Dr Helen Nightingale

Clinical Psychologist

Completing a Thought Record.

Completing a Thought Record

In therapy you will be shown how to record your thoughts in what we call a thought record (Sheet 3). The aim of this exercise is to become aware of the thoughts that trouble us and how we think. You need to record these for about two weeks. Focus on column 3.

It helps if you can fill in the other columns also. 

The longer you record these thoughts the better, but after recording your automatic thoughts then start to focus on columns 4 and 5. This is where you must look to find evidence for the thought you have just had in column 3. Ask yourself: "Did you find some evidence? Was this evidence available easily? Did you find any evidence that was not supporting your thought?"

Having examined both the evidence for and against your thought, can you review your thought and consider a better way to view the situation? Complete the record sheet for another week and see how it goes.

Here’s a little tip. Don’t record your thoughts all day. Keep the thought record beside your bed and complete about three automatic troublesome thoughts that you have had during the day; record them on your sheet. Look at how you felt at the time you had the thought, and now look back on it, and consider what you are thinking now. Go ahead and complete the more balanced thought now. 

An additional benefit, if you do this before you go to bed is that it may assist your sleeping tonight. Thoughts that are not helpful or negative may disturb your sleep, so completing your thought record about an hour before you go to sleep (and getting rid of your worries) maybe be helpful.

Behavioural Experiments.

Now you are aware of your thinking .... This in turn, will start to make changes in your behaviour. Try using your new balanced thoughts to change your actions. You will find that changing your thinking patterns by balancing your thoughts will probably change your responses in behaviour also.

For example: you find yourself not wishing to talk to someone at work, because they are not friendly to you: so you avoid speaking to them. However if you realise that they are shy and it may not be because they don’t like you, you will feel far more ready to say "hello", to that shy person.

Another example: You think it is dangerous to go near dogs in the park because they are all dangerous. If you consider how many of the dogs in the park are playing with their owners and children, then it’s likely that not all of the dogs are nasty. If you talk to the owners they will tell you if you can pat their dogs and they will call them over. In the presence of the owner you can then pat the dog. This is a good behavioural experiment that will reconfirm for you that not all dogs are dangerous.