Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Envy

Sunday, April 8: 8:30 AM  - 10:30 AM 
Mezzanine Level 
Room: Wilson A 



Envy is defined as "a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck" and can take three forms--benign (admiration), depressive envy, or malicious envy. Envy is sub-culture specific such that we often misconstrue status within one limited domain within a cultural context as having a universal or absolute implication. We are prone to envy those within our immediate social comparison group and often may find ourselves disparaging the more successful person, avoiding them, criticizing ourselves or giving up. Envy is often linked to conflicts among colleagues, friends, and family members and may lead to direct aggression, attempts to undermine, threats to morale, and self-critical depression. Although envy is ubiquitous and can even be found in animals, it has gained little attention in the CBT field.
Envy over-values status in one domain to the exclusion of meanings in other domains. In this presentation I will distinguish envy from jealousy, review the adaptive and evolutionary basis of envy, and describe an integrative CBT approach to helping people cope with envy. We will identify the value systems underlying envy, normalize envy, reduce the shame over envy, identify triggers for envy, examine how to use envy as a motivator and a trigger for clarifying valued commitment, reduce rumination underlying envy, and help clients find adaptive strategies of acceptance, commitment to productive goals, and the ability to differentiate a range of rewards in a more complete life. In addition, we will review how clients can make room for envy by expanding, differentiating, and accepting a full range of emotions--that is, by embracing the value of constructive and realistic ambivalence. Rather than endorse the idea that one must eliminate envy as a "bad emotion" the argument advanced here is that accepting envy and directing it to admiration, emulation, and clarification of one's values can reduce the aggression, depression and avoidance often accompanying this often difficult experience.

Learning Objectives

1. Identify the emotional and cognitive components of envy
2. Develop a case conceptualization of envy linking envy to childhood experiences, values, comparisons, cognition and problematic coping
3. Identify a range of adaptive coping strategies for envy including acceptance, de-linking envy from problematic interpersonal coping, normalizing envy, and clarifying values 


Professor Robert Leahy, PhD, American Institute for Cognitive Therapy

Audience Level





Diversity - Yes


120 minutes



Treatment Approach