5 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Exercises

But not all forms of therapy are the same. Some work better than the other. Here are 5 cognitive behavioral exercises that can help one cope with their emotions.

5 Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a common kind of therapy that psychiatrists and psychologists use when treating patients with mental disorders. However, the kind of cognitive behavioral therapy that will happen will depend on the kind of disorder. There are different clusters that range from mood, psychosomatic, personality, and other kinds of psychological disorders.

However, the basic notion of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it’s changing one’s thoughts to be able to cope with the disorder. In order to cope with the disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy lets the practitioner help the patient on a deeper level in understanding their emotions. Their emotions and their feelings are then placed on the table where both the psychologist or psychiatrist with the patient will be able to dissect that feeling all the while rapport and professionalism are maintained.

But not all forms of therapy are the same. Some work better than the other. Here are 5 cognitive behavioral exercises that can help one cope with their emotions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Exercises

1. Journaling

Journaling is when a person writes down their thoughts in a book or a piece of paper. When they start writing it down, they can also process their thoughts and see what happens. When they’re having a hard time processing their thoughts, they can also bring it up with their psychologist or psychiatrist about trying to understand their thoughts. This particular method makes emotions more “concrete” and easier to understand and work well with people who prefer writing things down.

At times, writing can also be cathartic. It does not necessarily have to also be in the form of a rant. But some people also write poetry or stories. Sometimes, writing short stories helps paint a better picture as to what’s happening. It gives people a third person perspective as to how the event happened and even how they feel. It doesn’t need to be a New York Times best-seller but it’s just there to help get your emotions out there.

And sometimes, when you find the character that rings true to you, you find yourself helping yourself more than you realize. By creating a character, you find someone you can relate to and you can see how problems unfold.

2. Identifying Cognitive Distortions

First, we have to understand what exactly are cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are forms of thought that are disrupted by psychological imbalances. Some cognitive distortions include filtering which prevents a person from seeing a certain thing that doesn’t coincide with their particular bias. And at most times, these cognitive distortions are known to be negative. Such as, not being able to accept that one’s plan may actually work but despite the consistent data that it would work, you still believe that it won’t. Another is polarized thinking; the popular black-and-white style thinking. However, this kind of thinking is actually a cognitive distortion in which some actions can be seen as causing gradient effects. This kind of thinking can happen such as with grades for students. It’s all about pass or fail in which there are no possibilities in the middle such as having a higher grade than expected.

When a person identifies the cognitive distortions, they gain a better understanding of themselves. It’s about asking the question: Why do I think this way? What made me think this way? These kinds of questions will help you find what cognitive distortions you may have. However, this is more on the matter of subject rather than the act in itself. This kind of act may also be caused by maladaptive defense mechanisms such as projection, regression, displacement, or even downright denial.

To fight these kinds of cognitive distortions, it’s about catching it in the act. However, it’s not easy. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself slipping back into it. But it’s alright to detach yourself a bit and look at the distortion straight in the eye. Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll be able to catch your thoughts before they affect the rest of your mood.

3. Exposure and Response Prevention

This works best with people who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). And because they have a strong compulsion, the best way is to desensitize them to the compulsion. This is somewhat akin to flooding in which the person is constantly exposed to the stimulus that would trigger the compulsion. When doing the exposure and response prevention method, it involves a bit of conditioning. Knowing the Stimulus and Response Theory, every behavior (including compulsions) is a response to a stimulus. So by creating another form of response which is not responding to the compulsion and be rewarded for it is a form of “conditioning”. While it does sound like Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with his dogs, it’s possible to do that even with humans.

However, remember: humans are more complex and therefore may take longer periods of time to adjust. So, it can be coupled with having a therapist and the person will need some emotional support. This may also work with those who suffer from suicidal ideation. Catching the ideation before it triggers the compulsion to try and take one’s life. However, suicide is no joke. If you feel that you’re losing your grip on the person or even yourself, don’t hesitate to call your local hotline or your one support person.

4. Playing the Script Until the End

Life goes through something known as “scripts”. These scripts are what dictate our actions and feelings during a situation. When a person thinks of a script, they plan out their next behavior as a means to address the issue. However, for those who suffer from Anxiety and trauma, this kind of thing can be traumatic. It can induce what most people call “analysis paralysis” or sometimes even psychosomatic pain because of recalling what exactly happened.

However, this kind of method can be difficult because it involves a key element: acceptance. The acceptance of having something happen when one wished that something else happened. This kind of method may be hard for those who suffered from traumatic experiences especially if they try to do it by themselves. Having someone with you while playing through the script has someone “ground” the person, or keep them intact within reality.

5. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the key components to Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology. It involves being aware of the many things that are happening. However, mindfulness also helps with people who need to inspect themselves especially those who are prone to depressive thoughts. Mindfulness exercises can range from meditating or even staring at the horizon. Others can enjoy it by staring at a cup of coffee to help them process through things. Mindfulness involves taking the thought and examining it as a subject: What is this thought? Why is this thought here? Where did this thought come from? Now, you don’t have to answer all of this simultaneously. You can do it one at a time and it doesn’t have to be instant.

Deep breath, take your time and relax. That’s the best way for mindfulness to work.


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