How to Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Toxic Thoughts
Many people with mood disorders struggle to change toxic thinking patterns. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective method to help with that. During a session with your therapist, you acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and responses to distressing situations. Your therapist listens to you and helps you identify toxic thoughts, or thought distortions.
As an example, a toxic thought might be “I am so stupid because I didn’t pass the test.” To help you reframe (or change) this thought, your therapist will have you answer the following questions.
- Does your test grade define your intelligence?
- Have you passed other tests?
- What activities have you done well?
- What positive things have other people said about you?
- If a friend did not pass a test, would you call them stupid? If not, what would you tell them?
These are just a few questions your therapist would ask. It would be really nice if the first question evoked an easy “No.” Then you would automatically say that you’re smart. But with thought distortions, the mind wants to negate the positive. Working through your thoughts and reframing them can take a lot of work. This conversation between a client (Allie) and her therapist (Matt) depicts the complexity of emotions and thought reformation.
Allie: I didn’t pass the test! I’m so stupid!
Matt: Does your test grade really define your intelligence?
Allie: Yes! Everyone else did well on the test!
Matt: Do you know that for sure?
Allie: No, but everyone I talked to passed the test. Most people thought it was easy.
Matt: Are there things you find easier than other people?
Allie: Writing, I guess.
Matt: Does that make you smart?
Allie: I don’t know. It’s just writing. It’s not science.
Matt: No, it’s not science. Writing and science are two different things. Being good at something can mean you’re smart in one area. But no one can know everything. No one can be good at everything. But everyone knows some things. Everyone…