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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop
-About Change
-Common Obstacles
-CBT Overview
-CBT Principles in Action
-Thoughts Cause Feelings
-Automatic Thoughts
-Unrealistic Thoughts
-Depression Affects Thinking
-Thinking Styles
-Thinking Styles Example
-Summary of Principles
-Keeping an Automatic Thought Record
-Thoughts and Feelings
-Step #1: Record Info
-Step #2: Rate Info
-Step #3: Respond to Info
-Helen's Responses
-Step #4: Get Results
-Appropriate Expectations

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-Thinking Styles List
-Automatic Thought Record
-Strategies for Balanced Thinking
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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop

Automatic Thoughts

As mentioned earlier, the thoughts we have about events happen almost instantaneously. Whether they are rational or not does not matter. They just come automatically. In fact, in the world of CBT the concept of an automatic thought is just that - a thought or an image that comes to mind seemingly automatically in response to an event. A key part of what you will need to do in order to make all the other CBT strategies effective for you is to learn to recognize your automatic thoughts. This is often a challenging task at first, but with some practice you will get the hang of it. For instance, the thoughts provided earlier in Helen's Responses A and B are good examples of automatic thoughts. You might think of automatic thoughts as being in the form of phrases or sentences. For Helen's examples earlier I put her thoughts in quotes to help remind us of that.

Combining our previous discussion about how thoughts cause feelings, we can be more precise in using the term automatic thought as in the example below.

Event Automatic Thought Feeling
A car is coming towards you "I am in danger!" fear, anxiety

In this situation we see an example of how automatic thoughts and their subsequent feelings can be very useful, even protective. If you are in this situation, your "behavior" would be to quickly jump up onto the curb and get out of danger. Sometimes, however, our automatic thoughts can lead to feelings that are not so useful for us. For example, let's revisit Helen's situation at the outset of this chapter.

Event Automatic Thought Feeling
Helen's husband hasn't called "He is angry with me." sad, fearful

Helen has jumped to a conclusion without really knowing the facts of the situation. She is feeling distressed with sadness and fear, perhaps needlessly so.

Thoughts Cause Feelings
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Unrealistic Thoughts



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This page was last updated on June 23, 2010

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