Teaching mental health providers how to navigate the managed care industry and increase cash flow

Coaching: Identifying Your Clients Thinking Errors

Posted by on Aug 12, 2013 in All-or-Nothing, Catastrophizing, Coaching, Mind-Reading, Thinking Errors, Tunnel Vision | 0 comments

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If you have coaching clients, they are typically coming to you because they are at a stuck point and it’s your job to help them get unstuck. I would wager that 90% of the time the client is stuck is because of a thinking error. A thinking error is defined as an irrational thought that leads to negative emotions and can result in making poor decisions. Here are some of the the more common thinking errors that I see in my clients (Definitions courtesy of Quizlet):


1. All-or-Nothing – Viewing a situation as only one thing or another; in two categories instead of on a continuum. It can be identified if your client makes a statement such as “If I don’t lose 5 lbs this week, I’m a failure”

2. Catastrophizing – Predicting the future negatively without considering other, more likely outcomes. I once had a client tell me, “If this event doesn’t go well, no one will take me seriously, no one will ever hire me, and I’ll end up living with my parents the rest of my life.”

3. Discounting the Positive – Unreasonably telling self that positive experiences, deeds, or qualities do not count. Have you ever heard a client say “Yeah, but that wasn’t all my doing” when something positive happens (i.e. Yeah, but I got the promotion because I was the only one left.)? It doesn’t occur to the client that he is competent and deserves the promotion.

4. Labeling – Putting a fixed, global label on self or others without considering that the evidence might more reasonably lead to a less disastrous conclusion. Ex – I’m  worthless.

5. Mind-Reading – Belief that you know what others’ motivations are, or what they are thinking while failing to consider other, more likely plausible possibilities. Watch for statements such as “I know my boss thinks I’m slacking off” or “They must think I’m a total idiot.”

6. “Should” and “Must” statements – Having precise, fixed ideas of how self or others should behave and overestimating how bad it is that these expectations are not met. Ex. “I should be growing faster in my career.”

7. Tunnel Vision – Only seeing the negative aspects of a situation. Ex. “My boss hates me, my wife looks down on me, and my children don’t appreciate me.”

Being able to identify thinking errors is key in helping your clients break through barriers. The next step is to challenge their statements. Here’s a technique I like to use with my clients. First, I introduce the thinking errors and ask them if they recognize any that they use. Then, I have them write down those statements in a journal as they come up. We then spend about 5-10 minutes during the session to go over the statements and reframe them. I ask them questions such as “Does this really make you a failure?” or “How do you know your boss is thinking this?” So now that you’ve seen what I run into, what are some of the ones your clients use? Drop your comments below.


Image courtesy of 89studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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