Psychologist Wouter Backx
Humans of TU Delft Wouter Backx: “People who suffer from, for example, depressive feelings often have an attitude that is demanding.” (Photo: Wouter Backx)

Is the winter weather or Covid madness getting you down? Psychologist Wouter Backx says by looking at things differently and doing some practical things you can feel better.

“I have a private practice in psychology where I have worked most of my life, but recently I came across this type of counselling for students. I have been working for TU Delft since February, but I also work for the University of Leiden. I like it very much because you get to work with people who are young, flexible, and very intelligent, more so than the average person. They are also strongly motivated to change things which makes it a nice situation to work in.

I specialised in a very specific form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that is focused on doing things as quickly as possible. Through the TU Delft counselling services, we offer an intake and three sessions. For most of the problems that students present us, we try to get things done in this very limited amount of time.

Of course, at the moment there are more cases because of corona. Unfortunately, our waiting list is not so short right now. But we do have a sort of ‘walk-in’ hour. Obviously, you can’t physically walk in at the moment but students can send us an email and we will call them during that hour of time. We can speak about things during a 10 or, only very rarely, 20 minute phone call. It’s interesting that I really have been able to help people within that short time. Let’s say someone is not progressing with their thesis, it can help get them on their feet and do something. For both sides it’s very satisfying when it is possible for things to work out.

I think in our culture it is difficult for people to change their minds about things. For instance, in general when we feel depressed or angry, we have the impression that it comes from the outside. You can say that person makes me depressed or someone is making me angry. It’s actually nonsense but it’s very normal in our language. Most of the time we do that to ourselves by our way of thinking.

Now the question is, what are you going to do about it? People who suffer from, for example, depressive feelings often have an attitude that is demanding. But when you do, you actually make it worse. Unpleasant things happen to everyone, maybe in the outside world or even in your own head. But we are not willing to accept that. That’s what we try to help people with. We try to find out what kinds of things people demand from themselves when they think that they have to write the perfect thesis or what they are demanding from the outside world or other people. People can be very demanding in general.

‘We often make the mistake of going for the short-term gratification’

One thing I think is very important to mention is that we very often make the mistake of going for the short-term gratification and not for the long term. You could say that we have these wrong attitudes, these wrong irrational thoughts about the adversity that happens to us. For example, I myself have difficulty with little things that do not go the way I want them to. It’s surprising how difficult it is to get something like that out of your system. It’s so strongly ingrained, but at least you can try to improve by looking at your thoughts and changing them.

When you’re trying to fight off depression or the winter blues, you’d better realise that during the winter there is less light and it is not so nice to be outside. You have to do things in a different way. It is important to understand that is just the adversity you are encountering at that moment, but it is not the cause of your depression. It’s the attitude or the way you approach that adversity. There are things that you can do that are very practical like making sure that you get all the light you can get by going outside. In general, it’s good to have a healthy balanced diet, and take time to walk or do sports so that you stay in good condition. When you work inside, work close to a window so that you get more light. But even if you do all of these things there may still be some negative effects.

We normally give a lot of workshops throughout the year and they are very innovative. Especially now with the corona times we are doing more workshops and offering more things. X wanted to do a workshop on boosting your mood and asked us to participate. I’m going to give an interactive lecture and my colleague will give some information to point out where people can find their way within the system if they need help.”

  • Want to know more about the free, online mood boosting workshop?
  • Click here for more information on the psychology support services available at TU Delft.

Who are the people who work and study on campus? We meet them in Humans of TU Delft. Want to be featured in this series? Or do you know someone with a good story to tell? Send us an e-mail at humansoftudelft@gmail.com