Focus of Thought Records

Title:  Does Focus of Thought Records Matter?: A Comparison of Cognitive versus Solution-Focused Approaches 

Faculty Member(s):  Ron Coffen, PhD., Licensed Psychologist

Keywords: dysfunctional thought record, mood, self-monitoring, self-statements

Areas: clinical psychology, counseling psychology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, cognitive-therapy, solution-focused therapy, positive psychology

Judith Beck and Aaron Beck discuss using Dysfunctional Thought Records (DTRs) as an approach to challenging unhelpful (or irrational) cognitive beliefs.  Beck & Beck’s premise is that these dysfunctional thoughts lead to anxiety and depression.  The patient is instructed to keep track of their negative thoughts throughout the day when the client notices that he/she is feeling bad.  The client brings in the DTRs to discuss in therapy so that the thoughts can be challenged and changed to more functional, more helpful thoughts.

In contrast, the premise of solution-focused therapy (SFT) is that attending to aspects of one’s life that are working well is a primary intervention method.  Rather than assuming that the client has thoughts that are inappropriate and must be changed, SFT assumes that the client already has some thoughts that are helpful and working well for the client.  SFT focuses on thoughts that lead to more positive feelings, or, thoughts that make the client feel just a little bit better.

An area that I may be interested in exploring is whether there would be differences in clinical outcomes (i.e., reductions in depressive or anxious symptoms) based on the type of thought records that were kept:  (1) dysfunctional thought record; (2) a record of “what’s going through your mind” when the client feels better; (3) no monitoring of thoughts (i.e., wait-list/control).

References:  (Click on article to review)

Beck, J.S. & Beck, A.T. (1995).  Cognitive therapy:  Basics and beyond.  New York:  Guilford Press.

Trepper, T. S., McCollum, E. E., De Jong, P., Korman, H., Gingerich, W., & Franklin, C. (2010). Solution focused therapy treatment manual for working with individuals. Retrieved from

Murphy, John J. (2008). Solution-focused counseling in schools.  Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.