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Aaron Beck Cognitive (Behavioral) Therapy

Aaron Beck


Martha: A Case of Fearfulness

Living in Los Angeles, CA, Martha, a 55-year-old widow, has been following the news on television almost without stop ever since the terrorists in Paris on the night of Nov. 11, 2015 carried out their coordinated attacks on both street cafés and, especially, the concert by the rock band, Eagles of Death Metal, in the Bataclan theater. She also has been looking online at various websites that show the results of these attacks as well as receiving Twitter feeds, too. Then, the murders in San Bernadino, CA happened on December 2 and ever since then, Martha has increasingly felt very fearful in her own home. She decided not to go the movies of the weekend with her friends by claiming to be coming down with a cold. But, really, the thought of going into a public place like a mall or theater makes her feel anxious. She pictures something bad happening. Similarly, rather than going to sleep at night at her regular bedtime, she has been staying up and prowling news online. Her late husband, who died three years ago at Christmas time, left her financially secure so that she doesn’t have to work. But, she also misses her two married children and her grandchildren who live in Phoenix, AZ and Austin, TX. Unfortunately, they will not be able to come to California this year for the holidays and right now Martha hasn’t any plans for Christmas or New Years.


  • What automatic negative thoughts might be coming to Martha that lie behind her behavior? List 3 to 5 such possible thoughts.
  • What type of automatic negative thoughts might each of these be:
    • Overgeneralization
    • Filtering (Selective abstraction
    • All or Nothing Thinking (Dichotomous reasoning)
    • Personalizing
    • Catastrophizing
    • Emotional reasoning
    • Mind reading
    • Fortune telling error
    • “Should” statements
    • Magnification/minimization
  • How could any of these thoughts be challenged? (All examples below quoted from Sharp, 2006)
    • Is this thought helpful?
    • Am I being realistic?
    • Is this an example of an automatic negative thought?
    • What is the evidence for and against this thought?
    • Am I focusing on the negative and ignoring other information?
    • Am I jumping to conclusions without looking at all the facts?
    • Are there any other possible explanations?
    • Is there another way of looking at this?
    • Is it as bad as I am making it out?
    • How likely is it that the worst will happen?


Reference

Sharp, T. J. (2006). Challenging automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Sydney, Australia: The Happiness Institute. Retrieved from http://www.thehappinessinstitute.com/freeproducts/docs/Managing%20Unhelpful%20Thinking.pdf


This page was originally posted on 12/01/03 and last updated on December 9, 2015