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Self-Talk and CBT


Vocal Media’s recent article, “Is It Normal to Talk to Yourself?” discusses both the benefits and harms of self-talk. The article describes three types of self-talk:

    • Positive Self-Talk
    • Neutral Self-Talk
    • Negative Self-Talk

Vocal Media describes positive self-talk as giving yourself encouraging statements like, “You are prepared for this test.” It is considered adaptive and beneficial, as it boosts an individual’s confidence and makes them feel better.

Neutral self-talk is detailed as providing and noticing objective details in your environment. For example, “The gym is crowded today, so I’ll come back tomorrow.” This, too, is considered beneficial, since it is often informative and unbiased.

Negative self-talk is characterized by critical internal thoughts, such as, “You can’t do anything right.” In some situations, it can be beneficial to engage in negative self-talk during self-reflection for the purposes of personal growth. However, when people engage in frequent negative self-talk that does not necessarily fit the situation (i.e. “This is all my fault”) this can cause feelings of depression and anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help people experiencing frequent negative self-talk. It can aid in the changing of negative thinking patterns, allowing relief from symptoms like pessimism, helplessness, sadness, nervousness and self-blame.

In CBT, individuals learn to develop a healthier relationship with their thoughts.  This can be achieved by accepting them, examining the evidence for and against them, replacing them with more appropriate or helpful thoughts, or gaining a healthy distance from them mentally.

If you or someone you know is experiencing excessive negative self-talk and feelings of anxiety or depression, you can use ABCT’s Find a Therapist directory to find a CBT clinician.


Author: Arielle Snow, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate in Clinical Psychology at Hofstra University

Edited by: Nicholas Crimarco, Ph.D.

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that is based firmly on research findings.  It places emphasis on changing your cognitions (thoughts) or behaviors (actions) in order to effect change in how you feel. These approaches help people in achieving specific changes or goals.

Changes or goals might involve:

A way of acting: like smoking less or being more outgoing;
A way of feeling: like helping a person to be less scared, less depressed, or less anxious;
A way of thinking: like learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-defeating thoughts;
A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like reducing back pain or helping a person stick to a doctor’s suggestions.

Cognitive behavioral therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past. They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life. CBT is an effective treatment for individuals, parents, children, couples, and families. The goal of CBT is to help people improve and gain more control over their lives by changing behaviors that don’t work well to ones that do.

How to Get Help

If you are looking for help, either for yourself or someone else, you may be tempted to call someone who advertises in a local publication or who comes up from a search of the Internet. You may, or may not, find a competent therapist in this manner. It is wise to check on the credentials of a psychotherapist. It is expected that competent therapists hold advanced academic degrees. They should be listed as members of professional organizations, such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies or the American Psychological Association. Of course, they should be licensed to practice in your state. You can find competent specialists who are affiliated with local universities or mental health facilities or who are listed on the websites of professional organizations. You may, of course, visit our website ( and click on “Find a CBT Therapist”

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) is an interdisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of a scientific approach to the understanding and amelioration of problems of the human condition. These aims are achieved through the investigation and application of behavioral, cognitive, and other evidence-based principles to assessment, prevention, and treatment.

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