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15th August 2023 Newsletter

Psychology Tools
15 August 2023

This week we’re bringing you two new cognitive distortion resources, Personalizing and Self-Blame. We’re also expanding our available Spanish resources with the release of two guides: Understanding Perfectionism and Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In our research roundup, we cover a mixed-methods systematic review looking at empathic reflections. We also highlight an RCT looking at a novel intervention for major depression. Enjoy!

New Resources

Psychology Tools information handout on Personalizing, part of the cognitive distortions series.


Personalizing (also referred to as “self-reference”) is a style of thinking in which individuals interpret events in a self-referential manner. Typically, these judgments are negatively self-orientated and evoke distress. At its most extreme, personalized thinking can contribute to persecutory delusions and ideas of reference (e.g., “My neighbors are following me and intend to hurt me”).

Personalizing [PDF] ᐅ
Psychology Tools information handout on Self-Blame, part of the cognitive distortions series.


Self-blame is a common form of cognitive distortion or ‘unhelpful thinking style’. Characterized by the incorrect assignment of blame or responsibility for adverse events, it is often associated with self-criticism and accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, regret, and self-directed frustration.

Self-Blame [PDF] ᐅ

New Spanish Translations

Image showing the Spanish translation of 'Understanding Perfectionism'.

Understanding Perfectionism

Our ‘Understanding…’ series is a collection of psychoeducation guides for common mental health conditions. The Understanding Perfectionism guide is designed to help clients with perfectionistic tendencies understand more about their condition, and why it might not get better by itself.

Understanding Perfectionism [PDF] ᐅ
Image showing the Spanish translation of 'Understanding PTSD'.

Understanding PTSD

Many of us will experience trauma at some point in our lives. With time, most people recover from their experiences without needing professional help. However, for a significant proportion of people the effects of trauma last for much longer, and they develop a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Understanding PTSD [PDF] ᐅ

Latest Research

Psychotherapy Research Cover Image

Empathic Reflections: A Meta-Analysis and Qualitative Synthesis

Empathy is central to almost all psychotherapies, particularly person-centred and experiential approaches. In this mixed-methods systematic review, Robert Elliott and colleagues explore the effectiveness of empathic reflections. The authors show that therapists can be taught to better recognize opportunities for empathy and improve the timing and accuracy of their reflections. Most helpfully, they offer detailed, practical guidance for improving the quality of therapists’ empathy, such as listening for and reflecting change talk, using empathic reflections when clients are unsure of their feelings, and paying close attention to how clients respond to these statements and correcting them when necessary.

Elliott, R., Bohart, A., Larson, D., Muntigl, P., & Smoliak, O. (2023). Empathic reflections by themselves are not effective: Meta-analysis and qualitative synthesis. Psychotherapy Research, 1-17.

Empathic Reflections: A Meta-Analysis and Qualitative Synthesis ᐅ
Cognitive Therapy and Research Cover Image

Future Event Specificity Training for Major Depressive Disorder

In this fascinating study, researchers explored a novel intervention called Future Event Specificity Training (FEST) and its impact on future thinking amongst individuals experiencing depression. FEST, which consists of two group-based sessions, aims to enhance the specificity, detail, and use of imagery-rich future thoughts. Participants who underwent FEST exhibited improvements in their future thinking, behavioral activation, and overall functioning, as well as reduced likelihood of anhedonia. Overall, these findings suggest that targeted, imagery-focused interventions such as FEST hold promise for individuals with depression.

“This randomised controlled study evaluated the effects of training in future thinking (FEST) in a sample of people meeting criteria for a depressive episode (MDE)… People in the FEST group were reporting clinically-meaningful improvements in goal-directed behaviour and psychological, social and occupational functioning at follow-up. The participants reported finding FEST to be easy to understand and helpful and would recommend it to others.”

Hallford, D. J., Rusanov, D., Yeow, J. J. E., Austin, D. W., D’Argembeau, A., Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M., & Raes, F. (2023). Reducing anhedonia in major depressive disorder with future event specificity training (FEST): a randomized controlled trial. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 47(1), 20-37.

Future Event Specificity Training for Major Depressive Disorder ᐅ