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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings



When I was in junior high and high school, educational administrators apparently thought it was a proper use of students’ time to have anti-drug-, anti-sex-, and anti-violence-themed guest speakers to offer presentations meant to shape the behavior of impressionable minds. For the most part, I don’t know of anyone other than myself on whom that tactic actually worked.


For instance, when in sixth grade, inmates from a local prison were escorted into an auditorium, whereupon they lectured students so that we would be discouraged from criminal activity. I laughed when one of my friends went up to a prisoner afterwards, displayed a gang sign, and the inmate reflected the behavior. Apparently, they shared acquaintances.


Also, when in high school and a guest speaker attempted to motivate students into standing up and openly declaring their commitment not to use or abuse illicit substances, I laughed when unruly chanting commenced and the lecturer seemingly died inside. It appeared as though members of my graduating class weren’t as easily indoctrinated as administrators may’ve thought.


Now, as an adult, I understand the actions of those who attempted to influence the behavior of students. While I still laugh at most efforts used to condition me and my peers, I admit that one lecture was quite effective concerning my worldview.


In high school, a woman brought visual aids to augment her monologue. Her talk related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Slides of actual infections were displayed on the overhead projector and I became disgusted by what I believed about what I observed. Although her efforts may not have been effective on everyone, I keep her lesson in mind to this very day.


Concerning this topic, I’m reminded of an episode of the Comedy Central sketch comedy series, Key & Peele, wherein fictional character Donnie Herrera speaks to students of Central High School about life choices. Herrera’s expressed scenarios are as absurd as some matters presented to students at the schools I attended.

Photo credit, property of Comedy Central, fair use


For instance, Herrera speaks of having contracted AIDS from ostensibly having been a class clown. Stealing from relatives apparently led to a piano falling on his head.


Escalating his participation in criminal activity was said to have resulted in being trampled by a herd of buffalo. Hanging out with the wrong crowd reportedly resulted in Herrera being shot out of a catapult and into the mouth of a dragon.


Having committed the crime of a drive-by shooting led to being sucked into a wormhole and into another dimension. Ultimately, smoking crack while onstage and giving his speech resulted in Herrera being hit with a wrecking ball. Consequences!


When reflecting upon the mostly ineffective presentations to which I was exposed, I’m reminded of my use of psychoeducation when teaching clients about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). In particular, I think of consequences—something produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions.


To demonstrate this cause-effect relationship inherent in the belief-consequence (B-C) connection, I teach the ABC model. Unlike in the physical world where an action-consequence (A-C) connection exists, REBT theory posits that, from a psychological standpoint, assumptions about activating events cause unpleasant reactions.


For instance, when in high school and I observed photos of genitalia infected with herpes (Action), I assumed something along the lines of, “This is awful and I don’t think I could bear to have that happen to me” (Belief). Because of this belief, I experienced disgust, nausea, and cautiousness in relation to sexual activity (Consequence).


Noteworthy, I maintain that the consequences of my beliefs regarding STIs are appropriate. The guest speaker who showed graphic depictions of infections achieved what I presume was her goal to curb my behavior.


Still, not all consequences stemming from beliefs are helpful. Often, people disturb themselves to a degree whereby their behavioral consequences outweigh emotional reactions to irrational beliefs.


As an example, suppose client X experienced a home invasion (Action). Unhelpfully, client X later assumed, “I mustn’t ever be caught off guard again” (Belief).


While it’s understandable that an individual would want to remain prepared for potential threats, it isn’t rational to conclude that one can prevent all unfortunate future events. We simply have no control and little influence over such matters.


Because of client X’s inflexible belief, his quality of life decreases substantially as he continually awakes at night to check the doors and windows within his home. Although he experiences the emotional consequence of his unhelpful belief (i.e., fear), client X’s behavioral response is more impactful on his day-to-day affairs.


Regarding this phenomenon, page 91 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion (“Pocket Companion”) invites REBT practitioners to remain flexible when clients choose to address behavioral versus emotional consequences. For client X, I would target the element of his consequence that most impacts his life – reduced sleep and habitual safety-checking behavior.


Within my blog, I often discuss emotional, bodily sensation, and behavioral consequences of unhelpful beliefs. However, I address cognitive consequences less frequently.


Page 92 of the “Pocket Companion” reminds REBT practitioners to assess cognitive reactions to irrational beliefs, as well as other forms of consequences generated by unhelpful assumptions. Essentially, when an initial self-disturbing belief presents itself, it can lead to multiple other unhelpful beliefs.


In a blog entry entitled Dipping into Layers, I described this process through use of a seven-layer dip metaphor. To briefly illustrate how this works, consider how client X’s process of self-disturbance would unfold if he didn’t dispute his initial unproductive belief:


Action –

Client X experienced a home invasion.


Belief –

Client X later believes, “I mustn’t ever be caught off guard again.”


Consequence –

Without disputing his unhelpful assumption, client X experiences the emotional consequence of fear, a bodily sensation reaction of a rapid heartrate and tense shoulders, and a behavioral consequence of awaking at night to check the doors and windows within his home.


Still, and without challenging his unfavorable belief, client X experiences a cognitive consequence of his initial self-disturbing belief. He assumes, “I’ll never be safe again!” This unfavorable belief then causes more emotional, bodily sensation, behavioral, and cognitive consequences.


Client X then believes, “I can’t take this sort of stress! I shouldn’t have to feel afraid in my own home. Because of that terrible home invasion, I’m not safe anywhere – inside or outside of my home.”


Without disputation, layering of unhealthy beliefs can happen in an instant for client X, as well as for days, weeks, months, or even years following the initial activating event. Each of these assumptions produces unpleasant consequences.


Unlike the physical world, wherein if I push a cup of water off the edge of a counter and it falls to the ground while spilling its contents on the floor – forming an A-C connection, there’s a B-C connection that occurs with a psychological experience.


Although not as absurd or humorous as expressions of consequential connections voiced by Donnie Herrera, many of the irrational beliefs people use will often result in consequences which aren’t particularly funny. The REBT solution to self-disturbance in this regard is to dispute the unhelpful beliefs that cause these reactions.


To conclude, I didn’t take seriously most of the lessons taught by guest speakers at the schools I attended in my youth. However, there was one individual who imparted an invaluable lesson to which I paid attention, as it related to STIs.


Her efforts weren’t in vain, as the behavioral consequences of my beliefs regarding grotesque slides have best served my interests and goals in life. Now, I hope to influence clients in a similar way – though not through use of fright-inducing belief content – so that they may achieve a higher level of functioning and quality of life.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!


Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




Comedy Central. (2014, November 6). Key & Peele – Consequences [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

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