The Complete Guide to Cognitive Restructuring - Deepstash
The Complete Guide to Cognitive Restructuring

The Complete Guide to Cognitive Restructuring


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The Complete Guide to Cognitive Restructuring

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Cognitive Restructuring is a core technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the most well-studied and effective approach to treating common mental health issues like anxiety and depression.


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Cognitive Restructuring is based on the principle of cognitive mediation which says that how we feel emotionally is not the result of what happens to us, but instead, it’s the result of how we think about what happens to us.


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  • It helps us get organized mentally
  • It forces us to slow down
  • It helps us be more aware
  • It gives us a sense of agency and control
  • It helps us think more clearly and rationally
  • It helps us reflect instead of reacting
  • It breaks bad mental habits


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If we want to feel better on a regular basis, we need to figure out a way to change how we habitually think about and interpret what happens to us.


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The benefits of Cognitive Restructuring are many and diverse:

  • Manage worry and anxiety better
  • Break out of rumination and depression spirals
  • More effective stress relief
  • Avoid procrastination and be more productive
  • Improve communication and relationships
  • Increased optimism and outlook
  • Help with addiction and sobriety issues
  • Build assertiveness and self-confidence
  • Cultivate empathy and self-compassion
  • Gain increased self-awareness and personal insight


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Introducing the Thought Record

A Thought Record simply a guide for walking you through the specific elements and steps of Cognitive Restructuring.

This "template" is composed of 6 steps:

  1. Pause: What happened here?
  2. Trigger: Who, What, When, Where, Why?
  3. Thoughts: What thoughts were running through my mind immediately after the trigger?
  4. Emotions: What emotions am I feeling right now? On a scale from 1 to 10, how intense are they?
  5. Alternative thoughts: What are some alternative-ideally, mode realistic-ways of interpreting what happened?
  6. Re-rate emotions: How intense are my emotions now?


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Cognitive Distortions are unrealistic, exaggerated, and generally inaccurate forms of self-talk.

These habitual inaccuracies or distortions in the way we think tend to create distortions in how we feel.


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  • Mind reading: assuming we understand what other people are thinking without any evidence.
  • Overgeneralization: extending the evidence for something beyond what is appropriate.
  • Magnification: taking our errors and exaggerating them.
  • Emotional reasoning: making decisions based on our feelings.
  • Black & white thinking: evaluating things in terms of extreme categories.
  • Labeling: describing ourselves in one extreme way, usually negative.
  • Should statements: self-talking about what we should and should not do.


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