Wellness Tidbits: Thought-Stopping using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Hello to all! I am honoured to share a series of mental wellness tidbits, introducing various research-based techniques that you can practice right at home.

Have you ever found yourself ruminating on negative thoughts, constantly worrying, or mentally creating false scenarios as if on autopilot in your mind? Has it ever felt like negative thoughts enter your mind as if on a never-ending cycle, perpetuating your stress, especially over things that we have seemingly no control over? This is often referred to as intrusive thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) encourages the development and practice of new coping skills, aimed to help manage one’s thoughts and behaviours.

A technique called thought-stopping aims to increase an individual’s ability to block a response sequence in the brain, touching on the importance of thoughts and promoting a change of patterns.

The Steps of the Thought-Stopping Technique:

  1. What are your target words or phrases? Determine the negative, repetitive words or phrases that trouble you. Write these down.
  2. What are the sensations you notice during this negative self-talk? On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do these words or phrases trigger emotional responses? (10 being the worst feeling)
  3. Develop a “stop technique”, that you will implement when you find yourself using this negative self-talk. It is important to find a realistic trigger that works for you, yet effective enough to significantly encourage awareness and change. A classic example is a rubber band worn on the wrist, while simultaneously yelling “stop!”, where the band would be pulled and flicked to the wrist as a physical trigger.
  4. Practice repeating the chosen words or phrases, while implement this stop-technique after each time the word or phrase is repeated.
  5. Taking this a step further, develop a “go-to affirmation” that you can replace these negative thoughts with. For example, “I am safe, I deserve to feel safe”.
  6. After several times implementing all the steps, how does your scale look now? Is it lower than your original measurement?

The purpose of this activity is to simply observe and become aware of one’s negative thoughts, while creating a new habit to simultaneously stop these thoughts and replace them with intentional and positive affirmations!

When our negative thought cycle is interrupted, we have the potential to change, while implementing self-talk that supports our wellness journey. Our thoughts can play tricks on us, and they’re not always factual!

References:
Erford, B. T. (2020). 45 techniques every Counsellor should know (3rd ed.). Pearson Merrill.
Schroeder, W. (Ed.) (2021). Counselling activities workbook: Handouts and exercises for working with people. AchievePublishing.