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Wednesday, 22 Aug 2018

How to challenge unhelpful thinking - a simple strategy

By Private Therapy Clinic

In this video Dr Becky Spelman discusses a simple strategy to challenge unhelpful thinking. This techniques uses certain questions to help people overcome their unhelpful thoughts. People may find the following questions useful:

  • What would someone else say about this situation?
  • What’s the bigger picture? Is there another way of seeing it?
  • What advice would I give someone else?
  • Is my reaction in proportion to the actual event?
  • Is this really as important as it seems?
  • What facts do I have that the unhelpful thought/s are NOT totally true?
  • Is it possible that this is opinion, rather than fact?
  • What have others said about this?

Video Transcript

I’m Dr. Becky Spelman. I’m a registered psychologist. Something that I commonly help people with is unhelpful thinking. There’s ways to challenge your unhelpful thoughts or you can step back from them quite quickly and get resolution or be able to see things in a different way without even having to do very much. As humans, we often make assumptions that are simply not true. There is just not enough evidence for the thought that we have but we take it as being certain. For example, when I work with clients who have social anxiety, they’re often very paranoid about what people think of them. They might easily make the assumption that this person is having a negative thought about me, this person doesn’t like me. Even people without social anxiety can still make those assumptions whether it be an assumption about someone not liking you or a different kind of negative assumption about a situation when you really don’t have enough evidence to confirm that to be true or not.

Simple technique that I teach my clients is when they have an unhelpful thought that’s causing them some sort of negative emotions, some sort of distress is to ask a few questions. You don’t necessarily need to ask all of these questions. There might be one or two that you particularly like and find helpful. Let’s just say you assume that someone doesn’t like you. You have that negative thought. You become aware of it. It goes through your mind, and it makes you feel uncomfortable in a situation. You could say to yourself “What’s another way of looking at this?”

For example, if someone makes the assumption that someone doesn’t like them, another reason why they might not be very friendly towards you is they might have a two year old toddler who has kept them up all night. It might not be you that’s the problem. It might be they’re very tired. There’s a few other questions you could ask yourself. It might be “What would a very good supportive friend advise me in this situation?” or “What’s the bigger picture here?” or “Is there another way of looking at this?” Perhaps it might be “What advice would you give to a friend in this situation?” or maybe “Will this situation matter in a year’s time, in a week’s time, in a month’s time?”

These kinds of questions can kind of prompt you to look at things in a slightly different way, essentially to challenge your unhelpful thinking so that it brings down the intensity of the emotion you’re experiencing. Perhaps you’re feeling anxious as a result of that unhelpful thoughts. By challenging it, it will bring your anxiety down just a bit so that you’re coping better in that situation. As humans, before we start to investigate our thoughts, we often just take our thoughts as reality, and that can really hinder us. It can get in the way of just living our everyday life. Some people end up making a lot more assumptions than others. This is the key called behavioural [? 00:03:06] strategy that helps people change cycles because our thoughts influence our emotions, and our emotions influence our behaviors. That causes an unhelpful cycle. This can be problematic for many reasons and many differences situations. When negative emotions are triggered, it can be difficult for us to think clearly, and we all make mistakes in our thinking.

This is just one of many techniques that you can use to step back from your thoughts, challenge them and change them so that you can change the emotion that you’re feeling.

I hope you found this video helpful. If you would like to learn some more cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to challenge unhelpful thinking, you can get in touch with at Private Therapy Clinic. We would be more than happy to offer you a free consultation to investigate your difficulties a little bit more and provide a little bit of advice so then you can decide if you want to have some treatment or not.


For help with how to overcome unhelpful thinking, please speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.

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