How to Modify Your Erroneous Thinking Patterns

When having an unpleasant emotion: 

Rate the intensity of your emotion
on a scale of 1 to 10.

B.     If the emotion is intense, identify the thoughts that generated it.

 -  Write down your thoughts.  

-  Choose one thought at the time to focus on.  

C.      Identify any cognitive bias in that thought. (Refer to the list of common cognitive distortions.)

D.     Evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of the thought (refer to the questions listed below.)

                                                    i.     - Write a list of all the items that contradict the thought.   

E.     Modify the thought to reflect a more accurate view in a positive direction.

a.      -  Write down the more accurate thought you have generated.   

F.      Summarize your new perspective:  highlight the key points you discovered as a result of the work you have done. Go back and rate your degree of belief in the newly generated thought.  Re-Rate your emotion.

Here are some questions to help you evaluate the accuracy of your thought:

1.     What is the evidence that supports or contradicts this thought?

2.     Is there an alternative explanation?  Is there another way of looking at it?

3.     Am I overestimating the probability of the negative event occurring? What is the worst that could happen?  What is most realistic?

4.     Am I overestimating the severity of the consequences of the event (should it occur)?  Is it really a terrible catastrophe if X happens?  Could I cope with it?

5.     Does A have to = B? -  (e.g., “Does not getting a job = being a loser?”)

6.     If a friend had this thought, what would I tell them?

7.     What are the advantages of telling myself this?  And what are the disadvantages?

8.     What might be a more useful or helpful way of thinking about this?
9.     To the degree that this new belief is true, what should I do about it?

10. At this point, you may want to consider a new course of action.


1. This list of cognitive distortions in the previous tab was partially adapted from:  The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns. Plume, 1999.

2. The above list of questions was adapted from:  Cognitive therapy: Basics & Beyond, by Judith Beck, who, in turn, adapted them from Aaron Beck, and Ellis.

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