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CBT Techniques – “Defence attorney”

Another important aspect of CBT is examining our thoughts and learning different tricks or techniques to evaluate the thought in terms of evidence and impact on our lives. What we are looking at here is negative automatic thoughts. Those negative thoughts that pop into our head can be hard to control, or make us feel quite negative. Examples: “You are not good enough”, “You can’t do this” or “You are useless”.

One technique that can be used is the “Defence attorney”. This is a technique looking at the evidence along with challenging the negative thought that can pop into our heads.

The negative thought will be the prosecution, looking to convict you of your negative thought and enforce it as a true statement and you as a guilty person. Like a court case, the defence cannot simply stand up and declare innocence without first presenting the defence against the allegations.

N.B. – Side not here is to show how hard it can be to simply just “think positive” or “ignore the thoughts”. Using the court case analogy, the prosecution has been pounding its case for days/months/years; simply trying to ignore or push away the thought can be quite hard without first looking at both sides.

Your role here is to play the defence attorney; your job isn’t to believe the client, but to put a strong defence up showing how the prosecution is wrong in its allegations.

Questions to ask yourself:

- Whose job is it to defend yourself against any potential negative thoughts?

- Think about what the thought represents looking at the logic, can you see any flaws?

- Can you think of ways/things you have done that would counter what the thought is saying?

- Is the thought falling into a fallacy ie – All or nothing, should statement, focusing only on the negative, catastrophizing?

- Is the thought giving a fair account of you?

- Would the thought stand up in a real legal court case?


After answering these questions and any others that you think might help, it is time to look over the evidence and see what the verdict should be. You will now act as the judge and give your verdict on the both sides of the case. The main goal overall is to weigh up the evidence of both sides and challenge to see can the thought stand up.

The technique is used to help instil 2 main aspects for the person. The first is to start looking at our thoughts not as true, but as something that can pop into our head and needs to be looked at non-judgementally. The second is the challenging part, where we challenge the thought and look at the evidence and logic to make a decision regarding the thought.

I hope this blog was insightful into one technique that can be used in CBT for looking at and challenging thoughts that can arise in our everyday life. Again any questions, I would be more than happy to answer at: Patrick@evolvementalhealth.ie

or contact our team at info@evolvementalhealth.ie

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