Uncovering Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDBs)–For Therapists (and Interested Patients) Only!

Feeling Good

This is a technical memo for therapists who use a technique I developed years ago called the Individual Downward Arrow Technique. The goal of this technique is to uncover each patient’s (client’s) Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDBs), such as Perfectionism, Perceived Perfectionism, or the Brushfire Fallacy. I developed this memo for my Tuesday evening TEAM-CBT group at Stanford following a session practicing this technique earlier in the week.

Why would a therapist want to uncover SDBs? Cognitive Therapists work with (at least) two types of cognitions that can cause emotional distress. First, Negative Thoughts happen in the here and now and only cause emotional distress at specific moments in time. Let’s say you have public speaking anxiety, and you’re about to walk up to the podium. You are probably telling yourself things like this: “I’ll blow it. My mind will go blank. I’ll make a total fool of myself. People will laugh…

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