Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Three Routes To Change

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A useful way to conceptualize change is to think of a triangle where thoughts, emotions, and behaviors represent the three points. A change at one of these points will exert an influence on the other two points as well. Different thoughts will affect how you feel and act, different feelings will affect how you think and act, and different actions will affect how you think and feel.

The reason I like discussing this paradigm with clients is that it gives them options for change, allowing them to pick the route that best aligns with their underlying relationship to the world. Some feel the most natural working with their emotions, while others prefer to think intellectually. Still others know something needs to change in their lives but haven’t yet experienced the accompanying change in thoughts and feelings, and for them the realization that they can fake it until they feel it, simply changing their behaviors regardless of how they are thinking or feeling, is really helpful.

The point is that the point of entry doesn’t matter. Starting with thoughts, emotions, or behaviors is fine because whichever one we focus on will end up affecting the other two, what we might call a growth oriented feedback loop. Really all you need to do is be mindful, letting yourself become consciously aware of how your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are changing.