A Thought Record is a tool that can be used to find out which thoughts (both unconscious and automatic) cause a certain event to evoke certain feelings in you. These feelings lead to certain behaviours and, in turn, these behaviours have consequences. In a Thought Record you can write down an event, your thoughts, feelings and their consequences.

Explanation Thought Record

Have you recently experienced an unpleasant event or situation? It can help to write down your experience and how you can deal with it better the next time. You can do this based on these five questions:

  1. Event: Be as specific and objective as possible, you want it to be a description of the facts.
  2. Thoughts: The dialogue in your head (ideas, fantasies, prejudices, values)
  3. Feelings: How did I feel? Can also be physical (scared, angry, sad, happy, ashamed)
  4. Behaviour: What did I do? What did I not do? What did others do or didn’t do?
  5. Consequences: What consequence did this behaviour have?

An example:

 Event Describe the moment in which you had the unpleasant feeling. (Tip: keep it short!)

I was walking alone when I saw someone I knew on her bike. I waved at her, but she just cycled past me.

Feelings How did you feel and how strong was this feeling?

Sad, ashamed, and insecure.

Thoughts Describe the immediate thought(s) that preceded this feeling.

She’s angry at me. She doesn’t like me anymore. I am worthless.

Behaviour What did you do? How did you react?

I looked down and walked home quickly.

Consequences What consequence did this have?

I cried and didn’t dare to speak to her again, because my insecurities had been confirmed.

Tip: thoughts are not always easy to be aware of as they often occur automatically. In addition, they are often difficult to distinguish from feelings. Therefore, try to pay extra attention to this. A tip for learning how to make this distinction is to realize that thoughts are experienced inside your head, while feelings are sensations. For example, during a robbery I thought I would not survive, and I felt very anxious about this. This was evident from my body language; I was stiff and sweating a lot. In this case, the thought is “I don’t think I’m going to survive”. The feeling is “I feel anxious”.

Source: Keijsers, G. P. J., Van Minnen, A., Verbraak, M., Hoogduin, C. A. L. & Emmelkamp, P., (2017). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten.

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