If you have suffered from anxiety or are prone to negative thinking, you might have wished you had the tools to cope with it. Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are proven methods used by therapists and counselors.
What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
Mental health practitioners use cognitive-behavioral therapy to teach people how to change their thought patterns (cognitive patterns) which then have an impact on their behavior.
This type of therapy challenges the way we view the world. It is based on the premise that it’s not the actual events that cause us anxiety, but the meaning we apportion them.
“I feel it, therefore, it must be true.”
The most common form of cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques revolves around cognitive distortions and ways to challenge them.
Simply put, these are mistaken thoughts that keep going round in our heads. These negative thoughts reinforce our negative feelings. For example, you might hear a noise in the night and become afraid every night, even though it is just your cat coming in through the cat flap. Your faulty way of thinking about the situation has convinced you of a reality that isn’t true. This is a cognitive distortion.
There are many types of cognitive distortions and techniques to resolve them.
15 Cognitive Distortions and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Techniques to Challenge Them
1. Always Being Right
While we all enjoy being right, this distortion makes us think we must be right, that being wrong is unacceptable.
CBT Technique for ‘Always Being Right’
Look at how other people cope when they make mistakes. It is clearly not the end of the world. Take famous people for example and show their lives didn’t collapse. In fact, if we admit our mistakes, we show others it is ok to be human, no one can be perfect.
2. Black and White Thinking
Life isn’t black and white, there are a whole lot of grey areas. If a person can only see black and white this is an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of thinking.
CBT Technique for ‘Black and White Thinking’
Ask the person to think about the latest film or book they enjoyed. Did it have one basic plotline, with two main characters who only expressed one or two emotions? Or was it multi-layered with twists and turns that kept them guessing until the last minute? Show them with their own eyes that life is full of grey areas.
When things don’t go our way, there are many ways we can explain or assign responsibility for the outcome. One method is to blame others when things go wrong.
CBT Technique for ‘Blaming’
Accepting responsibility can be hard, but it’s part of being an adult. Ask the person if they would like their life mapped out for them, or if they prefer to have control over their own fate. If it’s the latter then they have to be responsible for what happens.
4. Catastrophizing/Magnifying or Minimizing
This speaks for itself. This is a distortion where the person will automatically think the worse is going to happen.
CBT Techniques for ‘Catastrophizing/Magnifying or Minimizing’
You have to change this person’s perception of the world. If they make a habit of over-dramatizing their own life, show them something truly catastrophic. Let them put their drama alongside it and see it for what it really is.
For those who minimize their achievements, working on their self-esteem should help them feel good about what they’ve done.
5. Control Fallacies
This person believes that everything that happens is their own fault and they are totally to blame.
CBT Technique for ‘Control Fallacies’
Sometimes we are to blame for what happens to us, but real life just happens randomly to all of us. The next time a person starts to believe they are at fault, they should stop and think – ‘Is this thought rational? Where is the evidence that I am at fault?’
6. Emotional Reasoning
This is a distortion that backs up a person’s feelings, in that, if they feel strongly it must be true. For example, if we feel unloved, then surely no one else can love us?
CBT Technique for ‘Emotional Reasoning’
Become aware of the negative thoughts or behaviors that lead up to your emotional feelings. You can then begin to challenge them.
It is hard to change your emotions overnight, so try to change the behaviors or thoughts that precede them first. Ask yourself what your triggers are and start from there.
7. Fallacy of Change
A person who expects others to change for them will have their happiness tied in with others.
CBT Technique for ‘Fallacy of Change’
Take control of the smaller things in your life and you will find that you don’t expect other people to be responsible for the more important areas.
8. Fallacy of Fairness
Life sometimes isn’t fair, as we all know, but being preoccupied with it is not a healthy way to live.
CBT Technique for ‘Fallacy of Fairness’
Count your blessings if you think you’ve had a rough time. Just a quick internet search on Third World Famine should humble the most preoccupied person.
This is where a person will focus just on the negative and filter out any positive aspects.
CBT Technique for ‘Filtering’
Get a person to think about the facts and not how they feel. This will allow them to focus on the positive.
10. Global Labelling/Mislabelling
A person who uses global labeling generalizes to the extreme. Mislabelling is where a person uses exaggerated language to describe events.
CBT Technique for ‘Global Labelling/Mislabelling’
Someone that uses global labeling or mislabels a situation sees the extremes of the circumstances. Get them to see that life is more complicated and to look at all the evidence, the facts. Put emotions aside, deal only with hard facts.
11. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy
Heaven’s reward fallacy is a distortion where the person believes all their good deeds will be paid and rewarded.
CBT Technique for ‘Heavens Reward Fallacy’
Someone who thinks this will have had these feelings and thoughts for a while. Challenge their thought process. It is likely to be a deeply entrenched habit that needs to be broken and replaced with something else that is healthy.
12. Jumping to Conclusions
This distortion usually involves a person making an assumption without evidence.
CBT Technique for ‘Jumping to Conclusions’
No one can make a judgment without considering all the evidence. Ask them to stop and see if how they feel is realistic or are they fitting their feelings into their conclusion of the situation?
This is similar to jumping to conclusions. People who overgeneralize will take one single incident and use it as an over-riding theme in their life.
CBT Technique for ‘Overgeneralization’
This person needs to look thoroughly at the facts and see whether the evidence stacks up against their assumption. It is more likely they are making the same inference out of habit.
This is a distortion where a person believes they have an important role in anything bad that happens.
CBT Technique for ‘Personalization’
This is not a realistic thought. Point out that there are over 8 billion people on the planet. We can’t all have an important role in everything.
Shoulds is a distortion by which people are terribly upset when others do break their unspoken rules. They also feel guilty when they break their own rules.
CBT Technique for ‘Shoulds’
A kind of black and white thinking here but within a person’s own mind and of their making. Asking something of a person they are not aware of is not practical nor is it fair. Get the person to recognize this and see it is unrealistic.
Have you ever used any of the above cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques? Do you have any tips that help you deal with anxious and other types of negative thoughts? Let us know!
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