Cognitive distortions cbt worksheet


What is the theory behind this worksheet?

This worksheet is based on a CBT approach, which is designated to help us understand how our thoughts, emotions and behaviour are connected and how what we think affects the way we feel (Beck et al., 1979).

How will the worksheet help

This worksheet will help clients understand how stressful situations can lead to cognitive distortions and help them recognize what cognitive distortions they might experience in order to combat them.

How to use the worksheet

According to the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy view, when we experience emotional distress, our minds tend to distort the way we process information, affecting the way we see the world, how we feel and how we behave. We no longer think in a balanced, flexible and expansive style, but rather in a rigid way, similar to children’s thinking patterns, leading to numerous psychological problems. These processes are commonly called “cognitive distortions” (Rnic et al., 2016).

To combat them, it’s first important to recognize them. Go through the following list and see if you can think of personal examples of such cognitive distortions.

Cognitive distortions cbt worksheet

All or nothing thinking – Viewing things as either being right or wrong, with no in between. They are either perfect or fundamentally flawed, either black or white, without grey, e.g., “always/never”, “good/bad”.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Personalising – Focusing on things in the immediate environment and connecting it to the self, e.g. “They did this on purpose because they knew it would make me mad!”. Notice that the world revolves around the self?

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Mental filtering – Selecting specific negative ideas to dwell on, while ignoring the positive ones.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Disqualifying the positive – Insisting that the events and achievements don’t count, e.g. “There is nothing special about what I did, it only happened because of luck”.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Distorted images – Using images as evidence. A picture or image in the mind that reflects extreme themes of fear, sadness, disgust, pain etc.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Fortune telling – Predicting  a bad future without any real evidence, e.g. “I just know it, it’s going to be a disaster”.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Should, oughts & musts – Having the idea that things can only be done in one way, e.g. “People should…”, “I have to…” etc.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Over-generalising – Taking single events or circumstances and viewing them as happening more often than they actually do.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Emotional reasoning – Using emotions as evidence, e.g. “I feel it so it must be true”.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Mind reading – Drawing conclusions about what others are thinking without having evidence, e.g. “They must hate me”, “She thinks I’m a fool”.

Example:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

References

Beck, A. T., Rush, A., Shaw, B., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York, NY, USA: Guilford

Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J. A., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive distortions, humor styles, and depression. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 12(3), 348–362. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1118

You can download this worksheet here.


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