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In CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) we look at how our thoughts and behaviour can influence our moods. Often we aren’t aware of our thoughts as they occur and we have set ways of thinking that can make us more or less likely to experience distressing emotions.

What’s an unhelpful thinking style?

Last week I wrote a blog on Negative Automatic Thoughts which are unhelpful thoughts that happen often without us being aware of them.  The odd negative thought here and there isn’t an issue. When all or most of our thoughts are negative it can follow we end up depressed and/or anxious.

In this blog I am tackling unhelpful thinking styles.  First off there’s no judgement here.  Everyone (and I mean literally everyone) experiences negative thoughts and has a tendency to a particular unhelpful thinking style.  If this gets out of control then it can cause problems like a lack of confidence or feeling low or anxious.  In CBT what we try to do is identify these to empower you to think in a more helpful way.

Here are some common unhelpful thinking styles and you might see yourself in one or more of them.

Jumping to conclusions

Ever jumped to a negative conclusion that isn’t justified by the facts? 

  • your friend is late meeting you and you assume something bad happened to them
  • you find a mole and decide it’s skin cancer
  • your boss asks to speak to you and you decide you are in trouble
Emotional reasoning

This is when you believe a situation to be true based solely on how you feel.  For example you feel angry and instead of looking at the situation objectively you justify your anger by labelling the other person as wrong.  Or you feel hopeless and conclude that you are facing problems that cannot be solved. 


If something bad happens do you feel bad for a short time then move on or do you assume that the bad thing will keep happening?  A person overgeneralising will assume that because they got turned down for one job they will get turned down for every job they apply for. 

Disqualifying the positive

Say you got a new outfit and get a few compliments and one person said it doesn’t suit you.  What do you focus on?  The positive or the negative?  In an extreme case of this thinking the person would assume that the people who complimented them were just being nice and that they looked awful! 

How do Unhelpful Thinking Styles affect us?

There are many other unhelpful thinking styles.  The problem with them is that they become a sort of automatic filter so as things happen we evaluate them through the unhelpful thinking style and the output will then be negative thoughts and this leads to emotional ups and downs or feeling bad about ourselves. 

To be clear CBT is not about “just thinking positively” and ignoring the bad things that happen or deciding not to tackle our bad habits or excusing ourselves or others for bad behaviour.  It’s about looking at things as they really are, without negative exaggeration or filters.

How does CBT help?

 Having a bit more awareness of the styles of thinking we have can help to challenge these thoughts as they pop up.  It’s not an instant process but over time these thinking styles can be managed and improved. It follows that our emotions become more stable.  In CBT we do structured exercises and talking therapy which help you to see what negative thoughts are coming in and what unhelpful thinking styles you have.  Part of my role as a therapist is to challenge you on some of your thoughts and perceptions – you have been living with these thoughts all your life.  They will seem normal to you and sometimes it takes someone else to help you to spot them!  This can feel uncomfortable but I always do this with respect and at your pace.

Is CBT for me?

If you would like a free chat to see if CBT would be helpful for you contact me. Or arrange a free 20 minute phone consultation to get a feel for how I work and if we are a good fit.  If I am not the best person to help you I will do my best to refer you to a therapist better suited.

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About me

Anna from Relax Therapies

My name is Anna and I am a counsellor and massage therapist.  I believe everyone is valuable, important and has the right to feel safe, happy and fulfilled.  I decided to become a counsellor after going through a difficult time and experiencing the benefits of counselling for myself.  My outlook on life changed and most importantly I learned skills to help myself in future when I go through a difficult time. Now I am able to use those skills and experiences to help others.