Checklist of Habitual Thinking Distortions (or automatic thoughts)
As you are listening to your client, you should be alert to:
1. All or nothing thinking: The client looks at things in absolute,
black and white categories.
2.Over-generalization: Your client views a negative event as a
never-ending pattern of defeat.
3. Mental filter: Client dwells on the negatives and ignores the positives.
4. Discounting the positives: Client insists that his accomplishments
or positive qualities don't count.
5. Jumping to conclusions: (A) Mind-reading -- assumes that people
are reacting negatively to them when there is no definite evidence, or (B) Fortune telling -- they
arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
6. Magnification or minimization: Client blows things way out of
proportion, or shrinks their importance inappropriately.
7. Emotional Reasoning: Client reasons how they feel. "I feel
like an idiot, so I really must be one." Or "I don't feel like doing this, so I'll put it off."
8. "Should" statements: Clients criticize themselves or other people
with "shoulds" or "shouldn'ts." "Musts," "oughts," and "have-to's" are similar offenders.
9. Labeling. Clients identify with their shortcomings. Instead of
saying "I made a mistake," they say "I'm a jerk," or "a fool" or "a loser."
10. Personalization and blame: They blame themselves for something
they weren't entirely responsible for, or they blame other people and overlook ways that their own
attitudes and behavior might contribute to the problem.
(This list contributed by Lou Lazerson, who can be emailed at
email@example.com, or check Lou's website)
Coaching tools to change Client thinking patterns
Step 1. Identify and note Client's Automatic Thoughts (AT)
Step 2. Identify the exact distortion in each AT
Step 3. Ask client to create a rational response, more realistic and positive ideas. "What would
be an alternate way to respond to this challenge?"
Cognitive Coaching focuses on identifying, evaluating, and changing a person's chronic negative thoughts. Cognitive therapy is based upon 4 assumptions:
1. ALL PEOPLE ACTIVELY CONSTRUCT THEIR OWN REALITY. All of us actively construct personal meanings
out of our life experiences.
2. YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU THINK. Your feelings are created by your thoughts
and not the actual situation. All of your experiences are interpreted by
your brain and given a conscious meaning before you have a feeling response.
3. MOST NEGATIVE FEELINGS COME FROM DISTORTED THOUGHTS. Negative
feelings such as depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, hopelessness are directly
related to specific and distorted thought patterns.
4. YOU CAN CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL. You can learn to be aware of your distorted thinking patterns and
learn to change them to be more realistic and positive thoughts. As you make these
thought modificatons, you will be able to change your negative mood to a more
(adapted from David Burns, Ten Days to Self-Esteem)
Back to Coaching Tips