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Improve Low Motivation          

For most people, motivation is elusive. It comes and goes unpredictably, and sometimes does not show up at all. Lack of motivation can result in procrastination, not working toward goals, and oftentimes, depression. The problem with motivation is that we feel very inspired when it is present, so much so that we feel it is too difficult to put forth effort when motivation is absent. The result is that we wait for motivation to inspire us to work toward our goals, and as a result waste a lot of time waiting for it to happen on its own. The more we wait, the more time goes by in which we don’t feel we are doing what matters, and we can easily become demoralized. It is incredibly difficult to become motivated when we are demoralized, so we wait some more…

Cognitive behavioral therapy offers an effective treatment for low motivation. It involves a combination of changing thinking patterns that result in the aforementioned cycle, and changing behavioral patterns. These changes result in both increased motivation and increased accomplishment. By changing thinking and behavioral patterns that keep people stuck, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people get on track with their goals, and in a relatively short amount of time.

CBT for improving motivation may include some combination of the following interventions:

Cognitive restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is a method to identify unhelpful patterns of thinking, and learn new, more helpful ways of thinking about difficult situations. Getting stuck in the cycle of lack of motivation can leave us feeling hopeless, and helpless. Cognitive restructuring reverses this cycle by altering the way we think about things to increase our belief in our abilities.

Behavioral chain analysis: Chain analysis is a tool to assess what factors are contributing to behaviors we have had difficulty changing, and target them with effective behavioral interventions. By removing or limiting the influence of the causes of ineffective behavior, we become significantly more likely to make changes that were previously too difficult.

Contingency management procedures: Contingency management works off the principle that human beings tend to do what is immediately reinforcing, and avoid what is immediately punishing, no matter the long-term consequences. Contingency management planning for motivation helps people shift the balance of the consequences of their behavior so that their desired behavior becomes more immediately reinforcing, and thus easier to do.

Anti-procrastination training: Anti-procrastination training uses a combination of contingency management and specific techniques to stop procrastination in its tracks. Waiting until we are motivated to do something is a form of procrastination, and can result in decreased motivation over time.

Systematic exposure: Exposure therapy works on the theory that avoidance of situations we fear prevents us from realistically evaluating whether they are as bad as we assume. By exposing ourselves to situations we would otherwise avoid, we learn that they are not as bad as assumed, and thus our anxiety about them diminishes. Using exposure to help us master what causes anxiety can help us increase our motivation to do what has previously been aversive.

Mindfulness training: Mindfulness is a skill designed to help people contact the present moment, and not get so caught up in thoughts and worries. By seeing mental activity as merely events, we become more able to engage in skillful behavior, despite feeling unmotivated.