A Thought Replacement Exercise – a CBT worksheet/handout

drawbrainmechanicsChanging your thinking with cognitive behavioral therapy..

A simple exercise to challenge your negative automatic thinking, and replace with healthy alternative thinking…..


Catch the negative thought
: Keep a journal, taking notes of the actual thoughts you are thinking when you’re in a situation that upsets you and ends in self-limiting and self-sabotaging behaviour. Example: ‘It’s going to be awful, I’m going to embarrass myself…’- (and then avoiding an event).


Thought Stopping: As you notice yourself saying these negative automatic thoughts, you can stop them mid-stream by saying to yourself “STOP”.  You might also wear a rubber band or elastic bracelet around your wrist, giving it a little twang each time you notice you are allowing negative thinking to take over your head in a never-ending loop. It will make you more aware of how often, and in what situation, you are having the negative thoughts.


Challenge the negative thought: Challenge the thoughts, examine them to see if they’re valid. ‘Where’s the evidence for this? Is there another way to look at it?’. Example: ‘Actually, that’s fortune telling, I don’t actually know what’s going to happen, all I can do is my best, maybe I’ll be a bit anxious, I can cope with that if it happens, and it might not happen, I was okay last week at that other event even though I tortured myself before it with this kind of thinking….’

Summary: pause, reappraise, and reframe!

Note the negative thought – stop it in its tracks – examine it for evidence – and if you decide it is irrational and unhelpful, replace it with alternative healthy thinking – consciously and deliberately.  Here is an example:

Negative Automatic Thoughts Rational Reframe Replacement
Nobody likes me That’s not a true statement. My family like me, and I have my friend from work and my friend from school. And I got on well with many other people now that I think of it. Also, not everybody will adore and admire me in this life. I accept that. It’s the same for everybody. Also, if somebody does think little of you, you don’t have to agree with it …
It’s going to be awful, I’m going to embarrass myself… Actually, that’s fortune telling, I don’t know what’s going to happen, all I can do is my best, maybe I’ll be a bit anxious, I can cope with that if it happens, and it might not happen, I was okay last week at that other …
I can’t cope… That’s a bit silly. If I ‘couldn’t cope’ I’d drop down dead or burst into flames, yet here I am. It’s more true to say that I have problems coping, and I wish I didn’t have to cope, and that I’m doing my best. Accepting that I can’t cope as true only maximises my discomfort, and if I believe it I’ll avoid things…

Try it yourself!

Maybe you would like to try a consultancy Skype Q&A session with me?

Maybe you would like a Skype one to one session with me? Purchase here… then use the contact page to organise a date/time…

Check out the Bad Thinking Habits post to help you to develop keywords to spark associations and change your thinking.

Download this post as a PDF worksheet: CBTAFG_ThoughtForm

10 thoughts on “A Thought Replacement Exercise – a CBT worksheet/handout

  1. Pingback: The ‘Buzzsaw’. | austriaal

  2. Your blog is amazing, how can you change 54 years of negative thinking leading me down the road of worry anxiety and depression. Thank you. David Murphy’


    • Thanks David. ‘Biblio-therapy’ (my blog, and best practice books as therapy), and ‘low intensity’ CBT, is intended for low to moderate anxiety or depression, or indeed as great personal development for everybody. It’s a psycho-educational model which lends itself well to you literally becoming your own therapist through learning the theory and then APPLYING the practice. Beginning at the beginning. Apply apply apply. However, if you think that you have a serious stress disorder it would be a better idea to consult a doctor and/or mental health professional in your area and try out a session or two to discuss your needs and develop a careplan. Regards, Veronica


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  5. How do you feel about the controversy about thought stopping, that it does not work because the thoughts just rebound? Trying not to think of something makes us thing about it more?


    • Hi Christina. There is no controversy about evidence based psychotherapy and rational thinking skills – which is the context I use ‘thought-stopping and reframing’ in. I don’t advocate just ‘stopping thoughts’ in a meditative way, that wouldn’t work at all – but rather to build awareness and self management of how we’re thinking and explaining the world to ourselves, and developing reframing skills (‘thought stopping to think differently when we have distorted stress thinking, to identify and replace self talk with more realistic rational calm self talk).


  6. Pingback: Grounding Techniques for Anxiety - Redorbit

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