The 6 cognitive restructuring techniques

Many will be surprised, but our lives are not defined by our experiences, but by how we interpret them. Our thinking greatly influences how we perceive our reality and, in turn, affects how we relate to the world.

For example, if we make a mistake we may interpret it as unnecessary, or if someone disagrees with something we said, it means we don’t like them. It can affect our self-esteem and distort reality in disturbing ways.

Cognitive restructuring techniques focus on changing this pathological thinking pattern, Make the person change their way of seeing reality and choose to face it in a more appropriate, optimal and effective way.

    The main cognitive restructuring techniques

    Each of us understands the world through mental representations and subjective images, that is, we perceive the world according to our beliefs and expectations. Whatever happens to us, even seemingly very neutral, we always give it some sort of subjective meaning. It makes our lives, feelings, and well-being largely dependent on our cognitions.

    Cognitive restructuring is a methodology used to identify and correct dysfunctional thought patterns. Its main goal is to change the way experiences are interpreted, changing the irrational thoughts that cause us discomfort and replacing them with others which will improve the mood of the patient.

    People with dysfunctional thought patterns have subjective assessments that cause them discomfort, especially if they decrease their level of self-esteem and self-efficacy. For example, a person who failed an exam and exhibits these types of thoughts may believe that it is not valid for studies instead of realizing that they need to study more.

    In cognitive restructuring we work on these dysfunctional thought patterns, Get the person to question their pessimistic belief system and have a better way of relating to the world. It’s about changing the way you think and behave so that you can enjoy life, or at least reduce the symptoms associated with your low self-esteem.

    1. Down arrow

    The down arrow technique aims to identify core belief that is inferior to dysfunctional thinking. To do this, the therapist begins to ask a series of questions with the intention of expand the knowledge acquired about the origin and maintenance of dysfunctional thinking and how this affects the psychological problem that led the patient to a consultation.

    Among the questions that the therapist asks the patient, we can find the following:

    • What would it mean to you if this thought were true?
    • What’s wrong with this real thought?
    • What could possibly go wrong?

    He constantly asks questions of the patient to give all the answers he deems appropriate, until he is unable to answer any further.

    The down arrow technique is one of the most basic in the treatment of most psychological disorders and allows the patient’s thought patterns to be altered. Seeing that he has no more answers to what he fears, he considers the veracity of his apologies and fears..

    It is thanks to this technique that part of the main objective of cognitive restructuring is achieved, which is to make the patient break away from irrational and limiting beliefs, in order to adopt more functional ones. Beliefs, attitudes and views are changed with the intention that the person continues to interpret experiences differently, and more realistic and appropriate goals and expectations are set.

    2. Socratic dialogue

    Socrates (470-399 BC) was a Greek philosopher in philosophy there was, as a more important notion, question everything to explore more complex ideas. This same way of thinking has reverted to modern psychology and is known as the Socratic dialogue. This technique questions the patient’s belief system, even if the cognitive distortion he manifests must first be detected.

    The questions raised through the Socratic dialogue are somewhat similar to those of the down arrow. However, here the realism of their thought or preoccupation patterns is directly questioned. Among some of the questions that we can find we have:

    • Is my way of thinking realistic?
    • Are my thoughts based on facts or feelings?
    • What evidence do I have to support this idea?

    3. Paradoxical intention

    Paradoxical intention is a cognitive-behavioral technique in which the patient is asked to do the exact opposite of what he never thought he would do. It is all about giving you a set of guidelines and directions which, far from seeming to solve your problem, what you seem to want to accomplish is potentiate your problem.

    For example, one of the problems where paradoxical intention is used the most is insomnia. The patient must have tried everything to fall asleep, such as meditating, going to bed earlier, avoiding caffeine, among others.

    When you go to therapy, expect the therapist to give you these same directions or start therapy with some very obvious methodology for solving your sleep problems. However, with the paradoxical intention, not only will the therapist not give you directions to fall asleep, but he will tell you not to sleep, that you will do everything possible to avoid falling asleep.

    This, at first, will shock the patient, as this is a clearly unintended alternative. The patient had been having trouble falling asleep for some time and now they are telling him to do the opposite. This is beneficial, as the patient will move from the daily struggle to try to sleep, exhibiting anticipatory anxiety to the fear of not getting it, to a situation that they can control, which is not something they can control. fall asleep.

    As the prospect is just the opposite, the cycle is broken to try to sleep and not to do it, to move on to the one in which the external cause which prevented him from sleeping, hitherto unknown, is now the requirement of his therapist. Basically the patient can control not to sleep, and in the sense that he is trying not to sleep, subconsciously he will fall asleep eventually.

    Whatever psychological problem this technique is used for, the truth is that it involves a change in the way of thinking. This ranges from trying out each of the options aimed at solving the problem in an obvious way, to one that is not so instinctive.Seeing that even what seems to potentiate your problem serves to solve it.

      4. Role play

      Cognitive therapy works on the emotions, behaviors and beliefs that are not functional for the patient. He tries to change the way of thinking with the intention of incorporating positive changes in the patient’s thinking and behavior. One of the ways to achieve this is through “role play” or role play.

      Importance and role-playing can lead to significant changes in the patient’s mind, as well as increase emotional control and empathy. An example of the use of the role play is the staging of an interview that the patient will face in the future, and which causes him a lot of anxiety because he asks questions such as:

      • Am I going to get nervous?
      • I won’t know what to say?
      • What if I am wrong when answering the interviewer’s questions?

      By simulating a consultation interview, the patient has the opportunity to practice. In addition, you will be able to see if any fears that you think may arise in an actual interview are expressed, even if it is in a controlled situation. Emulating this scenario can be very useful as it allows you to work on your emotions and thoughts, discovering that it is not for all that.

      You can see if you are really nervous or have trouble asking questions and answers during the interview. too much one can see how their physiological response is given or if some of the fears are met what he had commented to the therapist. In turn, you can find out what is wrong and see how to fix it, with the professional help of a therapist.

        5. What would happen and …?

        Usually, the patient’s cognitive abilities distortions are nothing more than an exaggerated view of reality, a fearful way of interpreting it. The technique of What would happen if …? it is very useful because it consists of asking the same question to the patient, or ask him what he thinks is the worst thing that can happen in a given situation.

        The idea is that even in the worst case scenario, there are some things that are bearable and are probably not life or death things.

        6. Thoughts of the judge

        This technique consists of have the patient act as a defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge at the same time, Defend, attack and judge their own distortions. He will act first as a defense lawyer trying to provide objective evidence of his thinking, never opinions or interpretations. After acting as a prosecutor, he also attacked with evidence. He will eventually act as a judge and assess whether the time has come to undo this way of thinking.

        This technique is very useful because he submits to the patient through a rigorous process of critique of his way of thinking, but from different perspectives. He must give convincing evidence of why he is thinking this way, at the same time he must disprove it. It is basically comparable to the typical “for against against” situation, only from a therapeutic point of view and approaching it in the most objective way possible.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Ametller, MT (2012). Psychotherapies. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 06. CEDE: Madrid.
        • Kahn, JS; Kehle, TJ; Jenson, WR and Clark, E. (1990). Comparison of cognitive-behavioral, relaxation and depression modeling interventions in high school students. School Psychology Review, 19, 196-211.
        • McNamee, S. and Gergen, KJ (1996). Therapy as a social construction. Barcelona: Paidós.
        • Olivares, J. and Méndez, FX (2008). Behavior modification techniques. Madrid: New library.
        • Vila, J. and Fernández, MC (2004). Psychological treatments. The experimental perspective. Madrid: Pyramid.
        • Taylor S. (1996) Meta-analysis of cognitive-behavioral treatments for social phobia. Journal of Behavior Therapy Exp Psychiatry 27: 1-9.
        • López, A and García-Grau, E. (2010). The technique of cognitive restructuring.

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