What is cognitive restructuring and how to think more clearly? (2023)

People are blamed for having less than rational thoughts. We assume the worst is about to happen and jump to conclusions before we have complete information. Science claims that cognitive restructuring is the key to clear thinking, but before we get into that, what is cognitive restructuring?

Cognitive restructuring helps people become aware of their irrational thoughts so they can correct them and replace them with more rational ways of thinking. It can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, anger and trauma. It's the four-step process that helps people recognize their distorted thoughts and replace them with them.Positive Thoughts.

It's important to look for ways to interrupt and redirect negative thought patterns as they arise. This allows a person to think clearly and ignore irrational thoughts when they try to surface.


  1. What is cognitive restructuring?
    • Types of cognitive distortions
  2. The 4 steps of cognitive restructuring
    • 1. Be aware of your thinking
    • 2. Rate
    • 3. Be Rational
    • 4. Replace it
  3. Efficacy of cognitive restructuring
  4. the end result

What is cognitive restructuring?

Cognitive restructuring is a collection of therapeutic strategies that help people identify and change their negative thinking patterns. It's a good idea to look for methods to interrupt and redirect thought patterns when they start to become negative and self-defeating. Cognitive reorganization is capable of this.

The cognitive restructuring method helped people change their thinking patterns. The purpose of using this technique is alsomanage stressit is replacing cognitive distortions – thoughts that cause tension – with more rational, less stressful ones.

Cognitive restructuring is an important part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which Aaron Beck developed in the 1960s. Beck linked his patients' symptoms to distorted thinking and hypothesized that if he could help his patients identify distorted thinking, could help them minimize mental health symptoms.[1]

David Burns popularized Beck's ideas with his book in the 1980sFeel good.[2]

As the name suggests, cognitive restructuring methods aim to restructure inaccurate or harmful thought patterns. People sometimes encounter cognitive biases - mental patterns that give a distorted and unhealthy perspective of reality. To understand how cognitive restructuring works, you need to understand cognitive biases.

I spoke with Margot Escott, LSCW, about how she uses cognitive restructuring in her therapeutic practice in Naples and Florida, and she explained that she starts the process by making her clients aware of the types of cognitive distortions.[3]

Escott gives her clients a list of cognitive biases and asks them to spend a week thinking about which ones resonate with them.

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Types of cognitive distortions

The following are examples of different cognitive biases:

(Video) How to do Cognitive Restructuring | CBT | T-Square

1. Mental filtering

This happens when a person specifies only one (usually negative) detail of a situation and focuses only on the emotions and behaviors associated with it.

For example, when a child throws his mother a surprise birthday party and everything goes well, but the cake ends up tasting the wrong way. With mental filtering, the child fixates on this detail and feels that the whole arrangement was a failure.

2. Black and white thinking

When such a situation arises, the person cannot see a middle ground and perceives the situation with a defeatist attitude.

3. Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is very common and occurs when a person reaches a conclusion without adequate information.

4. Catastrofizar

Disaster thinking arises when a person expects the worst. This usually happens to people who are afraid of flying. Although flying is the safest way to travel, every time you step aboard you'll fear the plane will crash.

5. Personalization

Personalization usually occurs in people withlow self esteemor those who have paranoia. It happens when they assume that everything people do or say applies to them.

6. Should Statements

These statements arise when someone compares himself and others to perceived universal standards. We can see this in girls who, after watching commercials for beauty products, begin to say, "I should be thinner or prettier."

7. Mind reading

This can happen when someone accepts what others think of them without verification.

8. Divination

When you anticipate a bad outcome without realistically considering the actual chances of that outcome, you engage in the cognitive bias known as guesswork. For example, if you're afraid of flying, you can shift your attention to the future, which you'll do after the plane lands, instead of focusing on the slightest chance of a plane crash.

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9. Emotional thinking

The term "emotional thinking" refers to the tendency to be overly aware of one's feelings and to base one's judgments on those feelings. You assume something is true just because it "feels right" to you, when it isn't.

For example, if you get stuck in an elevator, your fear may make you feel that the elevator is not working and you will fall. But logically this is not the case.

Elevator malfunctions are common and you'll be out of the situation in minutes.

(Video) Quickstart Guide to Cognitive Restructuring with Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes | Mental Health Month 2020

10. Marking

Labeling occurs when someone makes general statements or generalizations about themselves or others based on situation-specific behavior. For example, making a mistake and concluding that you are a failure is called labeling.

The 4 steps of cognitive restructuring

Each list of cognitive biases is different, but this will give you a general idea of ​​what kind of irrational thinking cognitive restructuring seeks to correct.

Recognizing these maladaptive beliefs as they arise is a key benefit of cognitive restructuring. That way, you can learn to reframe negative ideas more constructively. The idea behind this theory is if you canchange your perspectiveFaced with certain events or situations, you can change both the emotions you feel and the actions you engage in.

If you want to engage in this technique, you must first understand when to use cognitive restructuring. Let's look at the four main steps you need to take, using the cognitive bias of catastrophizing as an example.

1. Be aware of your thinking

The process begins by making our automatic thoughts conscious. The first step requires you to take some sort of inventory of your potentially problematic mindsets. Before changing your thoughts, you must become aware of your thinking - without judgment or correction yet.

Using the catastrophizing example, I notice that sometimes I say I lost my job and I can't pay my bills and then I lose my home and family. The first step is to become aware of that thought and catch it every time I fall into catastrophizing. I ask: "Is it true?" and if you're trying to predict the future i know that's the caseNotTRUTH.

You can take stock of your automatic thoughts for a week or explore them in therapy with a trained professional. Escott asks her clients to identify cognitive biases they noticed during a week. In any case, the first step is essential, as we cannot correct problematic automatic thinking without first becoming aware of what we are thinking.

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2. Rate

Next, it's time to generate more rational thoughts. Once you've taken stock of your thoughts, you can start sorting out which ones seem rational and which don't.

Why do I think I'm losing my job? Maybe it's because I saw my parents lose their jobs, which weighed heavily on the family when I was a kid. Maybe I feel like oneimpostor,and I am not confident enough in some of my financial decisions. Thinking of questions can help you find an answer.

3. Be Rational

Once we identify a thought as problematic or unhealthy, we can see why it is problematic in the first place. At this point, we begin to wonder why we think this is true, if it is true, and how close it is to the truth.

I might start telling myself that I don't know if I'm going to lose my job or not. I can only focus on delivering my best performance. If there is a risk of losing my job, I can spend time networking on LinkedIn instead of catastrophizing.

I can also tell myself that it's unreasonable to link the loss of my job with the loss of everything. I could list all the things I could do to replace my job if I lost it. It would save me the risk of missing out on other things in my life.

(Video) Tips for Implementing Cognitive Restructuring

4. Replace it

Finally, create alternatives to cognitive bias with more rational thinking. Our automatic thoughts are habitual and sometimes beyond our subconscious control. So the idea is not to get rid of cognitive distortions, but to catch ourselves when we distort reality and quickly replace the distortion with more rational thoughts.

Replace "I'm going to lose my job" with a more reasonable thought each time. I remind myself, "I don't know how likely it is that I'll lose my job, but I do know that I have seniority and I just got a raise. And if I lose this job, I can always go back to my father-in-law's business."

By rearranging their thoughts, people can gain a new perspective on their experiences. The idea is to replace cognitive biases with more pragmatic ways of thinking, but this requires a lot of reflection andself-awareness🇧🇷 You can certainly try it yourself, but it's usually best to let a trained professional guide you through the process.

Efficacy of cognitive restructuring

Science has shown that cognitive restructuring works. In one study, cognitive restructuring was more effective at reducing anxiety and worry compared to a control group and a group that taught relaxation techniques.[4]

The idea is that cognitive restructuring forces people to correct their automatic thoughts. Escott explains that this process is effective because our thoughts become our feelings, which affects our overall well-being.

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the end result

Cognitive restructuring addresses the root of the problem: our cognitive biases. So the next time you find yourself overgeneralizing or catastrophizing, take a step back. Ask yourself if this is true and how often is it true. Develop a more coherent line of positive thinking and replace distortion with this realistic thinking.

Cognitive restructuring may not be that easy, but if you're willing to think andtrusting, can have measurable effects in reducing your symptoms of trauma, stress, anger, depression and anxiety.

I would like to reiterate that cognitive behavioral therapy is a method best performed by trained professionals. For those who need help or want to delve deeper into cognitive behavioral therapy and cognitive restructuring, locate a trained mental health professional in your area.


No time for the entire article? Read this.

(Video) CBT for Anxiety and Cognitive Restructuring

What is cognitive restructuring and how to think more clearly? (1)

cognitive restructuringit is a fundamental part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is considered one of the most effective therapy options for psychological issues such as social anxiety disorder (SAD).

It is aeffective methodrecognize and understand problematic thoughts, as well as question and change automatic thoughts. These distorted thoughts are called cognitive distortions.

Cognitive restructuring is based on the premise that if you canchange your automatic ideas, you can control your emotions and actions.

That isnot a single techniquebut a process. It uses various techniques including thought recording, decatastrophizing, brainstorming and guided questioning to reduce anxiety by replacing cognitive biases with more rational and optimistic thoughts.

(Video) Cognitive Restructuring Techniques - FREE CBT 9

Featured photo credits:Benjamin Davies via unsplash.com


How do you do cognitive restructuring? ›

How to Use Cognitive Restructuring
  1. Step 1: Calm Yourself. ...
  2. Step 2: Identify the Situation. ...
  3. Step 3: Analyze Your Mood. ...
  4. Step 4: Identify Automatic Thoughts. ...
  5. Step 5: Find Objective Supportive Evidence. ...
  6. Step 6: Find Objective Contradictory Evidence. ...
  7. Step 7: Identify Fair and Balanced Thoughts. ...
  8. Step 8: Monitor Your Present Mood.

What is meant by cognitive restructuring? ›

Cognitive restructuring is a technique that has been successfully used to help people change the way they think. When used for stress management, the goal is to replace stress-producing thoughts (cognitive distortions) with more balanced thoughts that do not produce stress.

What is an example of cognitive restructuring? ›

For example, if a person feels anxiety about a break-in taking place in their home, emotional reasoning would tell them that this is because a break-in is likely to happen. This reinforces their fear. Cognitive restructuring encourages people to take a pause and question what the evidence is for this belief.

How do I stop distorted thinking? ›

But fixing cognitive distortions is possible — it just first requires you to identify your negative thoughts for what they are.
Here are a few ways you can start:
  1. Read yourself.
  2. Identify the type of distortion.
  3. Change roles.
  4. Examine the evidence.
  5. Sum of its parts.
  6. Skip generalizations.
  7. Avoid speculations.
  8. No more “shoulds”

Can I do cognitive therapy on myself? ›

Many studies have found that self-directed CBT can be very effective. Two reviews that each included over 30 studies (see references below) found that self-help treatment significantly reduced both anxiety and depression, especially when the treatments used CBT techniques.

What is the most difficult part of cognitive restructuring? ›

Cognitive restructuring is not an easy skill to learn. It is difficult to identify and put into words what your thoughts actually are. It is hard to recognize what thought errors you are making.

How do I change my irrational thoughts? ›

  1. 5 methods for challenging irrational thoughts. Challenging or refuting your irrational thoughts can help you problem-solve and take some power back. ...
  2. First, keep track of your thoughts. ...
  3. Detach from the thoughts. ...
  4. Challenge the thoughts. ...
  5. Try cognitive restructuring. ...
  6. Seek professional support.

What is the first step of cognitive restructuring? ›

In Step 1, you write down the upsetting situation. The situation might be an actual event, such as going to the grocery store, or having an argument with someone, or a memory of an event such as thinking about the disaster. In either case, just write one sentence describing the situation.

How do you train your brain to think differently? ›

5 ways to make different thinking a habit
  1. Retrain your brain from negative thoughts.
  2. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  3. See situations from different perspectives.
  4. Dare to dream.
  5. Give yourself personal feedback.
Nov 15, 2021

What are the 3 C's of cognitive therapy? ›

Helping clients of all ages learn to identify and evaluate unhelpful and inaccurate thinking is a crucial component in Cognitive Therapy. The mnemonic of “The Three C's” (Catching, Checking, and Changing) can be particularly helpful to children in learning this process.

What are 2 two examples of cognitive learning strategies? ›

Examples of cognitive learning strategies include:

Encouraging discussions about what is being taught. Helping students explore and understand how ideas are connected. Asking students to justify and explain their thinking. Using visualizations to improve students' understanding and recall.

How do you reframe all or nothing thinking? ›

Start replacing those all or nothing words with words that are more positive, such as “but”, “or”, and “and”. Embrace the mistakes you make and learn from them, list the possibilities rather than the absolutes, and identify the emotions you feel when you are going through an experience.

How do you fix an unstable mind? ›

  1. Value yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. ...
  2. Take care of your body: Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. ...
  3. Surround yourself with good people: ...
  4. Give yourself: ...
  5. Learn how to deal with stress: ...
  6. Quiet your mind: ...
  7. Set realistic goals: ...
  8. Break up the monotony:

Is overthinking a cognitive distortion? ›

These types of thoughts fall into the category of overthinking, which can usually be described as negative thinking patterns or cognitive distortions. If any of these patterns describe you, you're not alone.

What are therapy techniques for overthinking? ›

Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, self-compassion, and asking for help from a healthcare professional can help alleviate the stress of overthinking.

What are the disadvantages of cognitive therapy? ›

Some of the disadvantages of CBT to consider include: you need to commit yourself to the process to get the most from it – a therapist can help and advise you, but they need your co-operation. attending regular CBT sessions and carrying out any extra work between sessions can take up a lot of your time.

How long does it take for cognitive therapy to work? ›

How long does CBT take – factors affecting length of treatment. According to the government's mental health recommendations (NICE), 6 to 24 sessions are recommended for effective treatment.

How can self talk help with cognitive restructuring? ›

It works by enabling you to recognize and gradually change unrealistic habitual thought patterns called cognitive distortions. Drawing a broad conclusion based on a single incident or insufficient evidence. For example, if exercising results in a relapse, concluding that exercise will always be impossible.

What triggers irrational thoughts? ›

"Most often it is because of anxiety." Irrational thoughts can also be triggered by specific mental health conditions, especially anxiety disorders or psychotic disorders.

How do you fight fear and irrational thoughts? ›

Ten ways to fight your fears
  1. Take time out. It's impossible to think clearly when you're flooded with fear or anxiety. ...
  2. Breathe through panic. ...
  3. Face your fears. ...
  4. Imagine the worst. ...
  5. Look at the evidence. ...
  6. Don't try to be perfect. ...
  7. Visualise a happy place. ...
  8. Talk about it.
Apr 14, 2021

How do I calm my irrational thoughts and anxiety? ›

Here are some tips for managing and treating irrational fears:
  1. Practice mindfulness. ...
  2. Learn to control what you can. ...
  3. Check out cognitive behavioral therapy. ...
  4. Try exposure therapy. ...
  5. Develop go-to relaxation techniques.

How can I practice cognitive behavioral therapy at home? ›

How to Practice CBT at Home
  1. Fully Focus on Your Thoughts. CBT requires an intense focus on the thoughts that come to mind throughout the day. ...
  2. Schedule Your Day with Manageable Tasks. ...
  3. Relaxation Techniques. ...
  4. Reframe Your Thought Patterns.

WHAT ARE THE ABCS OF cognitive restructuring? ›

Summary. The ABC model is a tool used in cognitive behavioral therapy to recognize irrational events and beliefs. It stands for antecedents, beliefs, and consequences. The goal of the ABC model is to learn to use rational thinking to respond to situations in a healthy way.

What are the five steps in cognitive restructuring? ›

Handout 28 provides a worksheet for using the 5 Steps of CR to address an upsetting feeling in a specific situation.
  • STEP 1: THE SITUATION. In Step 1, you write down the upsetting situation. ...
  • STEP 2: THE FEELING. ...
  • STEP 3: THE THOUGHT. ...

What are the 5 steps of CBT? ›

5 Easy Steps to Changing Your Thinking Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Step One – Make A List.
  • Step Two – Record Unproductive Thoughts.
  • Step Three – Create Replacement Thoughts.
  • Step Four – Read Your List Often.
  • Step Five – Notice And Replace.
Oct 12, 2017

How can I practice CBT everyday? ›

How to Practice CBT at Home
  1. Fully Focus on Your Thoughts. CBT requires an intense focus on the thoughts that come to mind throughout the day. ...
  2. Schedule Your Day with Manageable Tasks. ...
  3. Relaxation Techniques. ...
  4. Reframe Your Thought Patterns.

Is CBT good for overthinking? ›

A type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for overcoming overthinking and recognizing cognitive errors. “It helps one learn to first identify the errors, then to reframe the thinking in more logical and balanced ways,” says Duke.

What therapy for worrying too much? ›

If your worries are caused by general stress or anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be appropriate. CBT can help you notice when you are worrying and quit the cycle of negative thinking. A therapist may teach you how to tolerate uncertainty and rethink the usefulness of worry.

What is the first phase of cognitive restructuring? ›

The first step in cognitive restructuring is to identify and stop negative, catastrophizing thoughts. Thoughts such as “this is really going to hurt” and “I can't handle this pain” only lead to an increase in anxiety and a subsequent increase in pain.

What are the 7 cognitive abilities? ›

  • We have 7 areas of cognitive. “brain skills” that help us learn. ...
  • ▪ What you know. ...
  • ▪ Your skills for solving problems. ...
  • ▪ How quickly you perform mental tasks. ...
  • ▪ How you use your eyes for learning. ...
  • ▪ How you use your ears for learning. ...
  • ▪ How you hold information in your. ...
  • ▪ How you store and later remember.

What are the 8 core cognitive skills? ›

The 8 Core Cognitive Capacities
  • Sustained Attention.
  • Response Inhibition.
  • Speed of Information Processing.
  • Cognitive Flexibility.
  • Multiple Simultaneous Attention.
  • Working Memory.
  • Category Formation.
  • Pattern Recognition.
Nov 26, 2020

What are the 5 cognitive skills? ›

Cognitive skills are often divided into five categories.
Each of these cognitive skills reflects a different method that your brain uses to effectively interpret and use information.
  • Attention. ...
  • Long-term and short-term memory. ...
  • Logic and reasoning. ...
  • Auditory and visual processing.
Oct 7, 2019


1. Cognitive Distortions: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques 18/30
(Therapy in a Nutshell)
2. How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
(Psych Hub)
3. Cognitive Restructuring
4. Cognitive Restructuring Steps Explained
5. CBT and Reframing Thoughts With Cognitive Restructuring
(Self-Help Toons)
6. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
(Psych Hub)


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