How Compelling is an In-Person Presentation About Key Core Beliefs?

How Compelling Is an In-Person Presentation About Key Core Beliefs?

By Kathleen McCarthy

I have been thinking about Key Core Beliefs, how they affect my own life, and the lives of my family members, ever since I edited “Key Core Beliefs: Unlocking the HEART of Happiness & Health” two years ago.

But I hadn’t ever seen the book’s three authors (Dr. Gray Otis, Sandi Williams, and Dr. Jim Messina) give a live presentation on the topic. That changed at the end of June when I attended the annual conference of the American Mental Health Counselors Association as the editor of AMHCA’s quarterly magazine.

While I find the material in the Key Core Beliefs book riveting, I was curious to see how the authors presented the material, and how the conference attendees—clinical mental health counselors—responded to the presentation.

The authors discussed ways Key Core Beliefs could be helpful to those suffering from trauma and co-occurring disorders, in effect explaining how the book could be applied to a particular struggle—recovery from trauma. I was hooked from the outset, when Dr. Otis said, “If you experience trauma or chronic distress in your life, you are normal.” Ahhh. He also explained a key tenet of Key Core Beliefs: “If you are focused on the negative, you will find what you’re looking for and build evidence to show that the negative beliefs about yourself are well-founded and true.”

The presentation was not intended to present a new therapeutic approach; rather it advocated a new perspective that focuses on a crucial aspect of recovery, one that the attendees could use in their day-to-day work with clients.

Virtually everyone was engrossed by the stories Ms. Williams told. These real-life stories about the authors’ clients illustrated some of the ways that trauma had affected clients’ lives, and how helping clients understand their Key Core Beliefs through therapy and
activities available on the Key Core Beliefs website had enabled many people to change their lives for the better.

Dr. Messina pointed out that suffering traumatic events or chronic trauma can be so unbearable that people chose problematic ways to avoid the bad feelings, such as excessive gambling, eating, drug use, etc. “But by attempting to numb severe negative emotions, individuals simultaneously inadvertently numb out joy and love.” In addition, the new numbing behaviors become co-occurring disorders along with the original trauma.

When people are coping with trauma and co-occurring disorders, it’s very common for them to have negative, shame-based beliefs about themselves, such as: “There is something fundamentally, inherently wrong with me.” That belief typically leads to the worst Negative Core Belief of all: “I am not worthy to be loved.”

Hearing the authors explain how Negative Core Beliefs can be transformed into realistic Positive Core Beliefs was relieving and inspiring.

How Did Attendees Respond?
It was exciting for me to see how well the authors connected with their audience. The Key Core Belief authors—a psychologist, a marriage and family therapist, and a clinical mental health counselor—respected the experience of the AMHCA attendees, drawing on their input to illustrate the points they were making. But perhaps the biggest indication of how much the attendees valued the presentation was that they chose to attend a two-part, three-hour presentation at the tail end of the second day of a two-day conference.

Even more compelling, when the second part of the presentation resumed at close to 5 p.m. (!), virtually everyone who had attended the first part of the presentation had returned.
“Key Core Beliefs: Unlocking the HEART of Happiness & Health” is available from The three authors give invited presentations and workshops across the country. Learn more at A board member of Key Core Beliefs Foundation, Kathleen McCarthy works as a magazine and book editor, specializing in the field of mental health. Email her at