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Cognitive Restructuring: Part 3

What is Cognitive Restructuring?  

Cognitive restructuring is a crucial component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive restructuring refers to our ability to assess and challenge automatic negative thoughts that contribute to heightened distress. 

Not to be mistaken with simply “thinking positively,” when done effectively, cognitive restructuring allows us to cope with our stressors by balancing our thoughts in realistic, believable, and ultimately more helpful ways.

Cognitive restructuring consists of 3 crucial steps: 

1) Building awareness of our automatic negative thoughts.

2) Systematically evaluating these thoughts.

3) Challenging and reframing/replacing them.

In this post, we focus on Step 3.  (Click on step 1 & 2 above to read more)

How do I know I need to do this?  

If you  find yourself feeling depressed or anxious much of the time over a prolonged period (2 or more weeks) or you find yourself  facing  the same  obstacles or stressors over and over again, it might be time to consider CBT. 

Cognitive restructuring  does not mean that you are “wrong” or that your distress is “all in your head.”

Within the CBT framework, our thoughts are symptomatic of the real problems we face and the very real distress that we feel that can fog our view of often complex stressors. Cognitive restructuring can help us change our thinking to be more balanced, allowing us to cope more effectively with our biggest challenges.   

Step 3: Challenging Negative Thoughts  

Having identified and assessed our automatic negative thoughts, we can then work to shift these thoughts by using the cognitive distortion labels to help us ask relevant questions to help build alternative thoughts that are more realistic and helpful in managing stress.

For example, when we identify our thoughts as being “black or white,” we then can ask ourselves, “Where is the grey area? Is there any middle ground?”

Other questions we can ask ourselves in the face of automatic negative thoughts are: “What evidence do I have to support this belief? What evidence do I have to disprove it?”

It can also be helpful to consider what you might say to a friend/family member who has a similar thought. We are often much kinder to those who are coming to us for help than we are to ourselves—so it’s crucial to try being kind, compassionate, and patient with ourselves as we learn this new skill.

Learning how to restructure our most toxic negative thoughts can be very difficult—especially if we’ve held on to these thoughts over long periods of time or if the emotions associated with them are very strong.

Mental health professionals trained in CBT can guide clients through this often complex and emotional process in a way that can empower them to be more confident in their abilities to cope with stressors across multiple domains in their lives.

If you wish to get more information about cognitive restructuring or other psychological services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-354-4027,, or click here to schedule an initial consultation. 

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