CBT :: Coaching + Therapy Techniques For Changing Thoughts And Behaviors

We all need a little help sometimes, even when we have awareness of our challenges and difficulties. It's really hard for many to ask for help, so I thought I'd share some useful techniques that I use in my own private practice. CBT techniques are very helpful tools to be used in therapy, coaching and useful when applied to everyday life situations. What follows are some of the most common CBT techniques that I use with my therapy and coaching clients. 

  1. Journaling-This technique gathers information and data about habitual thoughts, emotions and moods. Included in journal entries can be: time of day, the source or trigger, the intensity of the feeling state and the response or action taken. You can add more helpful and adaptive coping responses that might be considered in the future.
  2. Catastrophizing-This tendency is to go immediately to an irrational thought that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing generally takes two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation or a future situation. Step one is to identify when your are doing this. Next, use your smartphone or journal to write the thoughts down throughout the day and add a corrective statement to counteract the negative belief. 
  3. Cognitive Distortions-Alone or with a therapist, you practice identifying harmful or negative thoughts that are automatic for you, then challenge these thoughts that lead to vulnerability or distress in your daily life.
  4. Cognitive Restructuring-Once you identify the distortions or inaccurate views, you can begin to learn about how this distortion took root and why you came to believe it. When you discover a belief that is destructive or harmful, you can begin to challenge it. Instead of accepting a faulty belief that leads to negative thoughts about yourself and poor self-esteem, you could take this opportunity to think about something in a different way.
  5. Write Down Self-Statements to Counteract Negative Beliefs-This is a challenge especially if your belief is strong or it has served you in some way. Confront these negative thoughts by introducing a positive more correct thought. Positive thoughts or self-statements help to interrupt old patterns and create new neural pathways.
  6. Exposure and Response Prevention-If you suffer from OCD, you can expose yourself to whatever creates the compulsive behavior that follows. Avoid doing the behavior by writing about it instead in a journal or notepad. 
  7. Interoceptive Exposure-If you struggle with panic attacks or anxiety, this technique involves exposing yourself to bodily sensations that elicit responses that lead to distress and panic symptoms. As you experience unpleasant symptoms, unhelpful thoughts arise and you can learn to tolerate the experience, reduce avoidance and develop a different way to view these symptoms such discomfort, but not dangerous.
  8. Play the Script Until the End-This technique involves imagining the worst case scenario, letting it play out in the mind. For those who struggle with fear and worry, this technique helps the experiencer learn that even if the worst case scenario plays out, the outcome may not be catastrophic and that they will likely be okay and will cope as they have in other challenging situations.
  9. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)--This technique is similar to the body scan where you instruct your body to relax one muscle group at a time until your are completely relaxed. You have many options such as apps on iTunes or google play, youtube videos or a private teacher or therapist. This can be helpful after a long and stressful day at work, with family or for insomnia.
  10. Mindfulness Meditation--Mindfulness is useful to keep people grounded in the present and helpful for many concerns including: anxiety, depression, addictions, stress, racing thoughts and ruminations, as examples. 
  11. Successive Approximation-We tend to overwhelm ourselves. This technique helps us to break things down into smaller, more manageable tasks allowing us to take important "small steps" thus leading to some success and eventually accomplishing the goal.
  12. Visualize the Best Parts of Your Day-When you're deep in the mud, sad or downright depressed, it's hard to recognize what's good and working in your life. Not that parts of the day aren't negative or disappointing, but making a habit of writing down the "good" helps us make positive associations and creates balance.
  13. Reframe Your Negative Thoughts-For many reasons, your default may be to go to the negative. Reframing can help you learn to think about something in a different way. With cognitive reframing, you can change the way you look at something and consequently change how you experience it.

The above techniques can help those suffering from a range of mental illnesses and challenges, including depression, anxiety, excessive worry, habits, OCD, and panic disorder, and they can be practiced alone or with your counselor or psychotherapist. Therapist can give you additional guidance and support by offering homework and handouts for easy reference.