Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring refers to any methods which help people to think differently about a situation, event, thought, or belief. In a broad sense, this could apply to anything done in (or outside of) a therapy session which promotes cognitive change. In a narrower sense, therapists deliberately use a range of therapeutic approaches designed to promote cognitive restructuring:

  • Case formulation - Case conceptualization can promote cognitive restructuring by helping clients to think about their difficulties from a different perspective. For example, some clients find the process of formulation can instill hope by making potential solutions apparent
  • Psychoeducation - Learning more about a condition, disorder, or process almost by definition promotes cognitive restructuring. For example, learning about typical automatic reactions in trauma (e.g.freezing, soiling) can reduce a sense of self-blame and associated shame
  • Traditional CBT thought records - Thought records help clients to identify Negative Automatic Thoughts, then to identify any unhelpful thinking styles, then to generate alternative (cognitively restructured) ways of thinking
  • Behavioral experiments - Behavioral experiements can help clients to experimentally test the validity of beliefs which may or may not be unhelpful. They can promote cognitive restructuring by helping clients to uncover evidence which contradicts previously held beliefs
  • Socratic questioning - Guided discovery is used to explore a client's beliefs. This can promote cognitive restructuring by making explicit belief structures, rules, and assumptions of which a client may have been unaware
  • Diaries - Diaries or other forms of evidence gathering can generate concrete evidence. This can promote cognitive restructuring by undermine unhelpful assumptions

Other cognitive restructuring resources