Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for unhelpful thinking patterns. These thinking patterns are common to many people and contribute to depression, anxiety, and various mental disorders.
CBT can help you to notice the relationships among:
A) An Activating Event or Situation,
B) Beliefs and Thoughts, and
C) Consequences such as emotions, physical sensations, behaviours, or urges.
For example, Lia may notice the following pattern:
A) When Lia meets new people (Activating Event),
B) she has the thought that they will not like her (Beliefs and Thoughts), and this results in her
C) feeling anxious, feeling her heart racing, and having the urge to avoid social situations (Consequences).
Once this pattern is identified, the next step is to challenge the B) Beliefs and Thoughts by checking to see if you are using any cognitive distortions (i.e., unhelpful thinking styles) or by asking challenging questions (e.g., are there other ways of viewing the situation?). A last step is to create a new, alternative thought that is more balanced and reasonable.
Noticing these thinking patterns and challenging them can help you to cope with difficult situations and better manage your mood. This takes practice! One easy way to practice and make this a habit is to complete thought records on a regular basis. These can be completed on paper thought records, apps such as Mood Tools or Fear Tools, a journal, any piece of paper, or a place in your cellular phone.
Sometimes at the beginning of therapy, clients have tried to observe and challenge their thoughts mentally, without writing them down—they are usually unsuccessful at challenging their thoughts consistently and effectively. Therefore, I recommend writing thought records for the first few months. If it is inconvenient to carry paper thought records, I strongly recommend using a thought record app (mentioned above) or a notepad in your cellular phone so that your thought records are always available. Discussing thought records during therapy sessions can be a routine part of every session, and this can make it easier for you to remember and discuss difficult experiences that have happened recently. So please remember to think about using thought records and bring them to your next therapy session ?
Candice Bovell, Ph.D., C.Psych.
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