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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 3 Techniques You Can Implement Right Now

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By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Cognitive Behavioral TherapyCognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a remarkably helpful psychotherapy tool with a foundation that’s easy to learn, but difficult to execute: identifying inaccurate or negative thoughts when they arise so you can live with greater clarity and peace.

CBT techniques are obviously a daily part of life at Stenzel Clinical, and it’s one of the most important tools we have in our tool belts. With decades of CBT experience of my own, I thought it would be helpful today to identify some common examples where CBT might be useful in your daily life. I challenge you to choose one thing from the following list that resonates with you, and then (here’s the important part) identify when it happens in your life. Today, the focus will be on filtering. In other words, I’m going to discuss a few ways to re-frame the things that happen to you every day.


1. How was your day?

Humans tend to remember the negative more than the positive. Professional poker players can describe bad bets with excruciating detail, pro athletes remember the moments they came up short, and you and I easily recall our most embarrassing moments in school, yet we don’t remember the compliments we got.

That said, there’s also an extreme and unhealthy version of filtering. It’s one that fails to notice the positive and good things that happen in a day and instead focuses on the negative things.

If you struggle with this, try:

Journaling. Specifically, keep a gratitude journal and make it a daily practice.

  • What is abundantly good in your life?
  • What good things happened to you today?
  • What are you thankful for?


2. Are you too hard on yourself?

Failure happens to us all, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s difficult to deal with. Things like getting the job you wanted or watching one of your relationships disintegrate despite your best intentions have a real and lasting effect on us.

But sometimes, minute things that are nowhere near failures are still treated as such. You might make a mistake at school or at work and instantly jump to ridicule-filled self-talk, such as telling yourself how unintelligent you are. Another common example: Rejecting compliments rather than accepting them.

If you struggle with this, try:

Talking to yourself as you would talk to a friend. Give yourself grace. Are the things you’re saying to yourself something you would say to someone you love? Probably not.

You are a remarkable person with one-of-a-kind traits and talents. Know that mistakes happen to everyone, and even present an opportunity to improve. And those compliments you receive? They’re real. You ARE smart. You ARE strong. Bask in that knowledge.


3. Is the sky falling?

This is commonly known as catastrophizing, and you can probably guess what it looks like: It’s when someone instantly exaggerates how terrible something is and jumps to the worst possible outcome. Boss wants to talk? You instantly believe you’re getting fired.

Catastrophizing also relates to what we just talked about: If you’re prone to it, you tend to minimize the positive things in your life and focus on the negative.

If you struggle with this, try:

Actually, it’s wise to do exactly what you’re doing. Go ahead and imagine the worst possible outcome.

What would happen if you were fired for that miniscule and correctable mistake? Let the situation play out in your head. Look for the bright side. For example, you could finally find work at a place that values the person you are and everything you bring to the table. You could work closer to home and be free of that brutal commute.

The lesson: There’s always a bright side.

Find a therapist you can trust.

This was an all-too-brief strategy session for cognitive behavioral therapy, so if you think you or someone you love could benefit from it, it’s best accomplished in 1-on-1 weekly counseling sessions over a handful of months. Find the right Stenzel therapist who will go on this journey with you. We are always here to help.

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