Things inevitably go wrong in life. Whether or not we get upset by them and the degree of distress we feel depends largely on the way we think about them. This is good news because while we may not be able to change other people or our life circumstances, we can change the way we think.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is based on the principle that the way we think determines the way we feel. CBT is now the most popular method of treatment for psychological problems and is effective for anxiety, depression, panic attacks, phobias and many other mental health disorders.

William Shakespeare was well versed in CBT. As Hamlet famously said, ‘There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

CBT involves identifying your self-defeating thinking habits, challenging them logically and replacing them with more helpful and realistic thinking. For example, imagine you have made a mistake at work. Using the ABCD model:

A.    Antecedent (trigger or event). Work error.

B.    Beliefs (automatic thoughts). ‘I should always do a perfect job. I should be competent in everything I do.’

C.    Consequences (resulting feelings and behaviours): anxiety, self-doubt, fear of losing job. These result from your beliefs not from the mistake itself.

D.    Dispute. Challenge your unhelpful thoughts: ‘I usually do a good job but I am not good at everything. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. The boss was very happy with my report last week. I will learn from this and perform better next time.’  As a result, you feel more relaxed and more confident.


If you feel distressed, see your GP first for an assessment. Your GP may be trained to offer CBT or may refer you to a psychologist for subsidised care under a GP Mental Health Care Plan.

Self-help manuals, such as Change your Thinking by Dr Sara Edelman are also available.

www.moodgym.anu.edu.au, www.ecouch.anu.edu.au

Disclaimer:

  • Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
  • For up to date information, speak to your doctor.

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