27 Sample Rebuttals and 12 Cognitive Errors

CBT Certificate Program / Client Engagement / Clinical Skills / Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

27 Sample Rebuttals and 12 Cognitive Errors

Our last CBT article mentioned how challenging Rebuttal can be, even for the most skilled CBT clinician. CBT is best learned and mastered through modeling. We hope this first article of sample Rebuttals will help you master this challenging yet rewarding skill: Cognitive Restructuring.

Enjoy and see you on 11/18/2020 for our last week on our current CBT Certificate Course.

Until then,
Karen and Mardoche

Cognitive error: Fortune telling

Examining Questioning:

  • Tell me what makes you say that

  • Tell me what makes you think that

  • Tell me some examples of proof you have for this

  • Tell me what form of evidence you have for this

  • Tell me how you got this conclusion

 Sample Rebuttal:

  1. I seem to be predicting the future. But I don’t know for sure. Let me see how I can learn more about this.

  2. This is Fortune Telling. I can’t really predict the future. And I have no solid proof of this.

  3. I am actually saying what is going to happen in the future. None of us are really good at predicting the future.

Cognitive Error: Catastrophizing

Examining Question:

  • Tell me how you would advise a friend on this

  • Tell me what you would tell a friend in that same situation

  • If someone came to ask for your advice on something like this, tell me what you would say

Sample Rebuttal:

  1. I would tell my friend she’s imagining the worst. She can go and find out more before she makes that assumption.

  2. This is really thinking about the worst-case scenario. I would ask them to go and find the evidence that this will be that bad before they continue to panic like this.

  3. It is easy to catastrophize. I would tell them to go and find information from a good source, and until then, they need to know that it is only just their thought

Cognitive Error: Emotional Reasoning

Examining Questioning:

  • Tell me how you can test this

  • Tell me how you could test this

  • Tell me how you could find out for sure

  • Tell me how you could find out if this is the case or not

  • Tell me how you could test this before jumping to that conclusion

  • Tell me what might be a way for you to find out

  • Tell me what might be a way for you to find out so you know for sure?

Sample Rebuttal:

  1. I am going to test this first. Otherwise, I don’t really know for sure. Otherwise, it’s just a feeling

  2. I am feeling that way. But who knows for sure until I have tested it out.

  3. My feeling does not always tell the whole picture. Let me test this first.

  4. Other than relying just on my feeling, there are some ways I can test this out and know for sure.

Cognitive Error: Labeling

Examining Questioning:

  • Tell me what you are currently telling yourself and what error you are making

  • Tell me what exactly you are trying to say

  • Tell me what you think you are really saying

Sample Rebuttal:

  1. I am actually labeling myself right now. There’s likely a more objective way to look at this instead of name-calling.

  2. I am currently calling myself names. This may be an easy way to deal with this but far from an effective one.

  3. I am actually reducing everything to one name. This is a grave error and it is best to rethink the whole thing.

Cognitive Error: Personalizing

Examining Questioning:

  • Tell me what’s another way to see/perceive/think about/feel about this;

  • Tell me what’s a different way of looking at this

  • Tell me what’s an alternative explanation for this

  • Tell me what’s another possible explanation for this

  • Tell me what other reasons why this could have happened

  • Tell me what’s the alternative to this current thinking/feeling/attitude/perception/conclusion/stance

Sample Rebuttal:

  1. There cannot be just one way to look at things. Let me rethink this in a way that might be less personalizing

  2. This is personalizing and there is likely a different way of looking at this

  3. I am taking this personally. Let me look at some other possible explanations for this

  4. This is just me taking this personal. This is a mistake and I am deciding to look for some alternative ways to think through this

 Cognitive Error: Filtering/ All or nothing

Examining Questioning:

  • Tell me what another way of looking at this

  • Tell me what error you may be making

  • Tell me you are currently telling yourself

Sample Rebuttal:

  1. I am focusing just on what is not working. Let me see what may be going well right now.

  2. I am currently seeing this in black and white, let me look for the middle ground

  3. I am currently telling myself all there is in this is all bad. Let me find a more helpful way to look at this

  4. I cannot find anything helpful in how I am looking at this. Let me look for the middle ground instead of continuing doing all or nothing thinking.

Cognitive Error: Jumping to Conclusions/Fortune Telling/Mind Reading

Examining Questioning:

  • This sounds serious. Now, please give me an example of things that could be even worse than this

  • Tell me what else could happen that could be even worse than this

  • Tell me what else could be even worse

  • Tell me what could be worse?

 Sample Rebuttal:

  1. This is definitely bad, but it could be even worse. So I guess I might be able to live with it if it really happens. Plus, I don’t even know for sure if it is even going to happen.

  2. There are so many ways to look at this. And whatever I am thinking may happen may not be as bad as I think. Many other things could be even worse than that.

  3. I am just choosing the part that I don’t like and giving it more weight. Plus, things could have been even worse than this. So not worth the time.

Cognitive Error: Overgeneralizing/Discounting the Positive/Magnifying

Examining Questioning:

  • Tell me how helpful this is

  • Tell me how helpful it is to think about/feel about/perceive/look at things, like this

  • Tell me if this is really helping

  • Tell me how much this is really helping

  • From 1 to 10, 10 being very helpful, tell me how helpful this is

Sample Rebuttal:

  1. I am just overgeneralizing this, and this is far from helping because it is taking things beyond where it is really happening.

  2. I may be doing myself a big disservice by taking something so small and making it so big

  3. I may be hurting myself by just focusing on what is not working and discounting what seems to be working well

About the Authors:

Karen Dubin-McKnight, PhD, LCSW, is a Columbia-trained Social Worker with wide clinical, teaching, and supervision experience. She also has a background in management, mentorship, and leadership that spans almost 20 years. Her added passion is in advocacy, coaching, public relations, and mediation. Her goal is to ensure that social workers and women feel empowered and have a voice “at the table.” She has previously held Executive level positions, and two other directorships in different organizations. She is currently Adjunct Faculty at Columbia University School of Social Work and Adelphi University School of Social Work. She also maintains a private practice, working with individuals who have experienced loss and trauma, and also provides clinical and management supervision.

Mardoche Sidor, MD is a quadruple board-certified psychiatrist, with board certifications in Psychiatry and Neurology (General Adult Psychiatry), Child and Adolescent, Addiction, and Forensic, Psychiatry. He has training in public and community psychiatry, and advanced training in psychopharmacology, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Strategic Intervention. He also has additional training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic psychotherapy, Play therapy, and Couples therapy. He has clinical, teaching, and supervision, experience; he has mentorship, coaching, and management, skills and experience; and he has experience as a primary care physician, in public speaking and writing. His overall purpose is to help heal the world, through an increase in awareness, a shift in belief systems, and an education that empowers. He speaks and writes fluently in four (4) languages—French, English, Spanish, and Creole, with intermediate proficiency in Portuguese and Italian. Dr. Sidor is the author of 3 books and is currently working on several others.