Thought record

Use the thought record worksheet to help you take a step back and re-evaluate thoughts that make you feel miserable.

One of the fundamental principles of CBT is that how we think affects how we feel and vice versa. When we feel depressed or anxious it is easy for our thinking to be biased towards negative conclusions despite evidence to the contrary. A thought record is a tool to help you pause and take a step back in order to re-evaluate the automatic conclusions you come to that can make you feel hopeless, helpless, trapped, and defeated.

Choose a recent situation that made you upset or contributed to making you feel bad about yourself or your life. Fill in the thought record using that specific situation following the steps outlined below.

1) Situation: record anything relevant about the situation you were in that acted as a trigger for you to feel bad (or worse). Describe the situation as factually and neutrally as you can e.g. "1030am, Saturday morning, seeing my friend cross the road and not stop to talk to me."

2) Emotion: write down what emotions you felt at that moment. It's easy to get thoughts and feelings mixed up so remember, feelings are usually most easily described in a single word e.g. sad, nervous, angry, frustrated, ashamed, jealous, glad, surprised, disappointed, miserable etc.

3) Thoughts: try to remember the thoughts and images that went through your mind at the time. Try to stick to what that event seemed to mean to you at that moment e.g. "she doesn't want to talk to me, she doesn't think I have anything to say, she must think I'm boring." If you notice that you have more than one thought about the situation, try to work out which thought is most upsetting: we call this thought the "hot thought".

5) Evidence for: concentrating only on the hot thought, make a list of all the hard facts (not opinions) that make the hot thought seem likely to be true.

6) Evidence against: make a list of all the hard facts that you might have been overlooking that contradict the hot thought. For example, ask yourself:

7) Fair and realistic alternative: weigh up the evidence for and against the hot thought impartially, just as a jury has to weigh up the evidence form the prosecution and defence. Write down a fair and realistic conclusion about the situation that takes account of all the evidence.

8) Revisit your feelings: having weighed up the evidence and come to a fair and realistic conclusion that takes account of all the evidence, how do you feel now, compared to how you felt at the time or later when you thought about the situation?

9) Learning: reflect on the process of re-evaluating your thoughts: what have you learned about how your mood can influence the way you think?

Show instructions
Situation/trigger: describe the situation: where was I, who was I with, what day/time was it, what would an independent observer notice happened?
Emotions/feelings: what did I feel at the time; what emotions do I feel as I remember the situation?
Thoughts/images: what was going through my mind then; what do I believe about it now?
Hot thought: which thought carries the most emotional charge?
Evidence for: what makes me think that the hot thought is true; what evidence do I have?
Evidence against: what evidence is there that the hot thought might not be true or isn't the whole story?
Fair and realistic alternative: weighing up all the evidence, what is most likely to be true?
Feelings now: when I think of the situation in this way, how does that make me feel?
Reflections: what have I learned about the link between my mood and my thoughts?

You can email the details of the form to yourself (or your CBT therapist, if appropriate), print it out, or download it as a pdf. If you want to save your entries so that you can work on them later, you can click "Save". You can delete your settings by clicking on "Cancel" when the page is reloaded and they will be deleted automatically. You can also click the "Clear" button at any time to reset the form and delete your saved data. Saving the data uses local storage, which means your data is never passed to us. Some browsers do not allow local storage. If you have a problem saving, check whether a different browser, or a different device, might work better. Your confidentiality is very important to us so your saved data will never be sent to us or shared. If you use a shared device, or think that another person might get access to it, please consider the risk of accidentally breaching your own privacy before choosing to save, email or download your use of these resources.