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Cognitive Psychology

Identify Cognitive Distortions

Core Beliefs


Cognitive psychology subscribes to the theory that issues arise as a result of faulty thinking and a warped, negative perception of oneself.  In order to grow or move forward, we must  change the distorted cognitive processes.


Cognitive therapy makes the assumption that thoughts precede moods and that false self-beliefs lead to negative emotions. Cognitive therapy aims to help the client recognize and reassess his or her patterns of negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts that more closely reflect reality.


Inseparable to the human condition are the stressors of life.  Our reactions are typically toward the avoidance of pain.  Unfortunately our reactions are often carried out in spite of the long standing ramifications.  As you become more emotionally distressed, your thoughts often become more distorted and lead to self-defeating patterns of behavior. You may find yourself continually dealing with the same issues.  We repeat what we know.  Counseling will help identify these distorted thought patterns and helps you break free from these patterns that no longer work for you.     Counseling can help you move beyond a state of helplessness by assisting you to explore new options, to make new commitments and to take responsibility for yourself and your situation.

Cognitive therapy recognizes 10 common patterns of faulty thinking, which are known as cognitive distortions.


All-or-Nothing Thinking: Failing to recognize that there may be some middle ground. Characterized by absolute terms like always, never, and forever.

Overgeneralization: Taking an isolated case and assuming that all others are the same.

Mental Filter: Mentally singling out the bad events in one's life and overlooking the positive.

Disqualifying the Positive: Treating positive events like they don't really count.

Jumping to Conclusions: Assuming the worst about a situation even though there is no evidence to back their conclusion.

Magnification and Minimization: Downplaying positive events while paying an inordinate amount of attention to negative ones.

Emotional Reasoning: Allowing your emotions to govern what you think about a situation rather than objectively looking at the facts.

Should Statements: Rigidly focusing on how you think things should be rather than finding strategies for dealing with how things are.

Labeling and Mislabeling: Applying false and harsh labels to oneself and others.

Personalization: Blaming yourself for things that are out of your control.




Remember the 10 cognitive distortions?

How to identify our cognitive distortions in our day-to-day life?

Leslie Capehart, Ph.D

Identifying distorted thinking.  Our core beliefs shape or filter how we interpret any particular event and subsequently the emotions that follow.  We repeat patterns that keep us stuck because we continue to interpret events in ways that reinforce our core and often faulty beliefs.


This thought process generally occurs in a split moment.  Most of us don’t take the time to break down every action, thought and feeling.  But in order to identify or change distorted thoughts, it is necessary to separate the event from our interpretation (our belief about the event), which leads to the emotion (how we feel about what happened).


Here is how it works… Event --> Belief --> Feeling A. The Event or Action – Something happens (action), this is the factual account of what happened – minus interpretation. (If you were a fly on the wall – what would you see?) Example: She was an hour late for our dinner. B. Beliefs/Interpretation – the beliefs we have about a particular situation or the interpretations we give to the event. Often times these thoughts become automatic but are generally tainted or filtered by our core beliefs. This is where we find our Cognitive Distortions Examples… • All-or-Nothing Thinking: People always take me for granted. • Over-generalization: People are so rude. They have no integrity. I can never count on anyone. • Mental Filter – I do every thing for everyone else, and nobody puts me first. • Disqualifying the Positive - She only agreed and showed up for dinner because she felt obligated. • Jumping to Conclusions – I knew I couldn’t trust her. • Magnification and Minimization - Yes… I don't care if she is nice and she gave me her left kidney. Whatever! She was late and shouldn't have left me waiting! • Emotional Reasoning – I don’t care if there was an accident; I had to sit alone for an hour. • Should Statements - She should have been considerate and left earlier like I did. • Labeling and Mislabeling - She is so rude and selfish, she only thinks of herself. • Personalization - If she had cared more about me, she would have been on time. She knows how I hate waiting.

C.  Emotions or Consequence – the feelings we have in response to our interpretation.


       Examples:  Sadness or Hurt, Defeat, Anger, Resignation

Is it time to re-examine your core beliefs and the way they shape your responses and create your experiences?


Are you stuck? Do you have beliefs centered around feeling defective or being unlovable... Let me help you identify some blind spots that may be at the core of the issue.







Cognitive distortions or faulty beliefs often center around some core issues developed early in life… These beliefs filter the way we experience and interpret the world.


Beliefs centering around feelings of defectiveness generally reflect an inner belief that one is inherently flawed, incompetent, or inferior.  These beliefs cause people to withdraw from close relationships in fear that others may discover that they are inherently bad… I’m not good enough, I’m insignificant, I’m unattractive, I’m a failure…


Beliefs about being unlovable often make us question whether we are truly worthy of love.  These individuals may withdraw from relationships or maintain superficial friendships in order to avoid the pain of being rejected by a significant other.  This ultimately leads to feelings of loneliness…. (I’m not lovable, I’m always left out, I don’t matter, I’m uninteresting, I’ll eventually be rejected.)


Core Beliefs based on fears of abandonment usually manifest in a person’s assumption that they will lose anyone with whom they form an emotional attachment. These individuals often seek reassurance and avoid confrontations or offering a differing opinion out of fear that others’ will abandon them for offering a contradictory viewpoint.   (People I love will leave me, I’m unimportant, If I assert myself, people will leave me, I’m only valued for what I do for people, I’m destined to be rejected and alone.)


Core beliefs based on feelings of helplessness manifest in people’s fear that they lack control and can’t handle anything independently.  They face difficulties making changes and their sense of powerlessness can cause them to try to over-control the people and world around them.  (I’m helpless, I’m must have control to be okay, I’m weak or vulnerable, I’m needy, Others will manipulate or control me, I don’t measure up to others.)


Core beliefs based on feelings of entitlement often reflect a belief related to a feeling of specialness that causes individuals to make demands or engage in behaviors regardless of the effect on others. The beliefs can manifest in unreasonable demands that others meet your needs, rule-breaking, and resentment.  (I have to be respected, I deserve attention and praise, I’m superior, If I don’t excel, I’m inferior and worthless, I can’t end up ordinary, People don’t have the right to criticize me…)


Core beliefs based on feelings of care taking, responsibility and self-sacrifice believe that they must forfeit their own needs in the service of others.  These individuals often feel guilty, and compensate by putting the needs of others ahead of their own. These individuals often feel responsible for the happiness of others and apologize excessively.   These individuals may take pride in their dependability and being needed by others...(I have to do everything perfectly, I’ve done something wrong, It’s not okay to ask for help, It’s not okay to have needs, I have to be responsible or no one will be, people will betray me, why I see that others need help, I have to help them, I’m not a worthwhile person, I have to make people happy, It’s my fault.)