What Users Say

Cognitive Behavioral
Training for Lasting
Behavior Change

A Fresh Approach

SelfHelpWorks' online lifestyle and disease management interventions are
designed to create lasting behavior change using cognitive behavioral training,
an evidence-based process derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The SelfHelpWorks Difference

Unlike typical online health coaching programs, SelfHelpWorks lifestyle and disease management courses are not merely about education. They are designed to eliminate tough-to-break habits at the core, creating lasting behavior change through a step-by-step cognitive behavioral training process that literally reconfigures the mindset and emotional context from which participants operate. There are two main reasons that SelfHelpWorks courses achieve high efficacy rates:

  • First, the format: Pre-recorded video of live instructors, combined with interactive quizzes and other multimedia features, create a captivating 'live' health coaching experience that maximizes engagement and retention. You can get an idea of the user experience by viewing the Demo Tour.
  • Second, the approach: All SelfHelpWorks courses incorporate a powerful, evidence-based cognitive behavioral training process derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The process is designed to produce lasting behavior change without the misery and frustration that accompanies unsustainable willpower-based behavior modification strategies.

How Cognitive Behavioral Training Works

Have you ever wondered why some people simply cannot resist the urge to engage in unhealthy behaviors, no matter how hard they try to avoid them? It's because certain deeply ingrained self-defeating beliefs and thoughts create an emotional state so powerful that it renders them incapable of rational choice. This explains why typical behavior modification strategies, which rely on willpower, generally cannot be sustained long-term. Cognitive behavioral training, which has its roots in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), is different. It breaks down the self-defeating beliefs, thought patterns and resulting emotional dependencies that drive unhealthy behaviors, replacing them with empowering beliefs, rational emotional responses and healthy behavior patterns. In other words, cognitive behavioral training is designed to remove the root cause of the unhealthy behavior, thereby eliminating it without the use of willpower.


The SelfHelpWorks Process

  1. Expose self-defeating beliefs, thoughts and emotions learned over time and buried deep within the subconscious mind;
  2. Replace them with rational, empowering beliefs, thoughts and emotions;
  3. Apply those rational beliefs, thoughts and emotions to create health-promoting behavior patterns; and
  4. Embed the 'new' beliefs, thoughts, emotions and resulting behaviors into the subconscious mind through a series of simple yet powerful coaching exercises.

All SelfHelpWorks courses incorporate the same powerful cognitive behavioral training approach, and all are delivered via a captivating, interactive video-based multimedia format to ensure maximum engagement and retention.


Science & Evolution

The evidence-based cognitive behavioral training process used by SelfHelpWorks has its roots in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, it is delivered in a highly structured instructor-led training and coaching format rather than in a collaborative therapy format. It synergistically employs several behavioral disciplines and techniques, such as Social Cognitive Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Self-Determination Theory, the Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change), Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, Classical Conditioning and Positive Psychology. As shown below, the SelfHelpWorks approach has been validated by top behavioral scientists. Perhaps more importantly, the SelfHelpWorks courses produce unmatched real-world outcomes, with participant feedback consistently reflecting the success shown in studies (see below).

The SelfHelpWorks cognitive behavioral training process evolved from work done by SelfHelpWorks founder, Louis Ryan, in collaboration with and under the guidance of the late Albert Ellis PhD, developer of rational emotive therapy; Diane Hambrick MD, former medical Director at St Helena Hospital Center for Health and addiction psychiatry specialist; Dr. Mary Steinhardt, Professor at University of Texas in Austin, a national authority on resiliency; John E. Martin, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University and Director of its Behavioral Medicine Clinic; and others. An early form of the process was first implemented in 1979, where it achieved notable success with smoking cessation.

Critical Review by Experts

Below is a synopsis of a critical evaluation provided by John E. Martin, PhD (at the time Professor of Psychology and Director, Behavioral Medicine Clinic at San Diego State University) and Scott T. Walters, PhD (at the time Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas, Dallas Regional Campus at Southwestern Medical Center). Bold emphasis has been added for easier reading.

Dr. Martin has published over 70 research papers and two books, and has been awarded more than $4 million in federal, state and private research grants for his work in addictive behavior treatment, cardiovascular risk modification, smoking treatment, medical compliance and health behavior change. Dr. Walters has published more than two dozen articles and book chapters on theoretical and applied aspects of behavior change, is a frequent speaker to campus, community, and medical groups, and has received national and international awards for his work.

Synopsis of Critical Evaluation

The SelfHelpWorks Inc. company and lifestyle management website was critically evaluated for scientific soundness, effectiveness, safety and quality, and overall applicability.

SelfHelpWorks is a comprehensive, unique and effective interactive website for those seeking to make changes in their in smoking, diet and/or alcohol use habits. SelfHelpWorks’ programs were found to be safe and scientifically sound, based on the highest standards in the field of behavior change and Internet-based lifestyle management interventions. The lifestyle management modification programs included in SelfHelpWorks (including the “LivingFree” smoking program, “LivingLean” diet modification program, and the “LivingSmart” alcohol use intervention), represent an exciting advance in intervening with the most critical health-risk behaviors, using an efficient newer modality of delivery that is highly efficient, convenient to many, and potentially very effective while maintaining low cost.

SelfHelpWorks’ approach to these often highly resistant behaviors appears to be consistent with well-established theories of cognitive-behavioral psychology, such as bibliotherapy, behavioral self-control training, behavioral-economic theory and acceptance and commitment theory. Further, the staff at SelfHelpWorks was found to be highly motivated, very competent and self-directed, and clearly committed to the future success of the company and their clients.

The technical aspects of the website are very impressive, including the [video] based instructional and interactive presentation format, client email tracking system and (most impressive and innovative) their pioneering weekly call-in/email-in internet radio show and rules-based Personal Coaching software. Noteworthy as well is their well-integrated, highly effective processing and systematic presentation of critical treatment information, steps and components.

An especially remarkable positive feature employed across the three lifestyle management intervention sites is SelfHelpWorks’ unique employment of methods designed to enable personal choice as well as urge-approach conditioning/desensitization, rather than the more standard and less effective urge-avoidance/escape techniques. We believe that using the urge to smoke, drink, or eat as an advocate facilitates the normal desensitization process and disables the power of these urges to cause emotional crisis and compulsive/addictive behavior and relapse. Clients are taught in creative and effective ways to “dance” rather than the more standard and less effective urge-avoidance/escape techniques which are to “wrestle” or fight with the urge – the latter which often leads to failure to withstand an urge and giving in to its pull.

Health Risk Assessment (HRA) Comparison - 60,000+ Wellness Program Members

Condition-appropriate SelfHelpWorks courses were offered to members of a large national wellness program based on their Health Risk Assessment (HRA) scores. All members who subsequently completed at least one SelfHelpWorks course were given another HRA the following year. The pre-course and post-course scores were compared, with the following results:

SelfHelpWorks Course Completed Results Based on Comparison of HRA Scores
LivingEasy Stress & Resiliency 47% reported lower levels of stress.
LivingFit 90-Day Walking Program Of just those members not meeting the minimum recommended physical activity requirements prior to completing the program, 77% reported increased physical activity levels on the next HRA.
LivingFree Tobacco Cessation 33% of tobacco users reported that they had quit smoking.
LivingLean Weight Management 53% decreased their body mass index (BMI) by over 5%. On average, they decreased their BMI by 8%. Of just those members initially considered obese (BMI > 30), 62% reduced their BMI and their average reduction was 12%. NOTE: BMI measurements were at least 100 days apart and the second measurement had to occur after the course was completed. Results include both verified and non-verified data.
LivingSmart Alcohol Management 52% reported reduced levels of alcohol consumption.
LivingFree Randomized Trial - SDSU

In a study led by John Martin, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Behavioral Medicine Research and Training Clinic at San Diego State University, 250 smoking volunteers were randomized into one of two treatments. The quit rate at six months was 38.1% for individuals who took at least the first session of LivingFree, almost three times higher than the 13.3% quit rate for smokers using the American Cancer Society self-help materials.

Case Study - 390 Corporate Employees

390 employees who participated in one of three SelfHelpWorks courses—LivingFree, LivingLean and LivingSmart—were surveyed after six months. 273 of those surveyed (representing 70% of those who started) made it to Session 4—the day after the ‘Breakthrough Day’ on which they were asked to quit their detrimental behavior. Of these, 55% reported achieving their daily goal, whether in relation to smoking, eating or drinking alcohol. As shown in the table below, the percentage of participants who realized their goal increased session by session. After six months, 84% of those who attended Session 10 reported achieving their goal.


Session Number 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Total Participants 273 235 224 164 147 135 132
% in session who reached daily goal 55% 62% 63% 77% 78% 83% 84%

LivingLean Corporate Survey – UCLA Professor

A SelfHelpWorks corporate client engaged David Heber, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Public Health and Director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles, to evaluate the benefits of LivingLean. Dr. Heber surveyed 300 of the client’s LivingLean course graduates, 46.3% of whom were male and 53.7% female. Of the 300 graduates surveyed, 256 (more than 85%) had completed LivingLean as much as 6 – 12 months previously so their results did not reflect the short-term bias typically inherent in exit surveys. Average weight loss was 26.6 pounds.

Detailed survey responses were as follows:

Overall Impression of Living Lean
Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor
64.4% 31.5% 5.1% 0% 0%
Comparison of Costs per Successful Smoking Intervention

In calculating the ROI of different interventions, pricing alone is meaningless. The success rate of each intervention must also be taken into account, as shown in the following comparison chart:

Intervention Price Success Rate Cost Per Successful Intervention
LivingFree3 - retail price for single user 199 38.1% 522.31
NRT1 231 5.8% 3,982.76
Bupropion (brand)1 354 7.0% 5,057.14
Bupropion (generic)1 203 7.0% 2,900.00
Varenicline1 300 14.9% 2,013.42
NRT + counseling1 371 8.0% 4,637.50
Bupropion (brand) + counseling1 494 9.3% 5,311.83
Bupropion (generic) + counseling1 343 9.3% 3,688.17
Varenicline + counseling1 440 18.5% 2,378.38
Program with NRT + online & telephonic coaching2 375 47.0% 797.87
  1. Per Potential Costs and Benefits of Smoking Cessation for California, Penn State University, April 2010 (prices are in 2009 dollars)
  2. Per internal competitive analysis.
    (NOTE: reported success rate of competitive program was based on respondents who completed entire course, whereas LivingFree reported success rate was based on all respondents who took one or more sessions. 84% of LivingFree respondents who completed the entire course reached their goal.)
  3. Per randomized trial (n = 250) conducted by SDSU and UCSD; price shown is for the consumer retail market.

Participant Feedback

Perhaps the best way to understand how the SelfHelpWorks courses impact people’s lives is to read some of the many comments participants send us on a regular basis.