Emotion Logs – A Staple of Cognitive Therapy


Emotion logs are frequently used in cognitive behavioral therapy, to help people identify and challenge distorted thinking patterns.  They often come in chart form or in the form of questions, as I included below.

If you fill out an emotion log daily, it helps you to be mindful of your reactions to various situations.  It helps you to examine your automatic thinking, and to look for any distortions, exaggerations or irrational thinking habits.  It also helps you to practice disputing distorted thoughts, so as to decrease any unnecessary or exaggerated negative emotions.

We Feel the Way We Think

It is not usually the event itself that causes you to feel certain emotions, but rather your thoughts about the event.  In other words, emotions depend on how you interpret a situation, and what the event or situation means to you.

My Favorite Version

There are many versions of emotion logs, some very simple, and some very complex.  I like this one because it is self-explanatory and because it offers an opportunity for disputing the irrational thoughts.

1. TRIGGER:  What was the trigger or activating event?

2. AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS:  List the first few thoughts that popped into your mind in response to this trigger.  Underline any irrational, distorted or exaggerated thoughts.

3. EMOTIONS:  What emotions did you feel?  Underline any emotions you felt in response to your irrational or distorted thoughts.

4.  DISPUTING:  Dispute one of your irrational or distorted thoughts using the following steps:

a) Select one irrational or distorted thought to dispute:

b) Is there any rational support or evidence for this thought?

c) What are some reasons or evidence against this thought?

d) What is the worst thing that could happen to you?

e) What good things might occur?

5. ALTERNATIVE THOUGHTS:  List some thoughts you could use to replace your automatic distorted thoughts.

6. ALTERNATIVE EMOTIONS:  What emotions would you feel in response to these alternative thoughts?

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Mental Health

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