Leone Centre Glossary

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring in CBT is a therapeutic process which aims to identify and change negative thought patterns. This approach helps individuals develop a more balanced and realistic way of thinking, which can improve mental well-being and quality of life.

Common Challenges

  1. Misinterpretations of events and experiences: People often misinterpret events to reinforce negative beliefs about themselves and the world.
  2. Persistent negative thinking: Constant negative thoughts can lead to a pessimistic outlook, often affecting mood and behaviour.
  3. Unhelpful automatic thoughts: These are spontaneous thoughts that often go unchallenged but can significantly affect emotions and actions.
  4. Difficulty in managing emotions: Negative thinking patterns can make it harder to regulate emotions, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

Detailed Insight

Definition: Cognitive restructuring, also known as cognitive reframing, is a core part of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). It involves challenging and changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes.

Key Features:

  1. Identification of cognitive distortions: Recognising patterns such as overgeneralisation, catastrophising, and black-and-white thinking.
  2. Evaluation of the evidence: Considering the validity of unhelpful thoughts and considering alternative explanations.
  3. Development of constructive thoughts: Replacing unhelpful thoughts with more realistic and balanced perspectives.

Benefits: Cognitive restructuring can reduce stress and improve mood and problem-solving abilities by changing unhelpful thought patterns.

About Cognitive Restructuring in CBT

Cognitive restructuring in CBT is an approach used to help individuals recognise and challenge maladaptive thoughts. This ultimately leads to healthier cognitive patterns and improved emotional responses.

How It Helps

By changing the way one thinks about and interprets life events, cognitive restructuring in CBT can alleviate mental distress, promote resilience, and support overall mental health.

How It Works

The process typically involves:

  1. Identifying unhelpful thoughts: Keeping a thought diary to track negative thought patterns.
  2. Examining the evidence: Questioning the accuracy and validity of these thoughts and seeking evidence that contradicts them.
  3. Replacing with balanced thoughts: Developing more realistic and constructive thoughts to replace the unhelpful ones.

Approaches may include thought records, Socratic questioning, and guided discovery.


What is the main goal of cognitive restructuring in CBT?

The main goal is to change negative and unhelpful thinking patterns to improve emotional well-being.

Is cognitive restructuring in CBT helpful for everyone?

While helpful for many, the success of cognitive restructuring can vary based on individual factors and the specific nature of one’s thoughts.

Can cognitive restructuring in CBT be self-taught?

Some aspects can be learned independently, but working with an experienced therapist often leads to better results.


  1. Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.
  2. Padesky, C. A., & Greenberger, D. (1995). Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think. Guilford Press.
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This glossary provides definitions of various counselling terms and approaches for informational purposes only, without implying endorsement or service provision