Core beliefs CBT worksheet

What is the theory behind the worksheet? 

  This worksheet is based on a Cognitive Behavior Therapy approach. It’s an approach designated to help individuals with psychological problems, like depression and anxiety, to understand their maladaptive thoughts, which are often the source of their problems (Rush & Beck, 1978).

 How will the worksheet help

The following worksheet will help you bring your beliefs into awareness in order to challenge and make them more flexible and manageable.

How to use the worksheet

From a CBT point of view, core beliefs are limiting and maladaptive beliefs. They are very strongly held negative ideas connected to the self and/or others and tend to be learned as children. They fall into multiple domains, such as responsibility (e.g., “I am bad”), self-defectiveness (e.g., “I am flawed”), safety (e.g., “Others can’t be trusted”), power and control (e.g., “I am weak”). Additionally, they have the capacity to hold back self-growth; they are unconditional and inflexible. They feel factual no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, since they are experienced when people have a strong emotional reaction, stronger than most people might expect in that given situation (David, Lynn & Ellis, 2010).

Even though core beliefs are difficult to challenge, this process is not impossible through CBT exercises. See the following belief-challenging exercise and try to replicate it for your own thoughts.

Core beliefs CBT worksheet


I am weak.

How real and familiar does the belief feel?

It feels real most of the time. I feel like it has become a part of me.

What impact does that belief have on your life?

I feel like I have to constantly do things to prove people otherwise. I take more responsibility than others. When people praise me for this, I feel good for a while. I do not talk about my struggles with anyone. If I do so, I become afraid of being judged and try to stop contact with the person I confessed to. I lost a lot of relationships because of this and I feel like people don’t truly know who I am. I feel disconnected from everyone else.

What benefits does this belief have on your life?

I guess that people see me as more tough and reliable. I work in an environment where you have to appear very stoic and cold.

Were you born with this belief?


 How old is the belief?

About 27 years old.

Where do you think the belief came from?

I might have learned it from my parents or perhaps from school as a child.

If you learned the belief from a person, where do you think he or she learned it from?

My parents might have learned it as children from their parents as well. They were all pretty strict and didn’t live the best life after the second world war.

Do you want to keep that belief?

No. I think it is ruining my relationships. It is always in the back of my mind and I’m exhausted with not being able to communicate to anyone about how I truly feel.

If you gave yourself an opportunity to believe something else, what belief would you pick?

I am the same as everyone else.

How do you think you might feel if you choose to believe your new belief as much as the old one?

I would feel a lot more relaxed (although a part of me thinks that I am not allowed to believe that I am the same as everyone else).

How does knowing that you can choose to believe something else make you feel?

When I think that I can be the same as everyone else, I feel more relaxed and I feel this unusual sense of liberation.


David, D., Lynn, S., & Ellis, A. (Eds.). (2010). Rational and irrational beliefs: Research, theory, and clinical practice. Oxford University Press.

Rush, A. J., & Beck, A. T. (1978). Cognitive Therapy of Depression and Suicide. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 32(2), 201–219.

You can download this worksheet here.

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