Improve Wellbeing with Helpful Thinking – All about the “C” in CBT

An Introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most thoroughly researched approaches to psychological treatment. A search for CBT in Google Scholar returns almost 1 million results. What we know from all of this research is that for most people, CBT will be helpful in improving psychological and emotional wellbeing, and further, that CBT is as effective as medication in the treatment of many psychological disorders, often with the added benefit of a reduced risk of relapse.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT

The behavioural component of CBT addresses how we behave and the consequences of this behaviour. Psychologists can work with clients to address any unhelpful behaviours that are causing or maintaining distress. The cognitive component of CBT addresses our thoughts, how we think as human beings, that persistent internal dialogue that we all have, and how this impacts on our wellbeing. In a nutshell, CBT proposes that problematic behaviour and thinking is common to all psychological difficulties (e.g. anxiety and depression).

Unhelpful Thoughts

It is normal to have negative and difficult thought from time to time and it happens to all of us, even psychologists. It is when these difficult thoughts become persistent and unmanageable and result in marked distress that we need to take extra steps to manage them. Some examples of unhelpful thoughts that I have heard in my clinical work are; “I’m a failure”, “I’m never going to get anywhere in this life” and “I’m useless”. A first step in working through your difficult thoughts is to write them down with a pen and paper. Thoughts are sometimes chaotic, particularly when we’re stressed, and we can experience numerous thoughts very quickly. Writing your thoughts down makes changing them much easier and allows you to evaluate exactly what was going through your mind in any given moment and what impact it might have had on your mood.

Changing Unhelpful Thinking

Once you have identified your difficult thoughts you can more rationally evaluate them by asking yourself questions such as;

  1. Is this thought helpful?
  2. Is this thought realistic?
  3. What is the evidence that supports this thought?
  4. What is the evidence against this thought?
  5. Does my thought include any ‘absolutes’ such as never, always, everyone, no one, etc.?
  6. What would I say to a friend who told me they were having this thought?
  7. What would my friend say about this thought if I told them about it?
  8. Is there an alternative explanation?
  9. What is the impact of believing this thought?
  10. What is the worst/best that could happen?
  11. What will most likely happen?


Once you have asked yourself these questions, and evaluated all the evidence in a calm and rational way, you can create a new, more helpful, realistic and evidence based thought to replace your old unhelpful thought. With dedicated practice your new way of thinking will become automatic and you will be more able to complete this process quickly and in the moment. Asking yourself these questions will help you to gain mastery and understanding over your thinking patterns and the profound impact that they have on you. This may sound very simple, but our minds are tricky things and often it is very difficult to ‘catch’ what our minds are truly telling us from moment to moment. For further information on topics such as this you can visit the Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) website at and look under the Resources tab.

Written by Gold Coast CBT psychologist, Mark Bartholomew, treating depression and anxiety disorders in adults. CBT Professionals are a team of clinical psychologists on the Gold Coast with offices in Coomera and Nerang. Gold Coast CBT psychologists offer services to adults, children, and couples.



Beck (1995). Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond.

Craighead, Hart, Craighead and Ilard (2002). Psychosocial Treatments of Major Depressive Disorder.

DeRubeis, Gelfand, Tang and Simons (1999). Medications Versus Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy for Severely Depressed Outpatients.

Hoffmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, and Fang (2012). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analysis.


Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.


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