Cognitive Distortions

Mar 1, 2020

The main therapeutic approach we use at Evolve Counseling Services is Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT). If you need a quick introduction to this modality, check out our blog from August 2019 titled “Cognitive Behavior Therapy.” In CBT, clients examine their problematic thoughts and work to restructure them to decrease the frequency and intensity of negative emotions. Cognitive distortions are patterns of thinking that are inaccurate, harsh, or negative. It’s important clients recognize these distortions in their thinking and work to dispute them. A brief list of common cognitive distortions is outlined below. Do you recognize any of these patterns in your thinking?

Common Cognitive Distortions

Selective Abstraction

You ignore the total context of situation by only focusing on the negatives and discounting the positives. 

All or Nothing Thinking (Black or White Thinking)

You see things as absolutes; there are no in-betweens.

Mind Reading

You assume others are thinking the same thing you are (that they share the same critical thought you’re having), or you assume you know what others are thinking (that they hold a negative evaluation of you).

Double Standard

You hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else.


You expect the worst case scenario to play out consistently.


You make a global assessment of yourself and label yourself negatively.

Magical Thinking

You think everything will be better when ___________ (you’re thinner, smarter, richer, when you get a new job, and so on).

Should Statements

You judge yourself and criticize yourself for what you should be doing (usually an unrealistic expectation)

If you recognize these patterns of thinking in your thought process and want to work on them in counseling, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.