So it’s been over a week after I began this CBT challenge and I thought I should give an update. I did the thought record a total of three times using situations of high emotion. That is kind of a miserable number of times considering I am a therapist with no clinical depression or anxiety.
Nonetheless I will share my experiences. Like most clients I dreaded doing it. I begrudgingly scribbled in my journal a couple times. During the experience I found it fairly easy, to put the words down but like others in my group who have done it did feel kind of hallow/fake. I wasn’t sure what difference it did make.
What I did notice is that my high emotions tend to centre around embarrassment or shame. This was helpful as it exposed a sore spot for me. A negative core belief that still nags me that “I always make mistakes/fail”. I have a tendency to believe or fear that people think that worst of me. This seems to be connected to feeling exposed when I err or make mistakes, so in response I may become defensive or fearful in those situations.
The advantage to doing this exercise more than once is that you can begin to see some dominant emotions and thought patterns that reoccur. This is something I had never thought to mention to my clients or ask.
One drawback to doing this thought record is that there is little cathartic emotional release in thinking rationally about the situation. It doesn’t have that same feeling as when you journal about pain or hurt or anger. The analytic nature just wasn’t that much of an enjoyable experience; perhaps that’s why we tend to think more emotionally than logically and we end up with distorted beliefs.
I don’t think the lesson of this exercise would sink in without emotionally processing (which I’m doing right now and one would hope would happen within the context of individual therapy).
In this way I think more emotional expression through art or otherwise would be a complementary activity to this one.
So all in all, this exercise gave me some perspective, helped me enter into the experience and let me see the limitations as well as some unexpected advantages to doing this.
So reader: what experiences have you had with CBT personally (and in particular thought records) that you would add?