The down arrow technique: what it is and how is it used in therapy

Our thoughts are cognitive products that are shaped by these beliefs, which in more conscious phases take the form of assumptions that explain what happens if certain conditions are met.

However, behind all of this lie our most basic nuclear beliefs, which are enduring and difficult to change. As we have said, nuclear beliefs lie behind much of how we view reality and ourselves.

In this sense, people who have particularly rigid beliefs or who have internalized deep values ​​and beliefs that conflict with their condition or lifestyle may experience great suffering and may need psychological help for them. switch. That is why the first thing will be to bring to light the nuclear beliefs of our thoughts, something that we can use techniques like the down arrow technique.

    Down arrow technique

    This is called the down arrow technique to a basic technique in the cognitive-behavioral stream which is characterized by seek to locate the fundamental and deepest beliefs of the subject, So that we can make these beliefs conscious and work on them in case they become inappropriate.

    It can be used in any type of problem, although it is particularly useful in those in which the subject manifests some sort of difficulty for himself or for the existence of a way of acting which is dysfunctional.

    The technique in question has an apparently simple basis: it is from the patient’s thoughts to continue asking questions about the meaning of those thoughtsWhat are they saying about the subject itself or what would that mean to the subject whether this is true or not.

    From the answer to this question, the question asked is repeated or some other equivalent is used in order to search for thoughts and beliefs in which the thoughts that arose after the reflection are supported. this process it is repeated over and over until the person cannot give an answer, Or it’s not believable.

    To give an example, a person might state that they are a very perfectionist and that you have to do things right, which when asked what that means to that person, might respond that when they do things right. , she is congratulated, which can lead to analysis. the idea that he must be recognized by others, which in turn can lead to the belief that the person does not consider himself valid.

    How is it used in therapy?

    The name of downward arrow comes from the fact that it ranges from a specific thought (which is usually sought after in relation to a dysfunctional aspect, self-demand or difficulty with oneself) to the beliefs that support it, to deepen more and more the most nuclear elements and beliefs and deep.

    In addition to evaluating beliefs, it can also be used to evaluate the elements that we use to draw conclusions about a particular event, in particular to evaluate the evidence or elements used to reach a certain conclusion.

    The down arrow technique is a useful technique for being able to identify a patient’s deep beliefs. That in itself has a therapeutic effect, As it allows to highlight and express beliefs and deep thoughts so that the subject reflects and processes content that sometimes he does not recognize himself.

    However, in general, this technique is usually only a first step, before performing other techniques that allow you to verify or modify these beliefs in case the patient is dysfunctional. In this way different cognitive restructuring techniques are often used, As well as the Socratic dialogue or the formulation of behavioral experiences.

    However, although the downward arrow is fundamentally cognitive, this does not imply that the techniques which must follow it must also be: it is possible to apply techniques from other psychological currents such as systemic, humanistic or even all the psychodynamics to work. nuclear beliefs discovered.

      What problems is it used for?

      The down arrow technique is a fairly basic and very useful technique, which it can be used in a large majority of disorders and alterations which are explained by beliefs of the patient and the possible biases that these generate.

      Among the many difficulties in which it can be applied, some examples in the clinical setting may be major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or personality disorders.

      It can generally be used in any problem where rigid beliefs or a high level of self-demand arise. Even without any disorder, people who have had a rigid environment or upbringing or who have issues with self-esteem can benefit from using the down arrow to delve into the beliefs behind them.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bados, A. and García Grau, E. (2010). The technique of cognitive restructuring. University of Barcelona. Faculty of Psychology, Department of Personality, Psychological Assessment and Treatment.
      • Burns, DD (1990). Feel good. Barcelona: Paidós.

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