As you know, an initial goal in therapy with an
anxious client is to help your client restructure his thinking by first becoming
more aware of their thought processes. I like to use the phrase learning to "catch
one's thoughts," which is a necessary step in correcting distortions. Often,
clients find that increasing self-awareness is sufficient to start correcting
their thinking errors. As you know, self-awareness allows your client to distance
himself from faulty thinking and develop a more objective perspective toward a
situation. As your client begins to collect automatic thoughts, you gain a greater
understanding of your client's vulnerability and of the specific frames of reference
that control his or her perception of a feared situation.
I find merely telling clients to become more aware of their thinking
can be sufficient. This is similar to the suggestion that one consciously chooses
to remember one's dreams. The client may be unaware of his thinking because he
has considered it unimportant. The therapist, as you know, with the anxiety disordered
client, needs to stress the effect thinking has on his or her life. Automatic
thoughts can be presented as being similar to subliminal advertisements: by learning
to detect them, the client can free himself from their effects.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Rosenberg, H. J., Jankowski, M. K., Fortuna, L. R., Rosenberg, S. D., & Mueser, K. T. (2011). A pilot study of a cognitive restructuring program for treating posttraumatic disorders in adolescents. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3(1), 94–99.
Shikatani, B., Fredborg, B. K., Cassin, S. E., Kuo, J. R., & Antony, M. M. (2019). Acceptability and perceived helpfulness of single session mindfulness and cognitive restructuring strategies in individuals with social anxiety disorder: A pilot study. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 51(2), 83–89.
Shurick, A. A., Hamilton, J. R., Harris, L. T., Roy, A. K., Gross, J. J., & Phelps, E. A. (2012). Durable effects of cognitive restructuring on conditioned fear. Emotion, 12(6), 1393–1397.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
5: What is one way of presenting automatic thought to your client? To
select and enter your answer go to .