Ask a Therapist: On Common Cognitive Distortions

Q: How do I know if I have a healthy thought life? I feel like I get stuck in my thinking patterns and don’t always know how to get out of my own head – can you help?

A: Psychotherapeutic work often begins with creating awareness around challenging patterns in a client’s thinking and finding new ways to process thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, recent scientific research identifies the hope that is embedded in the neuroplasticity of our brains: the physical pathways and connections in our brains can and will change as we train ourselves to think in healthier ways.

Our way of thinking actually has the power to heal and transform our brains. This amazing mind-brain connection lets us know that we don’t have to be stuck in “stinking thinking”! There are so many ways that we can move to a better state of mind by consciously evaluating and directing our thought patterns.

Cognitive distortions are irrational and often intrusive thoughts that can impact your emotional and physical wellbeing. They also play a role in motivating your day-to-day behaviours and interaction in relationships. They regularly come in the form of negative automatic thoughts that are not necessarily consciously constructed or sought out but, without analysis, they tend to lead us down paths that don’t serve us well.

Everyone experiences mental distress from time-to-time but certain distortion patterns may be more prevalent based on personality type and lived experiences in one’s family of origin. You may find that you tend to see evidence of one or two types of problematic thinking more than others and that is an indication of where you might feel most stuck. Therapists can be tremendously helpful in supporting clients to identify and uproot core beliefs that are not producing healthy thinking.

The truth is, we don’t have to believe everything we think! With some psycho-education to help identify the distortions, and some help to find productive and supportive alternative pathways, you can think yourself into a new and healthier state of mind. And your whole self will thank you for it!

Stay tuned for a series of posts in which we will explore one type of cognitive distortion at a time and provide concrete strategies for moving away from this unhelpful thinking pattern towards better mental health.

A New Leaf: Resources for Growth – our psychotherapy practice and wellness shop – located at 21 B Queen Street West in Elmvale is open at this time for virtual psychotherapy and virtual retail therapy with curb side pick up only. Email Tanya at to book an appointment or to inquire about our products and services. Follow us on Instagram @sarahjoycovey for the latest updates!

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