Cognitive Reframing with a CBT Chart for… | Center for Growth Therapy

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Cognitive Reframing with a CBT Chart for Anxiety, Self-esteem and fighting Negative Thoughts

Brian Jones

MSED — Associate Therapist

Most people experience stress and anxiety due to events from time to time. This can be useful to help overcome obstacles and it is your body’s way of fighting danger. The anxiety of knowing an assignment is due today and being behind can cause anxiety in your body and can sometimes motivate you to meet your goals. But when that anxiety interferes with your daily life, then that is a sign of a serious problem. You may notice that you want to avoid important situations, get nervous around crowds, or you worry excessively about events that are not important. In order to combat those triggers and the thoughts that come with them is by reframing your thoughts. We will do this by using a CBT Chart.

One of the first steps of working against your anxiety, is to find the event that causes the trigger for you. Being aware of the trigger is a major step to solving the problem and overcoming the anxiety that may come with it. To do this, we want to be mindful of how our body is feeling. Is there a tightness in the chest when an event happens? Does your stomach drop or feel queasy? These can be signs that the event is triggering you and it is time for you to pay attention to it and the feelings that accompany them, and what your natural reaction to the trigger is. One way we can track this is by using a CBT chart.

With the chart we will create three columns so that we can list the ABC for each the event:

Antecedent or trigger for the situation || Belief or thoughts about the situation ||Consequences

For example: Maybe your friend not answering your call (Antecedent) may make you feel that they do not like you or think you are being annoying (Belief) and cause you to feel high anxiety over it (Consequences). Being able to identify the triggers can help empower you to reframe those beliefs and add a different behavior that sticks. If we take our prior example, we can see how this process works:

Antecedent or trigger for the situation

Belief or thoughts about the situation

Consequences

your friend not answering your call

they do not like you or think you are being annoying

feel high anxiety

Your friend did not answer your call (antecedent) may make you feel that they do not like you or think you are being annoying (belief) Now lets “Take those beliefs to court” and challenge them. Do we have any evidence that your friends do not like you? have they ever told you that you are annoying? Probably not. Now come up with other reasons that they may not answer the phone. Maybe they are busy? How about they are asleep or on the phone already? Now check to see how that makes you feel. Did this ease your anxiety a little bit? Maybe take it a step further and think back to other times that your friends didn’t answer your call. Did they call you back later? Are they known to not like talking on the phone and prefer text? If any of those thoughts are true then we can successfully challenge your beliefs and will replace them with positive thoughts that can provide a better consequence. Those new thoughts could be, “My friends are probably asleep or busy” or “I know they will respond when they get a chance”. It may be hard to replace these thoughts at first and will require practice, but keep doing it and it will become second nature for you

Antecedent or trigger for the situation

Belief or thoughts about the situation

Consequences

your friend not answering your call

they do not like you or think you are being annoying

feel high anxiety

your friend not answering your call

“My friends are probably asleep or busy”

“I know they will respond when they get a chance”.

Feel trust, feel ok

Let’s try another example: You are feeling neglected that your partner is going out too often with their friends and you started a fight.

Now, let’s think about what the trigger is for A.

A: Spending time with friends

What feelings or beliefs came up because of the trigger?

B: My partner would rather be with their friends instead of me

Now what are the consequences?

C: An argument or fight with the partner

So let’s challenge that belief. What could be other reasons that your partner is spending time with friends? First challenge could be: Are they really spending that much time with friends? Let’s challenge it deeper, does it seem like a lot because you have nothing to do? Would doing hobbies yourself make you feel better? Try replacing the thought with , “I will go for a walk” or “I haven't spoken to my friends in a while” How do these new beliefs make you feel? If it provokes a better consequence, then that is the belief you will tell yourself whenever you get that trigger.

Now that you have an idea of what the CBT chart does and how to use it, practice this on your own. Take three triggers that you may typically have and challenge those thoughts using the chart. Are your triggers based on actual facts or just your feelings? Are these feelings able to be disputed? If these feelings can be disputed, how would those new beliefs make you feel? If the outcome is more positive, then the CBT chart will be a perfect tool to help you conquer the negative effects of anxiety and automatic negative thoughts.

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