/11/2020

Yesterday I was honoured to present my new theoretical model at 5th USERN International Congress.

In a nutshell, the adult is a product of the early life experiences, emotions and memories of the child and the collection of teachings of the Parent

The presentation will be posted on my youtube channel soon.

In CBT, we are not interested in getting rid of our emotions, rather feeling them fully and responding to them in a more thoughtful and intelligent way. 4/11/2020

5th USERN International Congress 3/11/2020

I am very pleased to announce that I will be presenting in the 5th USERN International Congress. I feel very excited as featured among the international speakers there are several Nobel Laureates.

Over the last years, I have been dedicated to creating a model to merge Dual-Process Theories of Reasoning, Transactional Analysis and Compassion Focused Therapy.

This has previously been appreciated in Japan and now at the International Congress.

Hopefully, this work will contribute to the development of CBT.

Day 5: Wednesday, November 11, 2020
'The Art and Science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)' at 13:20 – 13:40 GMT.

I have some free limited passes for students or colleagues if you are interested please contact me privately.

Something wrong
Often people come to therapy thinking that there is something wrong with them, but when we look closely we find out that the only thing that is wrong in that moment is the thinking itself that there is something wrong with them.

Sometimes they actually discover that there was something wrong with their parents or society, okay that's a joke or perhaps it is not choose. :-)

One of the biggest mistakes we (psychotherapists) make is assuming that our clients should think the way we do.

In ACT therapy but also in CBT change occurs when you give a person enough comfort to just be themselves.


In many cultures and meditation practices, people sip water, allowing the water to stay in your mouth.

Science is now catching up recognising the role of alkaline saliva to reach the stomach and to neutralise acid levels in it.

Water is the miracle drink that sometimes we don’t acknowledge enough.


Now, this is an interesting question to play with,
“Is the universe conscious?” (yes I know, we should learn to crawl first 😀 )

Neuroplasticity, obesity and trauma

A small study found that obese people had impaired neuroplasticity and a diminished ability to re-wire the brain. Neuroplasticity is critical during learning but also during periods of psychological stress and brain trauma.

on Positive Thinking

As a therapist, I perceive the continual pursuit of ‘positive thinking’ harmful and self-deceptive. I feel sceptical and distant towards those therapists who continuously encourage positive thinking. Negativity is part of us and it is part of life. If you are a therapist, don't make your clients feel bad if sometimes they can't be positive.

Has The Stress of COVID Affected Our Brains?

A new study is getting some attention, as it claims that the COVID-19 lockdown has affected peoples' brain structure.

The authors suggest that the authorities should take heed of these results and consider the costs of lockdown

"My insanity in the year 1783"

It is only rarely that the patient himself has enough strength to describe the story of his illness; most often, this is described by a doctor, who assesses it according to external symptoms, and yet never so exactly as the patient himself can know his internal state.

'Do I understand my father or my mother'? Please find link below

Interesting questions and answers, I also love the atmosphere there, peaceful and not judgemental. People bring their experiences and there is an intention to be compassionate, in terms of alleviating suffering.

There is a common theme for many people which I think many of us can find helpful, that is, when our parents don't understand us or can't understand us, we can ask ourselves:

'do I understand my father or my mother'?

At the end of the video, they also support the idea that for Rogerian psychotherapists is key, about the pace of learning and understanding.

I am not going to spoil this analogy for you, I hope you enjoy the video as I did.

Try this thought experiment:

The next time you are bothered by something or you are experiencing negative emotions, ask yourself: “If I did not have a memory, what would this present moment look like?” Would I still be having a negative experience?

The problem of self-regulating thoughts in metacognition (Crisanti, 2019)
If we think about the proverbial question: ‘is the glass half empty or half full?’, we can reflect and notice that some individuals, who are interpreting the glass as half empty, even though they recognise that it would be better to change their interpretation of their perception into ‘half full’, are nonetheless unable to do it. This is an example of how System 2 cannot always make efficient use of metacognition, showing an interference or difficulty of self-regulation and decision-making.

How can I help with trauma?

To help with processing trauma, we need to create a context of emotional and physical safety during therapy sessions. In this journey together, we can explore sensing, naming, and identifying what is going on inside - these are the first steps towards recovery. You can see from the image below (taken from the book 'The Body Keeps The Score') how much more activity appears on the right side of the brain than on the left. What is the role of the right hemisphere of the brain? Well, this is where we process emotions and the perception of safety or risk. We can therefore distinguish two types of trauma processing:

The first is experiential and sensorial (also called Bottom Up approach):
Compassion Focused Therapy and Mindfulness are very helpful here because we learn to enhance the sense of internal and external safety.
The second is narrative processing (Top-Down):
The Top-Down process involves flashbacks and contains more motion words, suggesting that flashbacks are a form of memory that elicits a response such as fight or flight.

The abc of CBT , Discover Your Emotional Triggers:

This worksheet may help to build awareness of how you think and to see patterns of your feelings and behaviours over time. It can also help to track down irrational, illogical and unhelpful thoughts so that we gradually learn to dispute them. This tool is also helpful to detect emotional triggers, for example the need to be in control, to be treated fairly, to be understood, valued, loved or perhaps simply reacting to uncertainty or change, etc.

Awareness is the way out: if we are unable to acknowledge the need that triggers the emotional reaction, we then can become a slave to that need and we tend to react in auto pilot. So, with greater awareness, we are freer to choose our reactions.

The Trauma Egg

The Trauma Egg is an intervention tool that I use with some clients in therapy for treating emotional trauma

In a mindfulness group we asked what music lifts you up when you're feeling down?

This is their playlist:

Resources. What music lifts you up and makes you feel better?

Problems as “rucksacks”

If we think about our problems as “rucksacks”, we can take the problem/s outside of us,
which makes it easier to change things in a positive way. Before we can make those
helpful changes, we need to understand more about our personal rucksack, and how it
affects us.

Problems as “rucksacks”

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