Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive Restructuring from Cerebrum

By: Cerebrum  18/12/2012
Keywords: stress, anxiety, depression

In order for us to become aware of and change distorted thinking we first have to challenge our thoughts while being open to the idea that they may in some cases be erroneous. Below is a typical phased approach to cognitive restructuring. Phase 1. Becoming Aware of our Automatic Negative Thoughts. The first step in reducing Distorted Thinking is to become aware of what we say to ourselves internally and our Automatic Negative Thoughts/Beliefs. Recording our thoughts in a thought diary is a useful way to do this. When faced with challenging events, it is useful to write down thoughts so as to gain insight as to the nature of things we are saying to ourselves. Our thoughts play a powerful role in influencing our feelings. Everyone has negative thoughts on occasion but these can increase exponentially when they are distorted. The good news is that our thinking style is a habit that we can with patience and practice change. Phase 2. Identifying Distorted Thinking. The problem with our thinking is that we tend to believe it. We seldom examine our thoughts to see if they are unrealistic or inaccurate, we just accept them as being fact which of course they may or may not be. Having recorded our Automatic Negative Thoughts/Beliefs we can now compare them against lists of known cognitive distortions and aberrant core beliefs (see ‘Distortions‘ for an example of some cognitive distortions.) Phase 3. Challenging Cognitive Distortions. Armed with our list of identified distortions we can proceed to examine/challenge in depth as to why we have thought or believed in this distorted fashion. Probability: 1. What evidence do we have that only _____________ will happen? 2. What other outcomes may result? 3. Does ________________have to result in ____________? 4. What happened in the past? Was this always the case or were there exceptions? 5. What are the chances of the same happening again? Coping: 1. Could there be another explanation? 2. What evidence suggests the outcome would be disastrous? 3. Is ______ really so important that my whole future depends on it? 4. Does everyone believe what_______________said? Phase 4. Replacing Distorted Thinking with Undistorted Alternatives. Phases1 through 3 should have facilitated our challenging our Automatic Thoughts and Core Beliefs where they were negative and/or unhelpful; in phase 4 the goal is to exercise/train in preparation for future events. This can be done by working through hypothetical situations and role play. Such techniques highlight unhelpful thought pasterns allowing the application of challenge/replacement techniques. These tools are also helpful for developing strategies to cope with situations where distortions may occur but not be immediately recognized in such circumstances we need a recovery plan/plans. The tools used at this stage will depend on the severity of a given distortion and may range from simple relaxation exercises to use in conjunction with phases 1-4 through to ‘linked thought aversion reflex response exercises’.

Keywords: anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy, depression, Depression Counselling, Panic Attacks, Phobias, Ptsd, stress, Stress Counselling

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