Cognitive-Behavior Therapy or CBT is a therapeutic approach that is based on 2 main ideas: 1) our cognitions have an influence on our emotions and behaviors; and 2) how we act or behave can affect our thought patterns and emotions.
The Cognitive-Behavioral Model
There are 3 areas of functioning in the basic CBT model: cognitions (thoughts), emotions, and behaviors.
What we think affects how we act and feel. What we feel affects how we think and do. What we do affects how we think and feel.
The CBT process starts when you are exposed to a situation. Something happens; it could be anything. You have thoughts about what has just occurred. You experience emotions based upon your thoughts. And then, you respond to your thoughts and feelings with behaviors.
In CBT, your therapist will help you to recognize and change maladaptive, or flawed, thought patterns. Some of these thought patterns include automatic thoughts, cognitive errors, and schemas.
Automatic thoughts are those thoughts that first pop into your mind. We may or may not be aware of their presence and they are not typically analyzed rationally. One of the most important clues that automatic thoughts might be occurring is the presence of strong emotions. Sometimes these thoughts can be logically sound and an accurate reflection of the situation. However, the thoughts can also be based on a thinking error that can be modified with CBT intervention.
Cognitive errors are ways of thinking that are often inaccurate and negatively based. Some of these include: overgeneralization, magnification and minimizations, personalization, and absolutist thinking. The aim of CBT is to reduce cognitive errors by teaching that the most important thing is to recognize your thinking errors, therefore being able to adjust or change them.
Schemas are core beliefs that act as rules for processing information. They help us screen, filter, and assign meaning to information we’re getting from our environment. There are 3 main groups of schemas.
1) Simple Schemas are rules about the physical world or everyday activities. Example: “A good education pays off.”
2) Intermediary Beliefs and Assumptions are conditional rules using if-then statements that influence self-esteem, emotional regulation, and behavior. Example: “I must be perfect to be accepted.”
3) Core Beliefs About the Self are absolute rules for interpreting information related to yourself. Example: “I am unlovable.” “I’m a failure.”
Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Interventions
A CBT therapist can encourage the development and application of healthier thought processes to change automatic thought patterns, cognitive errors, and schemas. They might use behavioral methods to break patterns of negative thinking, modify schemas, or teach rational thinking and problem solving skills.
You can use this template to practice identifying your automatic thoughts. First, identify the situation. Then recognizing your primary thought about the problem. Identify how it made you feel, and note the action or behavior you took.
One way to begin to change negative thought patterns is to practice alternate ways of thinking about situations that you experience. Take the same situation from above, but try 3 new ways of thinking about the situation. Identify how that might change your feelings, therefore affecting the way you act or behave.
If you’re having thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that become difficult to manage, you just can’t understand them, or you feel overwhelmed by them, please reach out for help! There are many who can help you build your toolbox of mental health skills to address and cope with these issues.
I’m Madeline Claude, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I specialize in working with people that experience anxiety, depression, trauma, issues of self-worth, and behavioral problems. I work to teach individuals and families how to navigate their unique challenges. My focus is to create a safe space for expression and healing.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree of Social Work from Utah Valley University, and a Master’s Degree of Social Work from the University of Utah. I have training in and offer treatment using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, Gottman’s Couples Therapy, and Crisis Intervention. I speak English and Spanish.
It is important to me to be understanding and supportive. I can offer hope and healing to those who carry a heavy burden. I strive to create feelings of safety, worthiness, and togetherness.
Therapy worksheets, tools, and handouts. Therapist Aid. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://www.therapistaid.com/
Wright, J. H., Basco, M. R., & Thase, M. E. (2017). Learning cognitive-behavior therapy: An illustrated guide. American Psychiatric Pub.