What is cognitive restructuring?

reestructuración cognitiva

The cognitive restructuring is a cognitive technician-conductual that consists in that the patient/customer, with a first help of the psychologist therapist, try to identify and question his own thoughts desadaptativos to be able to like this substitute them by others more appropriate reducing like this the emotional unrest and his consequences conductuales inappropriate.

Cognitive restructuring: Identifying cognitions and beliefs. 

In a lot of cases the customer is not conscious that it needs to explore his own cognitions by what has to be trained for this, by what has to him  instruct and learn to that:

  • A lot of thoughts are automatic and involuntary.
  • Ensure that they have identified  the important thoughts that produce the unrest.
  • It do not confuse thought with emotion (feel nervous is an emotion, whereas the thought would be what generated the nervousness).
  • Reproduce of correct form the concrete thought and specify it. It does not serve only with relating it of generic form.
  • Write the thoughts of separate way ones of others.
  • Be connoisseur that exist thoughts that can not  verbalizar but they produce  in shape of images.

The thoughts of the customer are the hypotheses from which works  to collect the retrospective data and prospectivos necessary that will determine if these hypotheses are the correct or the causes of the unrest generated. During this process of contrastación of hypothesis-thought, the therapist does not formulate him directly the adaptative new thoughts to the customer of direct form, but they make  a series of questions and designs tasks conductuales to way of experiments so that it was the own customer the one who evaluate these negative thoughts and arrive to the conclusion on the utility of the same.

>> Article related: The phenomenon of the polar bear and the obsessive thoughts.

Therefore, the negative cognitions of the customer are questioned of two forms verbalmente and behavior.

Verbal Questioning.

In the cuestionamiento verbal analyses  of logical way the information contributed of the previous experiences so much own as of third. Strategies:

  • Didactic debate. The therapist provides information to the customer. Already it can be unknown information by the same (psicoeducación) or provide information that can correct these irrational ideas. Of this way, opens  a process of debate between therapist and customer in which  reargumentan thoughts and behaviours having libertar the customer to argue and issue own opinions on the same.
  • Dialogue socrático. In this case the therapist questions the thoughts of the customer doing him questions that do him reconsider them. It trains  to the own customer to do  to him same these questions so that it can make critical evaluations of his own thoughts. The therapist asks more than answer so that the words that question the erroneous beliefs go out of the own customer. This method could follow these steps:
    1. Examine the data contributed.
    2. Examine the utility of the negative thought.
    3. Suppose that the thought is true.
      1. Identify what would happen if  sucedieran the new cognition.
      2. Look for what could do  to face the new situation.
    4. Extract conclusions.

Behavior Questioning.

In this case, they propose  to the customer experience the situations that unchain the negative thoughts to question them of empirical way, for example  exposing it to a real situation. The best changes and more durable achieve  using this method so much to cognitive level, affective like conductual. This cuestionamiento conductual has to make in parallel to the verbal so that  retroalimente the one of the another.

In the cuestionamiento conductual generate  specific predictions from the negative thoughts of the customer to design the experiences and show like this if these predictions fulfil  or not to putting them to proof. This will guide to the customer to the autodescubrimiento of the irrationality of his own negative thoughts.

We can differentiate two basic types of experiments that question thoughts:

  • Active experiments: the customer leaves to do or does of deliberate way  a situation and observes what sucede.
  • Experiments of observation. In this case the customer is not the actor of the event but only it observes it and recolecta information. Useful when the active experiment is more threatening for the customer or requires  recopilar previous information before making it of active form. This can make  of three forms: direct observation of other cases, surveys, information of other sources.

The cognitive restructuring combined with other technicians has showed  very effective inside the cognitive therapies-conductuales. This yes, his realisation is complex and requires of a good knowledge of the disorder or event to treat and of a big speed and creativity to keep a fluent interaction between the customer and the therapist.



Bados, To., Garcia-Grau And. (2010). The Technician of the Cognitive Restructuring. Falcutat Of Psicologia, University of Barcelona.

Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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