Cognitive Distortions Worksheets (Identifying & Challenging Cognitive Distortions)

In this brief guide, we will look at some of the best Cognitive distortions worksheets, what cognitive distortions are and some identifying and challenging cognitive distortions worksheets.

Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: What do they do?

Cognitive distortions worksheets are meant to be a tool in aiding the process of cognitive restructuring and getting the individual to stop engaging with negative automatic thoughts and start thinking in healthier ways.

Cognitive distortions are defined as maladaptive ways of thinking that have no basis in reality and often cause problems to the individual because of how they affect behavior and emotions.

Cognitive distortions are also the reason behind the presence of many psychological conditions like Obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and so on.

For example, the main cognitive distortions that have been identified in depression are as follows:

  • Arbitrary Inference: Drawing conclusions without sufficient evidence
  • Catastrophization: Blowing things out of proportion/spiraling based on one negative thing
  • Mind Reading: Assuming that others are thinking negatively about oneself
  • All-or-nothing-thinking: Viewing something as either-or, without considering the full spectrum and range of possible evaluations
  • Emotional reasoning: Believing something to be true based on emotional responses rather than objective evidence
  • Labeling: Classifying oneself negatively after the occurrence of an adverse event
  • Mental filtering: Focusing on negative information and devaluing positive information
  • Overgeneralization: Assuming that the occurrence of one negative event means that additional bad things will happen
  • Personalization: Assuming that one is the cause of a negative event
  • Should statements: Thinking that things must or should be a certain way
  • Minimizing/Disqualifying the positive: ignoring or dismissing positive things that have happened.

Cognitive distortions respond well to cognitive behavior therapy, and that is why cognitive restructuring is such a big part of cognitive behavior therapy as well.

Cognitive Restructuring and Cognitive Distortions Worksheets

Cognitive restructuring is one of the most important techniques in cognitive behavior therapy, and in this technique the goal is to change the negative thinking patterns of the individual to ensure that they become more positive and may experience some symptom alleviation.

In cognitive behavior therapy the therapist seeks to figure out what the person’s primary issues are and what part of their thinking process is leading to the negative emotions and the behavior problems.

The techniques involved in cognitive restructuring are what lead to a change in cognitive distortions and the beginnings of these happen in Aaron Beck’s Cognitive theory.

In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the patient works with their therapist to identify faulty thought patterns that are leading to the problem or maintaining it, and they are supposed to practice techniques to help reshape negative thought patterns.

Without external cues and aids it can be hard to identify and challenge the inaccuracies in your own thought patterns which is why it is recommended that one work with a therapist when one begins cognitive restructuring.

Cognitive restructuring may also include techniques that seek to deconstruct unhelpful or negative automatic thoughts and rebuild them in a more balanced and accurate way.

This is often done in 2 main ways, the therapist can either help identify and challenge the negative automatic thoughts in the therapy session itself, when they come up in the course of the individual talking about the issues or negative emotions, or it may done in the form of homework assignments and worksheets or thought diaries, which may enable the person to keep a check on the negative automatic thoughts even outside of the therapy session.

The primary benefit of the homework assignments in cognitive behavior therapy is to enable the person to learn to identify and work on their issues as and when they appear in their real life situations.

Some of the best cognitive distortions worksheets are given in the next few sections.

Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: 1

This is a very basic and introductory cognitive distortions worksheets which is meant mostly for individuals who may not have as much psychological mindedness, or perhaps younger children who may not have as much insight into thinking and emotions and so on.

This worksheet about cognitive distortions gives a good play by play of what cognitive distortions are and how they work to make someone feel badly, and how to help remove them.

The worksheet can be found here, and it is beneficial to explain to the person what must do about the thinking patterns and this may often be the first step towards the identification and fixing of these maladaptive beliefs.

This worksheet is not the interactive type of worksheet that is used as part of homework assignments or one in which the individual might be able to fill their thoughts or feelings in, but this works well as part of psycho education or introducing to the individual what they may be experiencing and telling them that the distress they are going through is fixable.

Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: 2

This second cognitive distortions worksheet is another great tool to use as both an introductory aid as well as something that may be used as part of a brief homework assignment, and it is great for children or adolescents, and in some cases it may also be used for those who may not have as much psychological mindedness.

This worksheet can be found here, at Therapist Aid, and it starts by explaining to the person the relationship between Thought, Feelings and Actions, which is very necessary when someone is trying to learn why it is so important to pay attention to one’s thoughts.

To teach the individual about what it means to have negative thoughts, they may be shown this worksheet and given the example of how wanting their favorite piece of cake works.

One may want to tell the patient that when they get the thought that they would like some cake, they feel the emotion of happiness or comfort, which is desirable and they want to sustain it, which prompts the action of getting some cake, which in turn reinforces the feeling of happiness and comfort and the two get linked together, which means that the next time someone wants cake, and the thought occurs, the feelings and actions that follow will be the same.

The person may be told about how automatic and subtle the thought process is though, and most times they may only recognize the feelings of happiness and the action of getting cake, because the thought itself is so random.

The important thing to do with this cognitive distortions worksheet is to teach the person that they need to be able to put down all three aspects into the chart at the end, which means that they need to think carefully about which part is the thought, which is the feeling, and what action these two led to.

Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: 3

This cognitive distortions worksheet is a standard automatic thought record worksheet which may be used with adults who are currently undergoing cognitive behavior therapy, and worksheets of this type are usually used as part of the homework assignments that teach the individual to identify and learn about their cognitive distortions.

The therapist may teach the person to use this cognitive distortions worksheet in the session itself, and they may even have the person engage in an exercise to recognize some negative thought patterns and put it down on paper.

This worksheet contains the column for date, time, Situation, Automatic Thoughts (ATs) Emotion/s, Your Response and A More Adaptive Response, which means that it not only teaches the person to be able to recognize their cognitive distortions, but also to fix them with better, more adaptive behavior.

You may find this cognitive distortions worksheet here.

Challenging Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: 1

This cognitive distortions worksheet is great for challenging cognitive distortions, which is usually the next step once the person has gotten good enough at identifying cognitive distortions.

This challenging cognitive distortions worksheet in particular is very good as a start to how one needs to get around to challenging cognitive distortions, because it is not too complicated and does not take too much time to fill. 

One may find this challenging cognitive distortions worksheet here.

Challenging Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: 2

This second challenging cognitive distortions worksheet is great for slightly more advanced individuals who have perhaps been in therapy long enough and have gotten better at identifying cognitive distortions, but may be having trouble with challenging or changing them adequately.

This worksheet is aso great because it has examples of what the person needs to do or how they may need to fill it, and it allows for the possibility of looking at alternate behaviors with examples in the worksheet itself, so even if the individual has trouble remembering what was said in the session, they can refer to it and know what to do.

The worksheet as well as instructions on how to use it can be found here.

Challenging Cognitive Distortions Worksheets: 3

This last cognitive distortions worksheet is great for the person who has been taught socratic questioning methods by their therapist, so if you are a therapist who wants to use this worksheet, you need to first introduce this technique to the person.

This worksheet is straightforward, and one may find that it is great for someone who has developed some level of insight, and they are able to actively question their assumptions.

You may find the worksheet, as well as some instructions on how to use it, here.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we looked at some of the best Cognitive distortions worksheets, what cognitive distortions are and some identifying and challenging cognitive distortions worksheets.

Cognitive distortions underlie many major psychiatric conditions, and their role in maintaining and worsening mental health conditions.

If you are seeking therapy for cognitive distortions currently or starting out with therapy that aims to reduce cognitive distortions, you may find that you have a need for worksheets that help in structuring your therapy or giving homework assignments under cognitive behavior therapy.

If you have any more questions or comments about Cognitive distortions worksheets please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Cognitive Distortions Worksheets

What are the 10 cognitive distortions?

Below are the 10 Cognitive Distortions Identified in cognitive behavior therapy
Magnification/Minimization
All-or-Nothing Thinking
Overgeneralization.
Mental Filters. 
Jumping to Conclusions.
Discounting the Positive.
Emotional Reasoning. 
Should Statements.
Catastrophization
Feelings as Facts

What causes cognitive distortions?

Cognitive distortions are caused by instances of experiencing negative events that change the way we think and function and cause us to start focusing on that aspect.

There is a degree of learning and feelings involved in the process of formation of cognitive distortions, and usually the maladaptive ways of thinking are accepted because they occur more readily to the individual.

What can you do about cognitive distortions?

Here are some things you can do about cognitive distortions:

When you feel a negative emotion stop focusing on it for a second and isolate the thought that caused it
Write down the thought
Check how much distress the thought causes you
Look for alternatives to the thought that are not as distressing
Try to figure out what kind of cognitive distortion it is.
Try to see if you can accept the alternative reasonable thought in place of the distorted one.
Measure your level of distress again.

What are the 4 steps of cognitive restructuring?

Here are some ways to use cognitive restructuring 
Calm Yourself when you experience negative emotions.
Identify the Situation in which most of the negative emotions happen
Analyze Your Mood and try to separate it from the thoughts. 
Write down your Automatic Thoughts.
Try to find any evidence behind the truth of those thoughts.

Citations

https://positivepsychology.com/cognitive-distortions/

https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/cbt-thinking-errors/cbt/none

https://www.bananatreelog.com/blog/challenging-cognitive-distortions

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.