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Perspective-Taking

Cognitive restructuring techniques in CBT teach clients ways of analysing situations in ways that might initially be unfamiliar. A simple way of introducing cognitive restructuring is by framing it as Perspective-Taking: trying to look at difficulties from different points of view.

Clients may have habitual, biased, or schema-driven ways of viewing difficulties in their lives. Training them to think flexibly about their difficulties is an essential component of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive restructuring techniques in CBT teach clients ways of analyzing situations in ways that might initially be unfamiliar. A simple way of introducing cognitive restructuring is by framing it as Perspective-Taking: trying to look at difficulties from different points of view. This worksheet helps clients to identify their automatic interpretation of a situation and then prompts them to think about that situation in a variety of ways. The goal of such an introductory exercise is not necessarily to effect dramatic changes in affect, but to gently introduce the concept of cognitive flexibility.

Clients should be instructed to record specific instances in which they felt bothered, uncomfortable, or upset.

  1. In the first column (Situation that bothered you) clients should be instructed to record what they were doing when they started to notice a significant change in how they were feeling. Training clients to record specific details (such as who they were with, where they were, and what had just happened) is often helpful when later elaborating a memory for an event, or simply in understanding the reasons for subsequent thoughts and responses
  2. In the second column (How did you feel) clients should be instructed to record their emotional reactions in that moment (which can typically be described using single words, e.g. sad, angry, disappointed). Clients should be encouraged to rate the intensity of these sensations on 0–100% scale.
  3. In the third column (Interpretation / Thought) clients should be directed to record their thoughts prompted by that situation. How did they interpret what was happening?. Clients can be reminded that cognitions can take the form of verbal thoughts, but can also take the form of images, or memories. If a recorded cognition is an image (e.g. “I had a picture in my mind of people laughing at me”) clients should be directed to question what that image means to them (e.g “It means I’m a failure”) and to record that idiosyncratic meaning.
  4. In the fourth column (Alternative viewpoint) clients should be encouraged to try to view their difficult moment from a vatriety of perspectives. The prompts guide them to view the situation from the perspective of a compassionate other (“a friend”, “someone who truly liked themselves”), a different temporal perspective (‘when you are aged 80 and looking back on this moment”), and the faintly absurd (“what would Batman say”).
  • Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford.
  • Day, A., Howells, K., Mohr, P., Schall, E., & Gerace, A. (2008). The development of CBT programmes for anger: The role of interventions to promote perspective-taking skills. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36(3), 299-312.

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