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Simple Thought Challenging Record

Disputing thoughts is a critical skill in cognitive therapy. The Simple Thought Challenging Record encourages clients to identify alternative perspectives to their negative thoughts.

This Simple Thought Challenging Record is designed to help clients to challenge their distressing thoughts. Clients are encouraged to record their thoughts, images, or memories in specific situations, and then to generate alternate perspectives. This worksheet assumes a certain level of familiarity with the concept of challenging thoughts and presents a pared-down version of the technique.

Clients should be instructed to record specific instances in which automatic thoughts led to unwanted or uncomfortable feelings.

  1. In the first column (Automatic thoughts) clients should be directed to record any automatic cognitions. They should 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 him smiling as he pushed in”) clients should be directed to question what that image means to them (e.g “It means he knows that he’s taking advantage, that he thinks I’m weak”) and to record that idiosyncratic meaning.
  2. In the second column (Alternative perspective) clients should be instructed to generate alternate ways of interpreting the situation. Reframing negative thoughts will likely need to be practiced in-session. Suggestions might include making efforts to depersonalize a situation (“he wasn’t try to get at me personally, he’s just being rude to everyone”) or to take alternate perspectives (“is this insult going to matter to me in 6 months time?”).
  • Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford.

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