Topic 5: Automatic Thoughts {by 10/14}

[Automatic Thoughts] – Watch MDD-9: Automatic Thoughts – Psychoeducation.  (1) There are six “Key Elements of Automatic Thoughts” (see Table 7.1).  Identify at least two of these elements that resonate with you the most and explain why?  (2) Explain why you think if one (or more) of these elements of automatic thoughts will be especially challenging for Mark?

 

[Automatic Thoughts] – What are some possible reasons why it is difficult for some clients to differentiate thoughts from emotions?  Why is it important to know the difference (see Tables 7.3 & 7.4)?

 

Your original post should be posted by 10/14.  Have your two replies posted no later than 10/16.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lindsay O'Meara
    Oct 09, 2021 @ 12:08:35

    [Automatic Thoughts]

    1. All people experience automatic thoughts. There are six “Key Elements of Automatic Thoughts,” these are that they appear in shorthand form, cognitive reflex, experienced as emotions, believed to be valid, persistent and self-perpetuating, and based on past experiences. Automatic thoughts that appear in shorthand form are short phrases or visual images. This resonates with me because there are many times that random thoughts pop into my head. Automatic thoughts that are based on past experiences means that historical events and significant others can shape our views of self, others, and the world. I have experienced automatic thoughts such as these, where I have to think through what is bringing them up.

    2. I think that Mark will have trouble with automatic thoughts that are believed to be valid. Mark seems to have thoughts that come up when his friends cancel plans that cause him to feel like his friends don’t like him. In the moment, Mark believes that these thoughts are true, although there is no evidence that his friends do not like him. Cognitive reflex is another area where Mark may be challenged. At work, with his relationship, and with his friends, he has intense emotions that come up, but the thoughts have not yet been identified.

    3. It can be difficult for some clients to differentiate thoughts from emotions. This is because some clients mistake things such as feeling hurt for thoughts. For example, with Mark, he may initially feel hurt because his friend can’t spend time with him, but he doesn’t realize that he may be having an automatic thought of “My friends don’t like me.” It is also possible that clients have a hard time labeling their own personal emotions, and which automatic thoughts are present with them. It is important for clients to realize the difference so that they can address the negative automatic thoughts that they are having. This can help the client to gain a sense of control, by realizing that they are able to change and monitor the thoughts that they are having. By recording negative automatic thoughts, clients are able to recognize and gain self-awareness surrounding the thoughts that they are having.

    Reply

    • Morgan Rafferty
      Oct 12, 2021 @ 14:33:01

      Hi Lindsay! I enjoyed your reading your post. I especially appreciated how you described clients gaining a sense of control after gaining the skill of recognizing their negative automatic thoughts. I hadn’t looked at it that way and it makes alot of sense to me. Becoming aware of those negative automatic thoughts that cause distress and modifying them is almost like breaking a bad habit. When an individual develops mastery over those thoughts and the ability to incorporate positive, new healthy automatic thoughts instead, it seems other positive changes would be sure to follow (ie., emotions, behaviors, overall well-being).
      Thanks for sharing!!

      Reply

    • Jennifer Vear
      Oct 13, 2021 @ 11:17:05

      Hi Lindsay!

      I also thought that Mark would struggle with the fact that he believes his thoughts are valid. I wrote the same thing in that he will believe that his thoughts are valid because of his assumptions with their responses. For example, if a friend does not want to hang out with him, instead of thinking that that friend is busy or dealing with something themselves, Mark makes the assumption that the friend does not like him. Mark will then hold onto thoughts such as those and believe them to be valid, not even considering any other possibilities. You also mention that most of these thoughts turn into a cognitive reflex. This is also a very good point with Mark where he struggles to differentiate what is truly valid and what is not, which leads these thoughts to become automatic.
      Overall, great job!

      Reply

    • Frayah Wilkey
      Oct 13, 2021 @ 20:23:11

      Lindsay,
      I really liked your explanation for question three! Self-awareness sounds so simple but it can be really hard to do and I know I’ve definitely struggled with it. It’s important for growth though and can really help reduce negative thought, emotions and behaviors. I also like that you said it gives the client a sense of control- I completely agree with this and I think it’s such an important component.

      Frayah 🙂

      Reply

    • Lisa Andrianopoulos
      Oct 15, 2021 @ 13:43:34

      Hi Lindsay,

      Great comment that helping clients to recognize their automatic thoughts gives them a sense control. I agree completely. Helping clients to realize not only their negative automatic thoughts, but also that they can change them builds a sense of hope and optimism because they find out that they can develop the skills to combat their distress and in a sense take their lives back.

      Lisa

      Reply

  2. Kaitlyn Tonkin
    Oct 12, 2021 @ 12:49:17

    1. Beck (2011) and Volungis (2019) identify six key elements of automatic thoughts. They explain that automatic thoughts appear in shorthand form, are a cognitive reflex, are experienced as emotions, believed to be valid, are persistent and self-perpetuating, and based on past experiences. Each of these characteristics is important for both the client and therapist to understand where automatic thoughts are formed and how the client is experiencing these thoughts. When looking over these characteristics, one that stands out to me is that automatic thoughts are based on past experiences. I think this is very true for myself. I’ve noticed that there are “random” thoughts (that I now understand to be automatic thoughts) that pop into my head that have formed because of past experiences I had, even as far back as a toddler. In the moment, and for many years before I started therapy, I never recognized this. However, the experiences I’ve had throughout my life have shaped how I view myself, the world, and other people in my life. Another characteristic of automatic thoughts that resonates with me is that they are persistent and self-perpetuating. When I begin to have automatic thoughts, it can be very difficult to get out of that cycle and I refer to it as the “hamster wheel” because it feels like one thought leads to another, which leads to another. Again, this used to be harder to deal with prior to starting therapy and even learning about these things throughout my time as a psychology student.

    2. After watching the videos of Mark and learning more about him, I think one of the things he will struggle with is that automatic thoughts are believed to be valid. When Mark has conversations with his friends, or they cancel plans on him, he starts to think that they don’t like him or don’t value their friendship. Mark tends to believe his automatic thoughts, even if he is presented with information that states otherwise. Going off that, I think that Mark might also struggle because automatic thoughts are persistent and self-perpetuating. When he believes his thoughts to be valid, especially when they are not, he will likely end up in a cycle of negative thoughts and getting down on himself. Additionally, Mark tends to withdraw when he is depressed, and I can imagine that when he does this, he once again gets stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts.

    3. Many times, clients tend to focus on the emotions they feel and are unable to identify the thoughts that they are having relating to the way that they feel. In order for CBT to be effective, clients must be able to identify both their thoughts and emotions and differentiate between the two. Clients will sometimes confuse thoughts with emotions. This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it is important that therapists help their clients understand the difference and utilize the CBT model to show clients the difference between thoughts and emotions. One reason that clients might mistake thoughts for emotions (and vice versa) is because they truly do not understand the difference. This would require some psychoeducation and explanation from the therapist to help the client better understand. Another reason is that clients could be experiencing such distress that they cannot understand what is making them feel the way they are. Depending on the diagnosis, some clients may not be capable of differentiating between thoughts and emotions. It is important that clients understand the difference between thoughts and emotions because if they don’t, it is more likely they will have a harder time in therapy. CBT is all about modifying automatic thoughts in order to change emotions to more positive ones. However, if an individual cannot distinguish between thoughts and emotions, they will have a much harder time modifying their thoughts. Furthermore, when clients cannot make this distinction, they likely will not be able to identify their own or even others’ emotions. Understanding emotion is important to have connections and behave appropriately. I think it is important for CBT clients to learn early on how to differentiate between thoughts and emotions in order to get the most out of therapy.

    Reply

    • MOrgan
      Oct 13, 2021 @ 11:44:48

      Hi Kaitlyn,
      I appreciate your comparison of self-perpetuating automatic thoughts to that of a “hamster wheel”. I completely relate to that comparison. I can often find myself in a series of “what ifs…” that lead down a less than desirable rabbit hole. Breaking the cycle is a skill and the sooner it is broken, the better.

      I like how you point out how challenging it would be to engage in CBT if an individual is incapable of deciphering thoughts from emotions. It seems like the early stages of CBT for many might require gaining the skill of differentiating their thoughts from emotions.
      Thanks for a great post as always Kaitlyn.
      Enjoy this beautiful day!

      Reply

    • Morgan Rafferty
      Oct 13, 2021 @ 11:49:59

      Hi Kaitlyn,
      I completely relate to your comparison of self-perpetuating thoughts to the well known “hamster wheel”. I can often find myself starting with one “what if…” thought that can lead to another “what if…” and a series of automatic thoughts that lead me down a less than desirable rabbit hole. It is a skill to break that cycle and the sooner it can be broken, the better.

      I appreciate how you indicate when a person is incapable of differentiating between their thoughts and emotions, CBT is extremely challenging. It makes me think that for many the first stage of CBT might require practicing making this distinction.

      Thanks for a great post Kaitlyn, as always.
      Enjoy this beautiful day!

      Reply

      • Katie O'Brien
        Oct 14, 2021 @ 10:50:17

        Kaitlyn,

        I want to second Morgan – the hamster ball analogy hit it on the head for me! It is so easy to get so caught up in our thoughts, that it is like once we finally snap out of it, you almost think, “How did I end up here?”
        The thoughts can spiral into more pervasive and distressing themes that generalize to other areas of our lives, when the initial thought could have been something as simple as “Wow, I didn’t get an A on this test … I must not be very good in this class” and now at the end of the spiral, we might be thinking “I should just drop out, I’ll never be able to complete the program.” Throw in another less than desired grade and that gets even worse.
        It’s so important to remember that this is pretty common – most people have had an experience like this. So if we remember that, and realize how distressed some of our clients are, their “irrational” thinking patterns begin to make more sense and we can follow their line of thinking with more compassion. Now “How did they end up here?” makes much more sense – they’ve been going going going on the hamster ball!

        Thanks for this example!

        Katie

        Reply

    • Frayah Wilkey
      Oct 13, 2021 @ 20:26:34

      Kaitlyn,
      I really liked reading your answers to all three questions! I think that your comments about question three were great. I like that you related it so heavily to the concepts we’ve learned about CBT and why the differentiation is key to the therapeutic process. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      Frayah 🙂

      Reply

    • Lindsay O'Meara
      Oct 20, 2021 @ 14:52:23

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      I like how you mentioned that your past experiences have shape the automatic thoughts that you have, and how you view yourself, others, and the world. Being mindful of your automatic thoughts and realizing what they are plays such an important role in combatting the negative automatic thoughts that we all have. The fact that automatic thoughts are persistent and self-perpetuating resonates with me as well. Depending on the state my mind is in when I feel overwhelmed by automatic thoughts, it can be difficult to break the cycle.

      Thanks,
      Lindsay

      Reply

  3. Morgan Rafferty
    Oct 12, 2021 @ 14:27:19

    1.) Automatic thoughts occur very quickly. We might not even be aware we are having automatic thoughts. More often than not they occur prior to experiencing a correlating emotion. We often believe our automatic thoughts are valid even when they are inaccurate. These thoughts can be persistent and perpetuating; one automatic thought can often lead to another.
    Two of the six key elements of automatic thoughts that resonate with me most are: “cognitive reflex” and “believed to be valid”. I find it impossible to prevent an automatic thought from occurring. My automatic thoughts are out of my control. This is what makes them automatic. I do have power in allowing or not allowing the automatic thought to perpetuate and lead to another. The initial automatic thought, however, is not in my control.
    I struggle to give credence to evidence that contradicts my automatic thoughts. I believe my automatic thoughts to be valid as they can feel very accurate.

    2.) Mark will struggle with “persistent and self-perpetuating” automatic thoughts. Mark extends invitations co-workers and friends with a lack of confidence that they will say yes. This initial negative automatic thought is: “He/she will probably decline.” If a co-worker or friend declines Mark’s invitation, Mark feels rejected and very quickly shifts his negative automatic thought to: “He/she does not like me. He/she does not want to spend time with me.” It is my belief Mark will find it challenging to modify these types of automatic thoughts. I think it will be a struggle for Mark to modify these negative automatic thoughts but I am hopeful he can succeed.

    I also think Mark will find it to be challenging to alter his core beliefs. Mark suffers from low-self esteem. He often feels unwanted, unlikeable and unimportant. Mark will need to work hard at improving his core beliefs by recognizing his value and self-worth. He needs to give himself credit for his strengths and perhaps even develop new ones.

    3.) It is difficult for some clients to differentiate thoughts from emotions because they very often seem to occur at the same point in time. If you are startled in the middle of the night by the sound of glass shattering downstairs.in your house, it might be unclear as to whether you experience cognition first (“did someone break in?”) or emotion (“I am terrified!”). It can be difficult to tease thoughts and emotions apart from one another.
    Also, if a client feels certain emotions (ie., anxiety, guilt, embarrassment, fear), he/she might struggle with determining whether a thought preceded the emotion or vice versa. Therefore, clients might often confuse the two and claim, “I feel nervous, therefore I must be nervous.” If a client can learn to alter their thoughts (ie., I am excited), then he/she can alter his/her emotion (ie., I feel excited). In this case, nervousness was replaced by excitement which in essence leads to a much more confident way of behaving during a job interview (behavior).

    Reply

    • Jennifer Vear
      Oct 13, 2021 @ 11:21:11

      Hi Morgan!

      I think you made a really great distinction between thoughts and emotions when you mentioned someone feeling nervous and assuming that it is a negative emotion instead of possibly excitement. This is a very interesting process of the body that can be difficult for an individual to differentiate between if they always assume that their emotions and thoughts are negative.
      Also, you made a really great point about Mark’s core beliefs. He will definitely struggle to change those as a result of his intense negative automatic thoughts. And giving credit to his strengths is a great example of where he can improve his self-esteem.

      Overall, great job!

      Reply

    • Lindsay O'Meara
      Oct 20, 2021 @ 14:57:49

      Hi Morgan,
      It is so important to try to use an evidence-based approach to lessen the negative impact of automatic thoughts. Personally, when I have a negative automatic thought, I try to ask myself, “Well what if the opposite happens?” This helps to ground me and make room for positive thoughts. I agree with your example about replacing nervousness with excitement. Those two emotions can be similar and sometimes go hand in hand, like your example of a job interview. By putting a positive spin on the thoughts you are having, you are more likely to be able to feel excited rather than nervous.

      Thanks,
      Lindsay

      Reply

  4. Jennifer Vear
    Oct 12, 2021 @ 19:17:05

    1. The two key elements of automatic thoughts that resonate with me the most is the fact that they are believed to be valid and experienced as emotions. When these negative automatic thoughts are believed to be valid, the individual is less likely to feel the need to change them. If they feel that these thoughts are who they truly are, then it should apply to them and cannot really be changed. The repetition of these negative thoughts, it can create intense emotions that will only back up the thoughts even when faced with contradictory evidence. Also, these thoughts are experienced as emotions. These intense emotions can make the individual back up their thoughts with how intense their negative emotions get. It is a vicious cycle that can be very difficult to break. I believe that these are the two most important factors because understanding these elements about automatic thoughts, it can help that individual identify those thoughts for change.

    2. Through behavioral activation exercises, Mark has shown his ability to identify his negative automatic thoughts. However, in the moments before and even after the thoughts occur, he has a difficult time changing them to something more positive. Mark feeds into the intense emotions of these negative thoughts that continue the vicious cycle of his depression and personalizing of situations. They are also very self-perpetuating and persistent, which leads to him supporting his core belief that he is not good enough. Fortunately, there are situations where afterward, Mark can see that these thoughts are not always valid and believable. This is a huge factor that can help him immensely.

    3. It can be extremely difficult for a client to differentiate thoughts and emotions. Thoughts precede emotions, but it is the intense feelings of emotions that make them most heard by the individual. When there is a slight phrase that results in an automatic thought, this thought can be difficult to recognize if immediately following is an intense emotion. That intense emotion is what the individual is going to pay attention to, and therefore, use that emotion to describe what they were feeling during that time, rather than the specific thoughts that were running through their head. However, this distinction can be extremely important in order for a client to change thoughts. Because thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all cyclical and interacting parts, they all influence each other. In order to change your emotions and behaviors, it is best to start with the thoughts. The thoughts can be the basis of where the emotions and behaviors are coming from, whether one realizes it or not. For example, one can feel anxious about many different situations: giving a presentation at school, driving in a busy area, or having a difficult conversation with a loved one. In each of these situations, the individual could be feeling the same emotion of anxiety. However, each one could elicit different thoughts: “I am going to embarrass myself,” “I am going to get in a car crash,” or “This is going to break us up.” By focusing on the thoughts that precede the emotions, the individual can get to the root of the problem to help change the thoughts that will then help change the emotions as well as the behaviors.

    Reply

    • Kaitlyn Tonkin
      Oct 16, 2021 @ 17:01:52

      Hi Jenn,
      I thought all three of your answers were great, but I really liked your answer to question 1. I think it is really important to think about how much people believe their automatic thoughts, especially when it can be difficult to identify the thoughts. When clients are asked to express what they were thinking at a certain time, they tend to give the emotions or feelings they had in the moment. Like you said, those intense emotions perpetuate the automatic thoughts.

      Great post as always!

      -Kaitlyn

      Reply

  5. Giana Faia
    Oct 13, 2021 @ 15:04:46

    1. The six key elements of automatic thoughts are they appear in the shorthand form, cognitive reflex, experienced as emotions, believed to be valid, persistent and self perpetuating, and they are based on previous experience. Two that resonate with me the most are cognitive reflex and experienced as emotions. Cognitive reflex refers to them being spontaneous and only lasting for a short period of time. Since they occur really fast, we tend to immediately respond to them. This resonates with me because I tend to immediately respond to my automatic thoughts just out of reflex and habit. I find it difficult to not immediately respond to them. I like the analogy of someone throwing a ball at you and reflexively reaching out your hand to grab it because that is how responding to automatic thoughts feels. Automatic thoughts experienced as emotions are often perceived as really strong and intense emotions. Since we perceive these thoughts to be true, we feel the emotions much deeper. This also resonates with me because I often feel the emotion relating to the automatic thought more. The emotions are always valid because it is what the person is feeling in repose to the automatic thought, however, the automatic thought is not always valid and there can be contradictory evidence to demonstrate it is not valid.

    2. One element that I think will be challenging for Mark is that automatic thoughts are persistent and self perpetuating. This means that they are constant and one automatic thought can trigger another. When at work, Mark often thinks he will never be able to get any of his work done which then sets off the thoughts that he is not a good worker, he is not good enough etc. This can create a cycle of constant automatic thoughts where his negative thoughts are always setting off other automatic thoughts. Another he might struggle with is that they are based on previous experience. He might experience negative automatic thoughts again when he wants to ask his friends to hangout since they blew him off on a previous occasion. Due to this previous experience, he might struggle trying to alter these automatic thoughts in the future when a similar situation arises.

    3. It is often difficult for some clients to distinguish thoughts from emotions because emotions are usually directly following the thought but clients may be unable to identify the thought that is causing the emotion. Especially with automatic thoughts, they occur so spontaneous and rapidly that clients are not able to process and identify them quick enough. Then they are left with feeling the emotion in the aftermath of the automatic thought. It is important to know the difference between emotions and thoughts so that we can identify the thoughts causing the emotions and vice versa. If we can change our thinking, intern our emotions would also change.

    Reply

    • Valerie Graveline
      Oct 14, 2021 @ 11:16:47

      Hi Giana,

      I also thought that Mark would struggle with automatic thoughts being persistent and self-perpetuating. Along with your point about when he asks his friends to hangout and they decline, I think his patterns of withdrawal behaviors would not only exacerbate these negative automatic thoughts, but these behaviors would continuously be reinforced by these thoughts. From what we have seen so far, Mark has improved his ability to recognize his automatic thoughts as they arise, so hopefully he will also become effective in restructuring them as well.

      Valerie

      Reply

    • Lisa Andrianopoulos
      Oct 15, 2021 @ 13:54:30

      Hi Giana,

      Wow, I found it so interesting when you talked about Marc’s past experience. You framed it as a recent past experience. I always think about past experience in terms of long ago experiences that become deep rooted. However, your comment really opened me up to a new perspective. With Marc, or any client trying out suggestions and interventions, the hope is that what the attempt will be successful and lead to more attempts. As with Marc, if something is tried and not successful it can impact your anticipation of how future events will go. Admittedly this is great material to work on therapeutically.However, I can see how it would have an impact on thoughts, emotions and physical sensations/behavior that he experiences before, during and after his next attempt (especially if the next one doesn’t go well either).

      Thanks for your perspective!

      Lisa

      Reply

  6. Frayah Wilkey
    Oct 13, 2021 @ 20:19:20

    1. According to the assigned readings, there are six key elements to automatic thoughts. Those elements are that they appear in shorthand form, cognitive reflex, experienced as emotions, believed to be valid, persistent and self perpetuating, and are based on past experiences. The first that resonates with me is the element of past experiences. We are constantly being reinforced by our environment and each experience shapes how we think about ourselves and others. I think a lot of the time, people don’t even realize how much their experiences effect their current thought patterns. Personally, I’ve had to really work on realizing how previous experiences may be effecting daily thoughts. The second element that resonates with me is that they are experienced as emotions. In the past, I struggled with identifying the thoughts that caused negative feelings which hindered my ability for growth and effected my wellbeing, Many others also struggle with this, only recognizing the feeling that follows the automatic thought. It is so important for us to be able to pinpoint the original thought that caused the emotion so that change can happen.

    2. An element that seems to greatly effect Mark is that he believes his automatic thoughts are valid. Despite having a girlfriend and a few friends, he has many thoughts marked by an ‘unlikable and unloveable’ nature which Mark seems to believe. Even though there is evidence of the contrary, Mark feels that his negative automatic thoughts are valid. Another element that may be challenging is that they are persistent and self perpetuating. He seems to create cycles for himself where his negative automatic thoughts come to fruition because his behaviors are altered by them.

    3. For most people, it can be difficult to differentiate between thoughts and emotions. Many people do not engage in frequent metacognition which can make thought identification difficult. Moreover, the emotions following thoughts can be intense which makes thought identification difficult or even more frustrating. Many of us grow up thinking that emotions and thoughts are one in the same so it can be a learning curve to separate them. Even so, it is important to learn the difference because it can benefit cognitive growth. We all feel negative emotions and think negative thoughts throughout our lives- that’s part of the basic human experience. When we can identify those root thoughts though, we can begin to work on changing them which will help reduce the frequency or intensity of negative emotions. This can also help shape behaviors, orienting the individual to a more positive path.

    Reply

    • Katie O'Brien
      Oct 14, 2021 @ 11:02:36

      Frayah,

      I really liked how you mentioned that most people don’t just practice metacognition all the time. Being self-aware, including awareness of how we are feeling, what we are thinking and how we behave, and then of course, how each of these areas affects the other, is not necessarily a given for most people. Some people might be more inclined to do this, but for many, we have to be trained to operate this way. It is then an active process, there will be times when it’s more work to put it all together than other times.

      Especially for those facing extreme distress – if someone is so depressed that they cannot even get up from bed in the morning, what are the chances that they are sitting there analyzing the cognitive triangle and how it’s at play in their own circumstances? That’s where our jobs and particularly, spending adequate time with psychoeducation, is so important. Many patients feel stuck in their distress, and helping them to unravel these concepts can be a big stepping stone in understanding what they are going through. But it really is a process of training clients (and ourselves) on how to go about this, starting with thoughts and emotions.

      Great point!

      Katie

      Reply

  7. Katie O'Brien
    Oct 14, 2021 @ 10:42:06

    1.) Two of the points regarding automatic thoughts really stick out to me. The first is that people tend to either experience automatic thoughts as strong emotions or that they experience strong emotional reactions accompanying automatic thoughts. This makes the “emotion versus thought” psychoeducation perhaps more complicated for some clients who cannot yet separate the emotional reaction and the thought that caused it. So often in day to day life, we experience a range of emotions and those can be easier to pinpoint. If a friend cancels on us, many might feel sad, but once that feeling goes away, we do not dwell too much on what led us to be sad. In therapy, it is important to understand what made us feel sad, specifically, the automatic thoughts we had that got us to that point. Secondly, the idea that automatic thoughts are self-perpetuating stuck with me. When an individual with negative automatic thoughts, for example, regarding being unlikable, is canceled on, those events reinforce the automatic thought pattern and once those thoughts begin racing through their mind, they will begin to emotionally feel badly, and then spiral into more negative automatic thoughts. It reminds me of rumination. It is easy to get caught up in a bad thinking pattern if how you feel and your experiences seem to support that pattern. For this reason, these patterns can sometimes be tough to crack, and it is important to keep that in mind when working with clients.

    2.) I think Mark struggles a bit with the self-perpetuating concept of automatic thoughts. For example, he tends to feel unlikable or worthless, and when he goes into a situation, such as asking a friend to lunch, he dwells on the automatic thought before the experience has even started, believing they will say no because they do not want to spend time with him. If the invitation is accepted, Mark can realize that his thoughts were inaccurate. However, if the invitation is denied, Mark tends to withdraw and ruminate on his negative emotions and thoughts. The experience has now reinforced his belief that they would say no because he is unlikable, and he now thinks “They really don’t like me, they do not want to spend time with me at all because they don’t value me.” and maybe even pushes the boundary to thinking he is just disliked by everyone. As he withdraws, he is almost wrapped up in this spiral, and once he gets there, he has difficulty getting himself out of it. It will be a challenge to stop these cycle and turn it into more adaptive thinking patterns.

    3.) I think it is difficult for clients and sometimes people in general to differentiate between their thoughts and emotions because they often occur simultaneously. While the thought might be so fleeting that people do not even really recognize it, the general negative feelings when someone goes through an unpleasant experience can linger much longer. I think that is why when we ask, “What did you think about that?” Some clients might reply that they were hurt. I also think that sometimes people simply do not really know the difference between what they are thinking and what they are feeling, and that is where psychoeducation is very important to help bring awareness to these differences. It is important to understand how thoughts and feelings differ though, because feelings can be helpful tools in assessing what is going on around us. If a person is feeling hurt or sad, that means there is a reason and it might be worth exploring. However, no matter if their perception of the experience or situation is incorrect, (we might think – their friend was busy, not that they do not like the client, so we would conclude there is “no reason” to be sad, for example) how they feel about their understanding remains valid. We do not want to invalidate how they feel by challenging their emotions directly. Rather, emotions can be used to explore the thoughts that led to them, such as negative automatic thoughts. Those can be changed and modified to be more accurate or helpful, which in turn might change how the person feels. But simply telling someone how they feel is not right will not be effective in bringing about change. For clients, simply trying to not feel hurt or sad by certain events will not be helpful either, unless they can understand the thoughts that interact with and influence those emotions.

    Reply

    • Valerie Graveline
      Oct 14, 2021 @ 11:11:23

      Hi Katie,

      I like the point you made about thoughts being fleeting, whereas the emotional reaction tends to stay with someone much longer. With automatic thoughts, this point is clearly showcased in that an individual tends to experience the thoughts as emotions, and thus attributes their emotions to the preceding event rather than their thoughts. It is definitely important for thoughts to be distinguished from emotions so that the client understands that the thoughts are the focus of restructuring, rather than their emotions. Thus, with their thoughts being restructured, the client’s distressing emotions will hopefully be lessened.

      Valerie

      Reply

    • Kaitlyn Tonkin
      Oct 16, 2021 @ 17:06:32

      Hi Katie,

      You make a really great point about the importance of differentiating between thoughts and emotions, particularly on the therapist’s side. It is important that clients do not feel like their feelings are being invalidated so psychoeducation must occur for them to understand that their thoughts are being challenged and not their emotions which are real and valid. I had not thought about this when writing my post, so I appreciate that you brought it up!

      Thanks for sharing!

      -Kaitlyn

      Reply

  8. Valerie Graveline
    Oct 14, 2021 @ 11:04:09

    1) There are six key elements of automatic thoughts, including that they appear in shorthand form, are a cognitive reflex, are experienced as emotions, believed to be valid, persistent and self-perpetuating, and are based on an individual’s past experiences. From these six elements, one element that resonates with me in particular is that they are persistent and self-perpetuating. With such thoughts being persistent and self-perpetuating, it has been noted that one automatic thought can trigger another acting in a chain-reaction. This element resonates with me because I have experienced difficulty restructuring some of my negative thoughts as their chain-reaction often leads to me catastrophizing various situations. With this said, a second element that resonates with me is in regards to automatic thoughts being viewed as valid, despite the presence of contradictory evidence. I have found that when I catastrophize various situations following the chain-reaction of negative automatic thoughts, the illogical thinking is hard to recognize despite evidence that goes against it. With an individual constantly perceiving their automatic thoughts as valid, this further allows for such thoughts to be self-perpetuating as the individual will likely not work to restructure their thinking if they believe it to be accurate.

    2) I think that Mark will have difficulty with elements of automatic thoughts such as their persistent and self-perpetuating nature, and their basis in previous experiences. Mark has shown improvement in being able to recognize some of his automatic thoughts as they arise, but still seems to show difficulty in restructuring them and ending their persistence. For example, Mark has core beliefs with themes such as failure and worthlessness, which lead to automatic thoughts related to these themes. Due to Mark’s depression, he also lets these thoughts guide his behaviors, such as when he withdraws from situations due to these negative automatic thoughts. By continuously withdrawing from situations, Mark is ultimately allowing for these thoughts to be self-perpetuating. Also, I believe Mark will have difficulty with the nature of automatic thoughts being based on previous experiences. Mark has had unpleasant experiences that have led for his negative automatic thoughts to continue, such as when his friends cancelled dinner plans with him. This cancellation of plans caused Mark to think “They don’t want to be friends with me” and “They don’t value this relationship”, which may in turn impact his future behaviors in making plans with others. Mark’s negative automatic thoughts being based on previous, unpleasant experiences also further allows for such thoughts to persist over time.

    3. Clients often have difficulty differentiating thoughts from emotions. A possible reason this may occur is due to a general tendency for individuals to use the statement “I feel” when referring to their emotions, such as “I feel sad”, and while referring to their cognitions, such as “I feel worthless”. With this, another reason client’s may have difficulty differentiating their thoughts and emotions is because the thought can cause the individual’s emotional reaction. Therefore, the client may view their emotion and thought as one, rather than two separate aspects where one is influencing the other. It is important for client’s to recognize the difference between thoughts and emotions because in CBT, it is the thoughts that are restructured rather than the emotions. Not only this, but after treatment, the client must be able to effectively identify their thoughts versus their emotions so that they can restructure such thoughts independently without the clinician’s help.

    Reply

    • Giana Faia
      Oct 14, 2021 @ 20:41:48

      Hi Valerie,

      Thank you for sharing the two elements of automatic thoughts that resonate with you the most. I also struggle with failing to recognize illogical thinking even when contradictory evidence is present. Since the emotions that follow automatic thoughts seem so valid to us, it is hard to recognize the thoughts that they stem from. I also liked how you explained how one element of automatic thoughts can lead to another. Such as how the belief of automatic thoughts being valid can increase how self-perpetuating they are. Thanks for sharing!

      Giana

      Reply

  9. Francesca Bellizzi
    Oct 14, 2021 @ 12:43:37

    1. In examining automatic thoughts, there are six key elements that make them so unique and inhibiting. These key elements of automatic thoughts are that they: appear in shorthand form, are experienced as emotions, are a cognitive reflex, are believed to be valid, are based on past experiences, and are persistent and self-perpetuating. I think the two key elements of automatic thoughts that resonate with me the most are that they are experienced as emotions and are persistent and self-perpetuating. First, I think the fact that these thoughts are experienced as emotions is incredibly significant as our emotions can distract us from our thoughts and can also influence our thinking. Since the thoughts and emotions are experienced in quick succession, it is hard for the individual to acknowledge the thought as there is more awareness and attention brought to the emotion. Second, automatic thoughts being persistent and self-perpetuating is highly significant and important for a therapist to understand. Simply, this means that the thoughts are hard to stop, change, and can be a catalyst for other automatic thoughts. This concept resonates with me as it exemplifies that automatic thoughts can have their own domino effect that can tap into an individual’s core beliefs. Likewise, it shows that these thoughts can “spiral out of control” if they are not addressed and appropriately challenged.

    2. One element of automatic thoughts that may be challenging for Mark is the concept that they are experienced as emotions. From previous videos, we know that Mark experiences clinically high levels of depression and often engages in self-blame, self-deprecating, and withdrawing behaviors. If his automatic thoughts elicit depressive emotions then it could make it hard for him to be able to truly identify these thoughts on his own. Similarly, these emotions are not fun for people to experience so he may be reluctant to want to investigate them as he might not want to experience those things. Stemming from this is the challenge of believing the thoughts to be valid. Since these emotions that are elicited by these thoughts are very consuming, it may be challenging for Mark to invalidate and challenge these thoughts.

    3. Often, it may be difficult for clients to differentiate their automatic thoughts from their emotions. One reason this may be the case is the element that automatic thoughts are experienced as emotions. While the thoughts come before the emotions, they occur very quickly leaving the individual to be more aware of the emotion that is being experienced. Similarly, a client may not know or understand the difference between their thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, we may be asking a client what they are thinking about a particular situation and they may say something like “I feel/I felt”. Instead of diving into the thought, we dive into the emotion. I think that this is something that could almost be considered “human nature” as not many people examine their thoughts without the coaching of a friend, parent, significant other, and (of course) their therapist. It is important for clients to know the difference between thoughts and emotions because within the CBT model they both interact and have influence over the other. Bluntly, it is important to know the difference because our thoughts are not our emotions and our emotions are not our thoughts, and understanding that is the beginning to effective change and restructuring.

    Reply

    • Giana Faia
      Oct 14, 2021 @ 20:08:54

      Hi Francesca,

      I agree that Mark may struggle with the element of experiencing automatic thoughts as emotions. Due to his depression, these automatic thoughts could intensify those emotions despite actually knowing why he is feeling them. You also brought up a great point of him possibly not wanting to dive deeper into wanting to understand what is behind these emotions because the automatic thoughts are so unpleasant. It could be painful to address these automatic thoughts so it may be easier to just ignore or let them continue. Thank you for sharing!

      Giana

      Reply

  10. Lisa Andrianopoulos
    Oct 14, 2021 @ 13:51:26

    Key elements of automatic thoughts that resonate with me with regard to both myself and Marc’s presentation are that automatic thoughts are often a cognitive reflex, often experienced as emotions, and typically persistent and self-perpetuating. In doing the Daily Activity Schedule this week, I have been thinking alot about my own automatic thoughts and often found it difficult to pinpoint them. Through my own reflection, I realized that many of them have become almost instinctual, which I liken to a cognitive reflex. When this occurs, I feel the emotion and react (i.e., behave) almost simultaneously. The fact that they have become almost a reflex implies that they have been persistent for a long period of time. That I often ruminate about it after the fact, ties to it being self-perpetuating.

    With regard to Marc, when a friend says no or cancels a social invitation from him, his immediate emotional reaction is to feel hurt and his behavioral response is to withdraw. This stems from the automatic thought that his friends likely don’t want to be around him. He dwells on the event (i.e., ruminates), which in turn creates the self-perpetuating cycle. The immediacy and the consistency with which he displays this pattern implies a reflex response that it is ingrained in him. While he can intellectualize the irrationality of some of these thoughts, on some level it appears that Marc believes them to be valid. As such, it will likely be a particular challenge for him as he begins to address and really try to modify them, though I would argue as it presents itself right now, this automatic thought seems to be especially in need of intervention.

    Some clients have difficulty differentiating thoughts from emotions because they have confusion about the actual difference between them. Some may understand the difference on an intellectual level, but have trouble applying it to their own situations. Still others may mistake emotions for a thought. For example, Marc’s initial description of his friend saying no to having lunch was to state that he was hurt. It took more questioning and exploration before he stated the automatic thought that Jeff probably doesn’t want to spend time with him. As in the CBT model, when the goal is to modify thoughts in order to reduce emotional distress and maladaptive behaviors, it is critically important to be able to differentiate thoughts from emotions. In order to modify a thought, you have to be able to distinguish it from your emotional response to that thought. This is at the core of CBT and is essentially critical to understanding the cognitive triangle of how thoughts, emotions and behaviors all influence each other.

    Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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