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How Does CBT Help in Identifying Automatic Negative Thoughts?

How Does CBT Help in Identifying Automatic Negative Thoughts?

A central goal of cognitive behavioural therapy CBT is to identify negative thinking patterns that are associated with painful feelings and self-defeating behaviour. This involves identifying and dismantling harmful automatic thoughts, which are sometimes referred to as ANTs (automatic negative thoughts).

Negative thought patterns aren’t just damaging to mental health; they can also impact physical wellbeing and can lead to destructive behaviors. Whether they’re irrational or unhelpful, many of us have negative patterns of thinking that are difficult to change on our own.

The aim of CBT is to transform the way that we think and act in order to alleviate distressing symptoms, such as anxiety or depression. A therapist will work with you to break down your problem into its separate parts, such as the emotions you’re feeling and the behaviours you’re adopting. They’ll then examine each of these areas to see how helpful they are and how they relate to one another.

CBT Help in Identifying Automatic Negative Thoughts

In the next step, they’ll help you to examine the evidence for and against your thought, which may involve looking at things like the language you’re using, the physical sensations you’re experiencing or how it relates to your core beliefs. They’ll also ask you to jot down your negative thoughts so they can be challenged, and encourage you to consider alternative viewpoints.

By taking a closer look at these negative patterns, you’ll get some distance from them, which can be useful in gaining perspective and seeing how irrational or extreme they are. Getting some metacognition by writing down your ANTs can help you to learn to spot them more easily in the future, and give you tools to stop them from being so harmful.

Humanistic therapies emphasize self-growth and authenticity, while CBT provides structured techniques for tackling specific issues. Integrating cognitive restructuring and behavioral interventions, CBT stands out as a practical, time-limited approach with a strong evidence base for treating various mental health disorders.

Once your therapist has helped you to identifiy these thought patterns, they’ll teach you skills that can help you change them. This might include learning to challenge the distorted nature of your thoughts, such as labelling them as ‘ruminations’ or ‘catastrophizing’. It might include working on strategies for reducing the negative impact of a situation, such as focusing on what you have to be grateful for or re-framing the way you view a challenging event.

Changing a deep-set pattern of negative thought takes time, and it can take weeks or months to start seeing positive results. A therapist will be honest with you about how long they expect treatment to last, and will work with you to make sure that it’s meeting your needs. They might also ask you to practice your changes between sessions and use worksheets to monitor your progress, ensuring that you’re making the most of your time together. This will help you to be more confident in the knowledge that your new skills are working.


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