Can I Learn to Believe That I - Like Everyone - Is Worthy of Being Loved?

Drawn from first half of the Counseling Tips on page 8 of the Winter 2019 issue of The Advocate Magazine ______________________________________________

Can I Learn to Believe That I—Like Everyone— Is Worthy of Being Loved?
By Gray Otis, PhD, PhD, LCMHC, DCMHS-T

José felt trapped. He had experienced chronic feelings of depression and anxiousness since his early 20s, and he didn’t know why. Now, at age 32, he was divorced and a single parent of his son, Raffi, an energetic 3-year-old. José’s parents both encouraged him to see a mental health professional, Aimee, who had been highly recommended. When they first met, José told Aimee “I don’t think what’s wrong with me can be fixed. I feel like no one could ever really love who I am.”

José’s Core Belief was “I am unlovable.” Aimee wanted to know how José came to believe he was unlovable. He told her about falling deeply in love with a high school friend when he was 15. After being together for almost two years, he found out that his love was seeing someone behind his back and instantly severed the relationship. The betrayal was almost more than he could bear.

After graduating from high school, he completed a community college program in law enforcement and was immediately hired by a local police department in a large city. The work was physically and mentally demanding, but he made friends in the department and eventually married one of them. When their baby, Raffi, was born, José thought he had everything he wanted to make his life complete.

Unfortunately, his partner fell in love with one of the department’s lieutenants. When José heard about it from a friend, he once again felt betrayed. He became convinced that no one could love him because he was, for some reason, unlovable.

When he told Aimee of his experiences of betrayal, she had a sense of what was plaguing José. First, she assessed José for any physiological concerns, but he was in excellent physical condition and had recently passed an annual physical given by his department’s doctor.

Aimee worked with José so that he understood his Negative Core Beliefs. She asked him to identify a belief that we would all like to have, one opposite of his belief that “I am unlovable.” José thought for a couple of minutes and finally said, “I would like to believe that ‘I am worthy to be loved.’ But I don’t think that is even possible.”

Over the following four sessions, Aimee helped José develop this Positive Core Belief: “I am worthy to be loved.” In between sessions, Aimee gave José a treatment prescription to follow that was behavioral rather than medicinal. She asked him to be more aware of when he had a negative self-belief. She also challenged him to recognize accurate Positive Core Beliefs that he held about himself and then to take action to prove that those positive beliefs were accurate.

For example, one day José got mad at his son for knocking over a glass of milk. Later, José recalled his response and thought, “I’m a lousy father!” Realizing this negative belief, he changed his thought to, “No, I love Raffi more than I can say. Sometimes I don’t make the right choices as a parent, but almost always I am a loving dad.” He then went to his son and said he was sorry. Raffi instantly gave him a big hug.

It took about two months for José to proactively build new Positive Core Beliefs. At each meeting, he and Aimee discussed his progress and how he was implementing these new self-beliefs. Jose’s consistent efforts resulted in diminishing depression symptoms. He even reported that he felt more confident on the job and in his relationships with others.

After they concluded counseling, Aimee didn’t hear from José for more than a year. One day he texted her, “I am getting married. Thank you!” She texted back, “Congratulations! You’re welcome, but you did all the work.”

“Key Core Beliefs: Unlocking the HEART of Happiness & Health” is available from Gray Otis is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and an AMHCA Diplomate & Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Trauma. A past president of AMHCA, he has a private practice in Cedar Hills, Utah. He is also the primary author of the 2018 book, “Key Core Beliefs: Unlocking the HEART of Happiness & Health,” which was written for both mental health professionals and members of the public. Learn more at, and email him at