In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes about a method for developing a more effective self-evaluation system.
The Triple Column Technique is a proven practice for improving internal self-critical dialogue. The approach includes three main parts:
- Training yourself to write down critical thoughts that run through your mind.
- Learn why these thoughts are distorted.
- Practice talking back to them to develop a more realistic self-evaluation system.
Summary of Steps
- Step 1 - Create the Triple Column Technique table.
- Step 2 - List your self-criticism.
- Step 3 - Identify cognitive distortions.
- Step 4 - Identify rational thoughts.
Step 1 - Create the Triple Column Technique table
To create the table for the Triple Column Technique:
- Draw two lines down the center of a piece of paper to divide it into thirds.
- Label the left-hand column “Automatic Thoughts (Self-cricitism)
- Label the middle column “Cognitive Distortion”
- Label the right-hand column “ Rational Response (Self-defense)”
Step 2. List your self-criticism.
In the left-hand column, write down all the hurtful self-criticisms you make when you are feeling worthless and down on yourself.
Step 3 – Identify cognitive distortions.
In the middle column, write down the cognitive distortions. Using the list of 10 Distorted Thinking Patterns , see if you can identify the thinking errors in each of your automatic negative thoughts. The 10 Distorted Thiking Patterns are:
- All-or-nothing thinking
- Mental filter
- Disqualifying the positive
- Jumping to conclusions (Mind reading, fortunate teller error)
- Magnification or Minimization
- Emotional reasoning
- Should statements,
- Labeling and Mislabeling,
Step 4 – Identify rational thoughts.
Substitute a more rationale, less upsetting thought in the right-hand column. Don't try to cheer yourself up by rationalizaing or saying things you don't objectively believe are valid. Instead, try to find a more objective fact. Your response can take into account what was illogical or erroneous about your self-critical automatic thought.
Example Triple Column Technique
Burns includes an example of a Triple Column Technique:
|Automatic Thought||Cognitive Distortion||Rational Response|
|I never do anything right.||Overgeneralization||Nonsense! I do a lot of things right.|
|I'm always late.||Overgeneralization||I'm not always late. That's ridiculous. Think of all the times I've been on time. If I'm late more often than I'd like, I'll work on this problem and develop a method for being more punctual.|
|Everyone will look down on me.||Mind reading;|
All or nothing thinking;
Fortune teller error
|Someone may be disappointed that I'm late, but it's not the end of the world. Maybe the meeting won't even start on time.|
|This shows what a jerk I am.||Labeling||Come on, now, I'm not a "jerk."|
|I'll make a fool of myself.||Labeling; Fortune teller error||Ditto. I'm not a "fool" either. I may appear foolish if I come in late, but this doesn't make me a fool. Everyone is late sometimes.|
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