Much of the work in cognitive therapy involves helping the client identify his automatic thoughts, which unchecked, weave a trap that blinds the client to possibilities. Without getting them on the table for examination we won’t know how he arrived at his conclusions. For many clients, this work is fairly simple. We ask them: ‘What thoughts went through your mind when such and such occurred?’ We then go farther: ‘how do you know that this conclusion is correct?’, ‘what percentage from 0-100 is it correct (by asking we are already forcing the client to begin to think in dialectic terms)?’, ‘is your conclusion contaminated by thought distortions?’ (I use a handy list of these distortions to help them), or ‘what conclusions would you like to arrive at?’
Obviously, these questions alone won’t solve the problem. Given our nature to invoke logic and thought as justification for our misery however we must often start with neutralizing the client’s certainty.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how to help less communicative clients identify their automatic thoughts.