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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
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-Strategies for Balanced Thinking
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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop


If, when you start completing your own Automatic Thought Records, you find you are having trouble reducing the intensity of your mood consider the following questions:

Have you accurately identified and described the distressing situation?
Sometimes, being inaccurate or vague about the situation that initiated the distressing feelings makes it difficult to take the next steps. Try recording specific information about the event. If you have trouble identifying it exactly, think back to the time when your distress began. What had been going on around that time? Who had you been talking to? What were you doing? You might have to retrace your steps a bit until you can accurately identify the precipitating situation in detail.

Have you accurately identified, written, and rated your Automatic Thought/s?
Writing Automatic Thoughts in a way that lets you respond effectively takes some practice. We can be tempted to write them out at some length which makes them cumbersome to respond to. Try to boil your thought down to no more than a dozen words getting to the heart of it as best as you can. You may also need to refer again to the suggestions provided earlier for writing Automatic Thoughts in “Step #1: Recording Your Situation, Automatic Thoughts, and Feelings.”

Sometimes a problem exists in how people rate their thoughts. Remember to rate the percentage of your belief in your Automatic Thought. One-hundred percent indicates complete belief or certainty in the thought, while zero percent is no belief in the thought at all. You might need to reflect on your experiences and identify an event that would equate to 50 percent belief in a thought and use these marker points in how you rate your belief in your current thought.

Are you responding to the Automatic Thought that generated the mood you wish to change?
Look again at the Automatic Thoughts you listed and determine whether another thought might have greater influence on your mood than was originally apparent. You may find you need to respond to a different thought in order to notice some change in your mood.

Do you need to respond to more Automatic Thoughts around the situation?
Each thought can lead to more than one mood, and the same mood may be caused by multiple thoughts. For these reasons you may need to re-evaluate whether your target mood is being caused by an additional thought. It may not be enough to respond to only one Automatic Thought in order to experience a shift in your mood. You may need to work on more thoughts, particularly if they are related to some of your more distressing feelings. Also, consider whether you may have overlooked some important Automatic Thoughts when you first identified them. It might be fruitful to spend some extra time reflecting back on the situation to determine whether additional ones should be recorded and responded to.

Have you accurately identified and rated your feelings?
Sometimes, people find it challenging to identify the mood they are experiencing. Refer again to the list of feelings provided in “Step #1: Recording Your Situation, Automatic Thoughts, and Feelings.” and see if this helps you to accurately identify your feelings. Also, before you make your ratings, consider your frame of reference. Remember that 100 percent refers to the most intense quality of that feeling you have ever experienced. Fifty percent is the mid-range. Think of examples of each so you can compare your current experience and provide an accurate rating.

Are your responses to your Automatic Thought/s valid, convincing, and complete? Have you moved too quickly through the Strategies for Balanced Thinking?
A common stumbling block to changing our mood is following our temptation to have quick fixes. Becoming skilled at modifying your mood takes some patience and practice. Be careful about trying to move too quickly through the Strategies for Balanced Thinking. Spend the time you need with each strategy until you exhaust all possibilities. Ask a person you trust and who knows you well to help you brainstorm responses to your thoughts using the strategies. Also consider that you may need to write another new thought in the Results column that seems more credible to you.

Are you invested in supporting your Automatic Thought/s and/or feelings?
We can often have mixed feelings about whether we wish to feel better. At times our distress may serve some purpose for us whether it seems logical or not. For instance, if we seem to gain something from being sad or anxious, or we get our way by expressing anger, then it may be uncomfortable to think about getting our needs met in other ways. In such cases, it may be useful to create a list of advantages and disadvantages to feeling distressed.

Do you need to change your thoughts or do something else?
Sometimes our distressing thoughts and feelings can be a signal to us that we need to take some action. For instance, if someone has done something inappropriate towards you, or you have done something you need to apologize for, it may be best to speak with the person to resolve the situation rather than focus on changing your feelings about it. Taking this action may help improve your mood.

Appropriate Expectations
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This page was last updated on June 23, 2010

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