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CBT - Favourite Quotes & Phrases

Through my work as a CBT therapist, there are quite a few sayings/quotes or phrases I will use quite a bit and I thought it would be interesting to list them out. Using my most commonly used, I want to give a bit of back story and explanation behind them and how they play a part in CBT.

Should vs Could

Often called “The tyranny of the shoulds”. When we look into the past, it can be very easy to judge all our actions and tell ourselves that we should have done ‘x’ or we should have done ‘y’. Look at the language here… The example I always use is: Look at the difference between these two sentences:

- I should have parked around the front

- I could have parked around the front


By telling ourselves I “should” have parked

around the front, I am saying that I did the wrong thing and another option would have been the right thing to do. By using the word “could” instead, what I am doing is acknowledging that there were other options available to me and accepting the decision I did make. Sometimes small changes in the language we use to talk to ourselves can make a big impact in how we treat ourselves on a regular basis.

What if vs What then

This one is more focused on the future versus the above being focused on the past. How often have we thought of an event or situation coming up in our lives and jumped to a million different “what if’s”?. What if this happens?, what if that happens?, what if I do this wrong?, what if x happens?, etc etc etc. By changing these to “what then’s?” we are acknowledging that something bad could happen and putting in a plan to what we can do if that does happen. The main goal here is to get us out of the worry phase and into the problem solving phase.

Strategies – before/during/after

Another way to look at events or situations coming up in our lives that could potentially cause anxiety is to break them down into different phases and look at how you can help yourself during these phases by putting strategies in place. Before the event I think that I will be on edge and quite anxious so I will do x and y to help myself”.

During the event I know that I will be feeling x so I can help myself by doing y”. After the event I think I will be feeling x so I can help myself by doing y”.

The aim here is to move away from the worry phase and into putting plans and strategies in place to try and alleviate any anxiety that might come up.

Treat yourself how you treat others

I think the common phrase is “treat others how you want to be treated”. I have found time and time again clients who seem to treat other people really well but neglect themselves or treat themselves more harshly than others. I always use the logic of “I am a member of the human species and I believe that all humans deserve dignity and respect”. If we follow this logic then we also fall into this category and we should be treating ourselves with that same dignity and respect we show to others.


Evidence for?

This is by far my favourite and maybe overused phrase. I always want to get people thinking of the evidence. If I think I am a useless person or I am a failure, then I would like the person to have very good and solid evidence to back these statements up. When a client tells me how they reacted or thought about an event/situation, I will commonly ask “And what evidence did you use to come up with that answer?”. I think moving to a more evidence based framework for looking at the world will benefit people greatly and help implement that critical mind-set that CBT wants us to use.

Normal worry vs unproductive worry

I think this one can apply to anyone and I would find myself falling into this pitfall sometimes. It is basically what it says on the tin. “Is my current worry, normal worry or is it unproductive worry?” A very good way to tell the difference is by asking “Do I have an answer to this?”, if the answer is no then 9 times out of 10 it will fall into the unproductive worry. The goal here is to start realising when we are falling into unproductive worry and park it for a later date or look for answers to what the worry is about.

I hope this was of help to some people and provided an insight into different questions or approaches a CBT therapist might use during working with clients. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us on our email below:

Or alternatively contact me directly with any questions you may have on:

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