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CBT Techniques – Advanced Journaling

The three advanced techniques I will cover in this blog on advanced journaling are:

1. Challenging.

2. Evidence.

3. Better way’s to view the event.

Welcome to the third and final part to the CBT journaling blog series. I would recommend reading part 1 and part 2 first as I now will be going into more advanced methods of journaling.


Hopefully through the first two blogs, I have given a good understanding of how we journal on a basic level with CBT:

Event.

Perception (Thoughts/Emotions).

Behaviour.


I will start by answering two quick questions before diving in.

Q1 - When would I be ready to start the advanced methods to my journaling?

One of the main reasons why we journal is to build our awareness around the journaling process and how we are reacting or perceiving events in our lives. After journaling a while (1-3 months approx) we should start seeing that awareness building within ourselves and being more able to identify the thoughts that are arising from the different events happening in our lives. Once you feel like you are getting a good grasp of the journaling process and better able to identify thoughts that are arising then I think it is a good time to try out the more advanced methods.

Q2 - Why don’t I add these additions from the start of my journaling journey?

As I mentioned above about the awareness building, it can be hard to jump into the next stages when we are just getting a control of the awareness building. The best analogy I can think of would be building a house. One doesn’t build the house in one go, the foundations are laid first to help support the rest of the process and give the entire building structure. The start of the journaling process is building in them foundations. Becoming more aware of the process and becoming more aware of how our thoughts play out in our lives. Once we have the foundations secure, we can then start building onto to this.

Challenging

The first technique is the idea of challenging the thoughts that are identified as disruptive and starting the chain of emotions/behaviours. An example might be after failing an exam you notice thoughts saying: You are a failure, you will always be a failure, you are a terrible person etc etc. This new section is added onto the bottom under behaviours and it is about asking the following questions:


1. Is the thought true?

2. What percentage would I give to the thought being true/false? 0 being false, 10 being true.

3. What does this thought mean?

The idea here is that we are now starting to learn a new set of critical thinking skills focused around our thoughts. The main goal is to start challenging the intrusive thoughts and weighing up how true/false they are. Asking the question “What does this thought mean?” is asking to delve a bit deeper and see if there is more coming up.

Evidence

The next technique follows on from the first with asking the questions:


1. What evidence do I have that the thought is true?

2. What evidence do I have that the thought is false?


This skill is about learning how to better weigh up the evidence for our thoughts and taking a hard look at if they are really worth it. If we are having thoughts telling us that we are useless human beings then I would hope we have good evidence to back that up. What normally happens is we don’t have any evidence or very limited/skewed evidence to support telling ourselves these negative things but we take the thought as truth without taking a hard look at them.

Better way to view the event

The final technique I want to cover is starting to ask ourselves the following questions:


1. Was this a good way to view the event (thoughts/emotions/behaviours)?

2. Is there a better way to view this event (thoughts/emotions/behaviour)?


The goal here is to finish the critical evaluation by looking at the event in a different light and taking a step back. By asking ourselves if there is a better way to view the events then we are asking ourselves if we viewed the events in the best way we could have. Normally when we have anxiety/depression etc, the way we are viewing events with our thoughts/emotions isn’t very helpful and is more than likely feeding/fuelling further distress.

Eventually our journal would look like the following:


1. Event

2. Thoughts

3. Emotions

4. Behaviours

5. Challenging

6. Evidence

7. Better way to view this?


The main idea at this stage is critical thinking. We have built the awareness at the start and now we are trying to challenge and build new ways of seeing the world. This can be the most difficult stage to master and can take a long time to fully implement.


To conclude the three blogs, I hope I have given a better understanding and insight into how CBT journaling can be used to help facilitate change for people. Again any questions (Especially if you are struggling with journaling), I would be more than happy to answer by email at: Patrick@evolvementalhealth.ie or contact our team at info@evolvementalhealth.ie

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