Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (DCBT) focuses on helping patients change the habitual errors in their thinking. Many of our thoughts are automatic reactions to various types of events. The premise of DCBT is that by identifying these thinking errors, challenging their validity and looking at how they don’t serve you, and changing them to healthier ways of thinking, you will feel better. There are several different types of cognitive errors outlined in Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that include the following:
- “Should” or “ought” statements – This occurs when you have rigid rules for or put unrealistic expectations on yourself or others. For example, “I should be able to….”, or “People should never.….” These types of statements will leave you frustrated, angry, disappointed, or resentful. In DCBT, you might be asked to reframe these statements into what you would “prefer,” recognizing that you cannot control everything.
- Labeling or mislabeling of thinking involves placing labels (or mislabeling) on yourself, others or situations. For example, “He’s an idiot” or “I’m a total loser.” Rather than focusing on the actual behavior, labels focus on identity. They are also absolute and usually negative. In DCBT, you would be asked to focus the behaviors or actions, for example, “What exactly did he do that was idiotic?” Also, remember that behaviors don’t define you or anyone else: “I made a mistake, but that doesn’t make me a loser.”
- Emotional reasoning occurs when you argue your position or make decisions according to your feelings rather than facts. When this type of thinking occurs, it can be very difficult to differentiate between emotions and reality. For example, “I feel stupid, so I must be stupid.” It wouldn’t matter if you had just been accepted to Harvard Law School your emotional reasoning would override the blatant fact that a “stupid” person would never get into Harvard. You would work on trying to come up with things that validate your flawed reasoning or things that contradict it.
- All-or-nothing thinking occurs when you use absolute or black and white terms such as always or never or you are engaging in this type of thinking. The goal is to challenge the absolute statements.For example, a DCBT therapist would ask you to make a list (i.e., provide evidence to the contrary) of all the times you didn’t fail, i.e., all the times you have succeeded. You can begin saying to yourself, “Sometimes I do fail, but many times I succeed.”
- Magnification or minimization of thinking occurs when you blow something completely out of proportion (magnification) or discount (minimize) other things. For example, “All my friends are incredibly smart and attractive, and I’m stupid and ugly.” In DCBT, you would work on challenging those extreme statements and putting them into a more realistic perspective.Catastrophizing is a type of magnification. For example, you get reprimanded at work by your boss for a mistake you made, and from that, you become certain that you are going to lose your job, your career is over, you’re going to end up homeless, etc. You would work on challenging the likeliness of such extreme outcomes.