Cognitive Restructuring Worksheet

Cognitive restructuring, also known as reframing, is a cognitive behavioral therapy technique used to challenge and change irrational thoughts. We often hold irrational thoughts that perpetuate negative core beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world that have little basis in reality and can be debilitating.  

Read on to learn about cognitive restructuring, and how you can begin to challenge irrational thoughts to move towards a better understanding of yourself and the world around you.

What are irrational beliefs?

Before you can challenge a thought or belief, you'll need to be able to identify different types of irrational thinking. Below are examples of irrational thinking:

Understanding the various types of irrational thinking can help you begin to restructure your thoughts in order to better perceive, react to, and cope with life’s stressors.

Using Socratic Questioning to Restructure Irrational Thinking

Socratic questioning can be used as a component of CBT to bring your awareness to irrational thoughts. Once you gain an awareness of your thinking and how it may hinder you, you can begin to more quickly and successfully restructure the way you think.

In this cognitive restructuring exercise, you will start by identifying an irrational thought. You’ll then go through a list of 10 questions to help you examine the thought.

Identify an irrational thought

In this example, we’ll examine the irrational thought: I will never get promoted at my company. Other examples could include, "I'll always be alone" or "I'll never find a job a I like."

Question 1: What is the evidence for/against this thought?

Consider what evidence you have that gives credence to the thought, vs evidence that is contrary to the thought.

Question 2: Am I basing this thought on fact or feeling?

Does the thought you’re examining come from a place of fact, based on evidence, or a place of feeling? Does it come from both? Consider whether you are using emotional reasoning.

Question 3: Is this thought black and white, or more complicated?

Consider the nuances of the thought, and whether you may be overgeneralizing, using all or nothing thinking, or fixating on one aspect of the situation.

Question 4: Could I be misinterpreting the evidence or making assumptions?

Consider whether you might be discounting the positive.

Question 5: How would other people interpret the situation?

Imagine how a friend or trusted family member would talk to you about this thought or concern.

Question 6: Am I looking at all the evidence or just what supports my thoughts?

Consider whether or not you may be using a mental filter when examining the situation.

Question 7: Could my thought be an exaggeration of what’s true?

Consider whether you may be magnifying the situation.

Question 8: Am I having this thought out of habit or do the facts support?

Consider whether you are jumping to conclusions, or if your thought is based on solid evidence.

Question 9: Did someone pass this thought or belief to me, and are they a reliable source?

Consider how you came to this thought and subsequent conclusion.

Question 10: Is my thought a likely scenario, or worst case scenario?

Consider whether you are using all or nothing thinking. Does not getting promoted mean failure across the board?

This exercise likely won’t immediately restructure your thinking; however the goal is to become aware of irrational thought patterns and utilize this line of questioning to challenge them.

Consider seeking support from a therapist

CBT techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, can be utilized on our own; however, it’s possible to become so consumed with our thoughts that they trip us up and affect the ways we perceive ourselves and others. A therapist who specializes in the following types of therapy can help you to restructure your irrational thinking: