So, you’ve read about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you’ve read about The Cognitive Triangle, and you’ve tried changing your actions to change your mood. You’ve noticed that there has been a slight change in the severity of how you feel but the feelings persist. The first thing to do is to give yourself a break, congratulate yourself on trying something new, and continue to try to change your actions. All of the interventions that we will highlight at Smart Talk require some time and some practice to fully show their effect. They are similar to antibiotics in that they require a few days / weeks of consistent use before they start to show effect.
Once you feel that you have mastered trying to change your actions, you can move to another part of the triangle; your thoughts. Attempting to change our thoughts is a lot harder to do than changing our actions since most thoughts are involuntary gut reactions. But there is something that you can do to challenge your thoughts and to start to test their validity. A great way to do this is to use something known as a Thought Record.
A thought record is a tool that we use in CBT to help clients challenge unrealistic negative thoughts and turn them into more realistic and positive thoughts. The first step is to use the Cognitive Triangle to understand what is happening to you. Usually what happens is that an event will trigger a thought which will trigger a feeling, which in turn will trigger an action. For example, you might notice someone laughing in class right after you walked in and think “he’s laughing at me”. This will make you feel embarrassed, ashamed, or hostile. In turn, you might do things like lower your head, sit quietly at your desk, or maybe even call the person out. All because your initial gut thought at seeing the person laugh was “he’s laughing at me”. But what evidence do you have to support that thought? This is where the Thought Record comes in.
A Thought Record looks like this:
This is what the steps would look like with the example that we mentioned above:
So, now that you have seen how a thought record works, why not give it a try. You can use it in the moment or retroactively. We tend to have the same negative thoughts over and over again as we try to navigate this world so why not try the Thought Record with one of your most popular thoughts. To start with, you will need to write everything down, step-by-step, but as you start to master this skill, you will be able to do it in your head. Just like with any other intervention that we highlight, give yourself time to learn how to use it correctly. And if you need help or get stuck, feel free to reach out for help. We regularly use Thought Records in our work with our clients in Illinois (Chicago), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento), and outside of the USA (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico).