Cognitive Behavioral Therapists believe we all experience emotions as a result of our thoughts. Not as the result of events. For example, if someone gets a bad grade on an assignment, she might feel inadequate. In CBT, we believe this feeling of inadequacy results from the thought she had about her bad grade, not from the bad grade itself. She may tell herself “I’m so stupid” or “I can’t do anything right”. And that is what leads to feeling inadequate. While we often notice our emotions first, with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. We can train ourselves to identify, and eventually challenge, this automatic negative thought which leads to negative emotion.
When we are able to challenge the automatic negative thought, we are now in a position to replace the thought with a more realistic, less harmful thought. In the case of a bad grade, our student may challenge the thought that she can’t do anything right with a new and more productive thought. For example, with CBT training, our student may now say to herself “I did bad on this assignment, but there have been plenty of times I did well. I will study more for the next assignment and do better”. This thought is more realistic, less harmful, and contributes to the mental wellness of our students.