Exploring Online Therapy and Positive Cognitive Behavioral Tools

Updated August 13, 2021

Online Therapy, How Therapy Works Online, Online Therapy Options

Online Counseling and Therapy 

CBT is a psychological treatment for mental health disorders. Research has shown that it is effective for helping those who are living with mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Data also shows that Cognitive Behavioral online therapy can significantly improve the quality of life. This article will cover the benefits of online therapy.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, licensed mental health professionals and clients work together to treat mental health concerns. Online therapy is an accessible, convenient, positive option for connecting with a therapist who is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Together, a client and a therapist work on an effective, personalized online therapy treatment plan.

There are also some helpful tools based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques that people can try using at home and in everyday life to help improve the way they feel. 

Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - An Online Therapy Option?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the principles that:

  1. You can move forward positively by developing healthy coping skills, healthy behaviors, and healthy thinking. 
  2. Some symptoms of mental health disorders can be related to faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
  3. Some symptoms of mental health disorders can be related to learned patterns of unhelpful behaviors. 
  4. People living with mental health concerns or disorders may find relief from symptoms and learn how to cope more effectively by changing their patterns of thinking and behaving.
  5. Learning how to recognize faulty thinking patterns and incorrect thoughts, which are often called cognitive distortions, can help you identify alternative thoughts and beliefs that may be more realistic and positive. 
  6. Learning and using effective problem-solving skills can help you cope with challenges.
  7. Learning how to identify your strengths and developing confidence in them can help you address challenges and adversity, including mental health concerns.
  8. Changing behaviors can be an effective way to treat mental health concerns and symptoms. For example, facing fears instead of avoiding them can help build strength and positive coping skills.
  9. Practicing effective strategies for challenging situations can help you be prepared to face them and can increase confidence in the ability to cope.
  10. Learning ways to calm the mind and body can help with healing and coping. 

Cognitive Behavioral-Based Tools to Use Now - Online Therapy

First, try to recognize cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are thoughts that are often inaccurate or tend to be unrealistically negative. Identifying them and naming them can help you begin to understand and change them.

Examples of cognitive distortions include:

  1. Polarized or black-and-white thinking. Polarized thinking is thinking in extreme terms, such as having thoughts that everything is bad and nothing is good about a situation or person. When thinking in a polarized way, you may not see that there are almost always subtleties and nuances (“shades of gray”) in situations and behaviors. There can be good and bad—and everything in between. For example, a person might think that they’ll never be successful in their career and will always be a failure, but the reality is that there may be some failures along the way, but it is likely that there will also be many successes. It is also likely that some growth or positives can come from difficult situations.
  2. Overgeneralizing. Overgeneralizing involves applying thoughts or circumstances about one situation to everything. For instance, if you had an unhappy relationship with someone, you might overgeneralize and start to believe that you’re incapable of having healthy, happy relationships.
  3. Catastrophizing. Catastrophizing means dreading or assuming that the worst will happen when facing the unknown. Catastrophizing can make worries escalate quickly. The mind goes to the worst-case scenario. For instance, if you were to lose your job, you might start to believe that you’ll never work again, and then the worries might feed on each other in an extreme way. You might begin to worry that you won’t be able to afford food and shelter and will become homeless. The cycle of catastrophic thinking can continue to spiral.
  4. Personalization. Personalization involves taking things personally when they’re not connected to you and don’t involve you. For instance, if someone isn’t friendly to you, you might worry that you did something wrong or that they don’t like you, but in reality, their behavior may have had nothing to do with you. They may simply have been having a bad day, for example.
  5. Mind reading. Nobody can read minds. When you assume you know what someone else is thinking and it worries you, you may be engaging in the faulty thought pattern of mind reading. (This is different from having empathy, a positive, prosocial trait that enables you to understand others’ feelings and see things from their perspective.)
  6. Mental filtering. With mental filtering, people tend to ignore (or filter out) the positives and focus just on the negatives. A negative filter can worsen depression and anxiety and lead to feelings of hopelessness.
  7. Labeling. Labeling involves identifying yourself (or someone else) as a single description. For instance, you might label yourself as “a failure” and someone else as “a success.” In reality, few (if any) people are completely one thing or another. 
  8. Discounting the positive. When you discount the positive, you don’t filter out the positive, but you see the positive as just a stroke of luck or a fluke. You discount your own power, strength, and ability to make positive things happen. 
  9. Thinking in terms of “should.” Focusing on what you believe you “should” be able to do, instead of what you can do or are willing to try to do, can hurt your self-esteem, lead to a negative outlook, and hold you back from trying to make positive growth.
  10. Emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning is the belief that the way you feel is the truth. You might disregard positive truths and valid beliefs because you “feel” something is negative or you “have a bad feeling.”

Second, try to correct your cognitive distortions - Online Therapy Can Help

Once you have identified your faulty thinking patterns (cognitive distortions), you can take proactive steps to address them and find alternative, more positive, and more realistic thoughts.

Tools for addressing cognitive distortions include:

  1. Reframing the thought. Reframing means finding realistic alternatives to your negative thoughts. 
    • A reframing strategy is to look at objective evidence about situations, thoughts, or worries. For instance, you might look carefully and realistically at all evidence, not simply the negative, in order to recognize the positive in situations. 
    • You can also try looking for alternative explanations for things and shades of gray instead of thinking in extremes or focusing on just the negative. For example, instead of thinking, “I failed at something. I’m a complete failure,” you might try thinking, “I failed, but it wasn’t a complete loss. Some things went well. I learned what to correct, and I can use that information in the future.”
  1. Journaling or keeping thought records. In a journal, you can track your negative thoughts and feelings. Journaling offers opportunities record and carefully consider your thoughts. You can write about your negative or distressing thought or feeling, record the circumstances surrounding it, look for patterns, discover what might have triggered it, consider how you reacted, and list alternative thoughts and realistic evidence.
  2. Playing the script until the end. Considering worst case scenarios and possible outcomes can help you understand that even if worst fears were to come true, you could still manage them. 
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation can help you calm your mind and body and disrupt patterns of negative thinking. There are many methods of progressive muscle relaxation, but basically, they all involve tensing a muscle group and then relaxing it before moving on to another muscle group. For instance, you might tense and hold your shoulder muscles and then gradually relax them before moving on to tensing and relaxing your arms and then your hands, and then working through all the muscle groups in the body. 
  4. Relaxed breathing. Like progressive muscle relaxation, relaxed breathing can calm a tense mind and body. Focusing on breathing instead of negative thoughts can help you stay in the present and not dwell on negatives of the past or worries about the future. There are various methods for deep breathing and options for how many breaths to take and how long to inhale and exhale. Basically, you can keep the process easy by breathing in through your nose so that your stomach area fills with air. Hold the breath in for a few seconds; counting can help. Then breathe out through your mouth. Try to exhale to release all of the air. Get into a rhythm and repeat until you feel more relaxed.
  • Activity scheduling. If you are worried about doing something, scheduling it can be a powerful tool. Once you have decided when you’re going to complete the task, you may be more likely to follow through with it, which can relieve negative feelings and worry about the future.
  • Behavioral experiments. You can experiment with doing something that is worrying you or that you’re dreading. You can predict what you think will happen. Afterwards, you can address whether your predictions were accurate. You can also consider with what went well and what you learned and then apply that knowledge to the future. 
  • Behavioral activation. Behavioral activation entails scheduling and doing activities that will improve your mood either by providing pleasure or by increasing a sense of control. Behavioral activation can be motivating.
  • Role playing. Role playing or practicing thinking and acting positively can be empowering. You can “pretend” you’re a positive thinker. You can practice problem-solving, social, and communication skills to gain confidence and readiness to face challenges. 

If you have negative thoughts or feelings, try to remember that they aren’t necessarily facts. Naming your feelings or thoughts, looking at them realistically, and considering more positive alternatives can be effective ways to change negative patterns of thinking. It is possible to find alternative and more positive thoughts and to feel better. 

Self-care strategies can help you improve the way you feel and think. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation, along with healthy sleep habits, good nutrition, and exercise, can promote emotional regulation. 

Setting measurable, specific, realistic goals for managing your thoughts and behaviors can help you on the path to healing. For instance, you might say, “I’m going to write in my thought journal twice a week for ten minutes” or “Each day this week, I am going to make a point of identifying when I’m catastrophizing and look at the evidence more realistically.” 

Consider the benefits of therapy. Change can come, but it is important to remain patient and to persevere. Therapists can offer you compassionate support and effective, personalized treatment options. If you have a mental health concern, please seek help. You can connect with licensed mental health professionals at BetterHelp.


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