Leone Centre Glossary

Automatic thoughts

Automatic thoughts

Automatic thoughts are immediate, involuntary thoughts that occur in response to specific stimuli or situations. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), understanding these thoughts is vital for addressing various mental health challenges.

Inner Dialogue

Automatic thoughts can significantly influence our emotions and behaviours. If they are negative, they often contribute to mental health challenges. Identifying these thoughts helps in managing their impact.

Role in CBT

Recognising and understanding automatic thoughts is pivotal in CBT. It helps clients identify patterns that contribute to their emotional distress, encouraging healthier, more balanced thinking.


Examples of automatic thoughts include: “I’m not good enough,” “They must think I’m foolish,” and “I’ll never succeed.”


What are automatic thoughts in CBT?
Automatic thoughts are involuntary, immediate thoughts that occur in response to stimuli, playing a key role in CBT.
Why are automatic thoughts important in CBT?
They are important because they influence emotions and behaviours, and recognising them is key to managing mental health issues.
Can automatic thoughts be changed?
Yes, through CBT, individuals can learn to challenge and change their automatic thoughts, leading to healthier thinking patterns.


  1. Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.
  2. Clark, D. A., & Beck, A. T. (2010). Cognitive Therapy of Anxiety Disorders: Science and Practice. Guilford Press.
  3. Wright, J. H., Basco, M. R., & Thase, M. E. (2006). Learning Cognitive-Behavior Therapy: An Illustrated Guide. American Psychiatric Publishing.
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This glossary provides definitions of various counselling terms and approaches for informational purposes only, without implying endorsement or service provision