The Simple Technique That Can Instantly Stop Negative Thinking

17 Aug

How to Stop Negative ThinkingThis Simple Technique Can Instantly Reverse Negative Thoughts

Therapists use this powerful strategy to challenge self-destructive beliefs.

Written by Carolyn Gregoire

Depression is often described as feeling like you’re stuck in a fog of negative thoughts and beliefs — but new research suggests that a simple technique borrowed from cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, can help to clear away the mental haze.

A small study published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy found that Socratic questioning can help people with depression to improve their mood by challenging self-destructive thoughts.

Socratic questioning gets its name from the Greek philosopher Socrates, who used series of questions to help his students exercise critical thinking to come to a conclusion on their own, rather than being handed the answer.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Within the context of CBT, the method consists of the therapist asking a series of guided questions that help a patient to reconsider harmful perceptions of themselves and the world.

“Using Socratic questioning … therapists teach clients how to ask themselves questions in order to develop new perspectives and solutions on their own, as opposed to therapists simply providing these solutions directly to the client,” Justin Braun, a doctoral student at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “The therapist models the behavior and skills that we want the clients to learn and develop more fully.”

Socratic questioning doesn’t have to be done by a therapist — anyone looking for relief from negative thoughts can try the technique on themselves.

Therapists Questions to Consider

A therapist might, for example, use the following line of questioning with a depressed patient who is struggling with feelings of failure in the wake of a divorce: Is everyone who experiences divorce a failure? Can you think of anyone for whom that is not true? What evidence is there that you have succeeded, and thus have not been a “total failure”?

Braun offered another example of a Socratic dialogue between therapist and client:

Client: I’m a failure.
Therapist: What makes you say that?
Client: Well, I keep missing deadlines for my reports at work.
Therapist: And how does that translate to you being a total failure?
Client:  I can’t even do my job right. I must be a failure.
Therapist: Are these reports your only responsibility at your job?
Client: Well, no. They are just the summary of my work.
Therapist: How do you perform with your other responsibilities at work?
Client: Actually, I do pretty well with my other responsibilities. It is really the report writing that gets me.
Therapist: OK, and what percent of your job would you say is report writing?
Client: Hmm, I would say probably 5 percent or so.
Therapist: So, your reasoning for being a failure is that you can’t do your job right, but when we dig a little deeper it looks like, in fact, you do pretty well with about 95 percent of your responsibilities at work. How does this new information fit in with the idea that you can’t even do your job right and are thus a failure?
Client: Well, I guess I was not thinking about it this way. I guess if I am doing 95 percent of my job right I can’t be failing.
Therapist: So, how might you rephrase your initial negative beliefs to highlight this new information?
Client: When I look at the bigger picture, I guess I am actually pretty good at my job, but struggle with a very small portion.

To examine the effects of Socratic questioning, the researchers studied 55 people with depression as they underwent a 16-week course of cognitive therapy. At the beginning and end of each session, the participants answered questions about their mood and mental state.

Researchers found that after sessions in which the therapist used more Socratic questioning, the patients reported feeling greater relief from depressive symptoms.

CBT operates on the basic principle that a person’s moods and sense of self are intimately linked with their thoughts, and that recognizing dysfunctional thought patterns and replacing them with healthier ones can lead to improvements in mood.

The Socratic Method

Techniques like Socratic questioning are designed for patients to be able to perform them on themselves. Ohio State University psychologist Dr. Daniel Strunk told Nature that CBT trains patients in the skills they need to “become their own therapists.”

This training in self-inquiry may be one of the reasons why CBT is so successful. While it’s not a blanket solution, research has shown it to be one of the most effective methods for treating depression, with up to 66 percent of patients no longer meeting diagnostic criteria for depression after a single course of treatment.

“Patients are learning this process of asking themselves questions and being skeptical of their own negative thoughts,” Braun said in a written statement.


This Simple Technique Can Instantly Reverse Negative Thoughts

Related Continuing Education Courses for Mental Health

Self-defeating behaviors are negative on-going patterns of behaviors involving issues such as smoking, weight, inactive lifestyle, depression, anger, perfectionism, etc. This course is designed to teach concepts to eliminate these negative patterns. The course is educational: first you learn the model, then you apply it to a specific self-defeating behavior. A positive behavioral change is the outcome. Following the course, participants will be able to identify, analyze and replace their self-defeating behavior(s) with positive behavior(s). The course also provides an excellent psychological “tool” for clinicians to use with their clients. The author grants limited permission to photocopy forms and exercises included in this course for clinical use. Closeout Course #40-08 | 2007 | 44 pages | 35 posttest questions Click Here to Learn More!

This CE test is based on the book “Psychological Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Fundamentals and Beyond” (2006, 328 pages). The chapters in this practical and insightful guide for helping individuals with this troubling disorder, written by prominent specialists, provide practical, step-by-step descriptions of psychological approaches to treating OCD. After explicating the general, underlying features of the disorder, the contributors to this volume describe evidence-based behavioral and cognitive approaches, such as exposure and ritual prevention and cognitive restructuring. Subsequent chapters discuss how to apply these strategies with particular presentations of OCD, including fears of contamination; doubting and checking; incompleteness concerns; religious, sexual, and aggressive obsessions; and compulsive hoarding. Also included are discussions of more advanced issues, including dealing with treatment resistance and comorbidity and treating OCD in special populations.

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This CE test is based on the book “Anger Management: The Complete Treatment Guidebook for Practitioners” (2002, 320 pages). A comprehensive state-of-the-art anger management program and a must-have manual for the practitioner. The authors are distinguished researchers, teachers and practitioners in the field of anger management, and their book offers a detailed, research-based and empirically validated “anger episode model.” This indispensable resource for human service professionals emphasizes how to help clients understand, manage, and prevent unhealthy anger. The book is packed with detailed procedures, examples, exercises, and client handouts.

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This course will outline biological, behavioral, psychological, social-environmental and mind-body treatment approaches to pain management and introduce techniques and interventions that mental health practitioners can use to be most effective. In addition, participants will be introduced to novel approaches to chronic pain management such as acceptance and commitment therapy, a new psychological treatment that helps clients disidentify with troubling thoughts associated with pain. Case examples will be utilized to illustrate how a mental health practitioner develops appropriate treatment plans for patients with chronic pain. Finally, special topics of interest to mental health practitioners will include: 1) treating chronic pain patients with a history of drug abuse; 2) treating special populations with pain, such as the elderly and patients with AIDS; 3) suicide and pain, and 4) reducing a client’s resistance to participation in psychological treatments.

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Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625); by the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); by the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in General, Mental Health


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