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Negative thinking is a common trait where we tend to look for problems and repeat patterns. However, it does the opposite of helping, causing us to feel down and less happy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has grown to be one of the most widely utilized therapeutic modalities. CBT treats various mental disorders, and one of its key components is the cognitive triangle, which demonstrates the interrelated nature of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

What Is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Triangle?

The CBT triangle, or cognitive behavioral therapy triangle, is used by therapists and other professionals to explain the idea of altering negative thinking patterns. The triangle’s points illustrate the interconnectedness of ideas, feelings, and behaviors. You may improve the other two by improving one of these three areas.

CBT Triangle Explained

The CBT triangle can best be explained as the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It illustrates how our ideas can alter our feelings, which can then alter our actions, which can alter our thoughts, and so on. Without help, this pattern cannot be changed.

The cognitive behavioral triangle is one of the most well-liked and successful techniques used by cognitive behavioral therapists to treat mental health illnesses. Patients who suffer from depressionanxiety, or other common stresses might benefit from it.

The purpose of the cognitive triangle is to explain how feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are related. Understanding the connections between these three aids in altering some of our actions and attitudes.

What Are the 3 Parts of the Cognitive Triangle?

The three parts of the cognitive triangle are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Thoughts: Every day, people experience transitory thoughts that come and go, some of which are more persistent than others. Self-critical thoughts tend to be common, and without knowledge of how frequently they come up, it is hard to stop them. The significance of these thoughts on your emotions is highlighted in therapy.

Feelings: In contrast to thoughts, feelings may be encapsulated in a single word. For example, you could think, “I need to safeguard my child from all the threats out there.” This notion is accompanied by a single, straightforward emotion: fear. In therapy, emotions may sometimes be quickly identified and can have an impact on your behavior.

Behaviors: Thoughts and sentiments have an impact on actions. In the example above, becoming an overly watchful parent and keeping tabs on your child’s every step would be a related behavior.

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As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided. Real-Life Triangle Cognitive Therapy Example

Changing thought patterns is perhaps the most frequently used technique, so let’s start there. Let’s take a look at an example.

Mark was an avid runner and had been training for months for a marathon. On the day of the race, he was confident and excited. However, during the race, he started experiencing pain in his knee, which slowed him down significantly. He tried to push through the pain but eventually had to stop running altogether.

Mark felt disappointed and frustrated that he couldn’t finish the race. He started thinking that he wasn’t a good runner, that he had wasted all his time training, and that he would never be able to achieve his goal of completing a marathon. These negative thoughts led to feelings of discouragement and self-doubt.

As a result of his negative thoughts and emotions, Mark’s behavior changed. He stopped running altogether, even though he had previously loved it. He started avoiding running events and stopped setting running goals.

This situation fits perfectly into the CBT triangle. Mark’s negative thought, “I am not a good runner and will never achieve my goal,” led to negative emotions, such as disappointment and frustration. These negative emotions, in turn, led to a change in behavior, as Mark stopped running and avoided running events.

Mark has made a decision that he doesn’t know to be correct and hasn’t given any other options much thought. He will have to think about fresh perspectives on his predicament in order to question the old way of thinking. The following information regarding the current situation might contradict his conclusion:

Set realistic goals: Mark set new, more achievable goals for himself.

Celebrated small wins: Mark celebrated incremental progress during his training.

Engaged in positive self-talk: Mark used positive affirmations during his runs.

Joined a running group: Mark joined a local running group for support.

Tracked his progress: Mark used a running app to monitor his progress and stay motivated.

Mark gave thought to all of these things collectively. Mark then chooses to give a new idea some attention after giving it some thought and chatting to a buddy about it.

New Thought: With consistent effort, I can improve my running and achieve my goals.

New Feeling: Optimistic and motivated

New Behavior: Mark starts incorporating interval training into his runs, and sets a new goal of running a mini-marathon in a few months. He also talks to his running buddy about his new plan, and together they come up with a training schedule and commit to running together twice a week.

It’s important to remember that using triangle cognitive therapy isn’t a one-time process. It takes consistent effort and practice to retrain our brains to think more positively. However, the good news is that with time, Mark’s brain won’t automatically go to negative thoughts about his running. He’ll become a more naturally positive thinker, which can have a positive impact on other areas of his life as well.

Even if running a marathon isn’t in Mark’s future, he can use the skills he learned to find other things he enjoys and make him happy. Or, he could surprise himself and actually end up the winner of the race! Regardless of the outcome, Mark now has the tools to approach challenges with a more positive mindset, and that’s a valuable skill for any aspect of life.

Download our free CBT workbook pdf.

More CBT Triangle Examples

Example 1: John

John recently lost his job and is feeling discouraged about his prospects. He notices that he is having the following negative thoughts:
Thought: I’m never going to find another job.
Feeling: Hopeless and defeated
Behavior: Avoiding job applications and opportunities

After discussing his feelings with a friend and practicing positive self-talk, John starts to think more positively:

Thought: With some hard work and persistence, I can find a job that I enjoy.
Feeling: Motivated and determined
Behavior: Creates a daily routine for job searching and networking.

Example 2: Sarah

Sarah is preparing for a presentation at work and is feeling anxious. She is having the following negative thoughts:
Thought: I’m going to mess up and embarrass myself.
Feeling: Nervous and self-conscious
Behavior: Procrastinating in preparing for the presentation.

After practicing relaxation techniques and challenging her negative thoughts, Sarah starts to think more positively:

Thought: I’ve prepared well and know my material. I can do this.
Feeling: Confident and calm
Behavior: Practices the presentation and delivers it successfully.

Example 3: Alex

Alex is feeling stressed and overwhelmed with his schoolwork. He is having the following negative thoughts:
Thought: I’m not smart enough to pass this exam.
Feeling: Anxious and defeated
Behavior: Avoiding studying and procrastinating.

After reaching out to a tutor and practicing positive self-talk, Alex starts to think more positively:

Thought: With some extra help and consistent effort, I can improve my understanding of the material and pass the exam.
Feeling: Hopeful and motivated
Behavior: Schedules regular tutoring sessions and sets a study schedule to stay on track.

Download Our Free CBT Triangle Worksheet PDF

If you’re interested in applying the CBT triangle to your own life, consider downloading our free CBT Triangle Worksheet PDF. This worksheet can guide you through the process of identifying negative thoughts and feelings, challenging those thoughts, and developing more positive behaviors. By using this tool, you can start to retrain your brain to think more positively and develop skills for overcoming challenges.

Download Now Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the CBT triangle is a powerful tool for understanding the connection between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. By identifying negative thoughts and feelings and challenging them with positive self-talk and actions, we can retrain our brains to think more positively and overcome challenges.

Through real-life CBT triangle examples, we can see how this therapy approach can be applied to a wide range of situations, from job loss to presentation anxiety to academic stress. By using the CBT triangle, we can gain greater insight into our own thought patterns and develop the skills needed to create a more positive and fulfilling life.

Whether you refer to it as the cognitive behavioral therapy triangle, cognitive triangle cbt, thoughts emotions behaviors triangle, or any other variation, the CBT triangle remains a valuable tool for anyone seeking to improve their mental health and well-being. So why not download our free CBT Triangle Worksheet PDF and start your own journey toward greater happiness and positivity today?

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