Our thoughts and beliefs determine how we feel, and how we act, at any given moment. Even thoughts that are irrational, or lack evidence, impact our mood and behavior. A behavioral experiment is a CBT tool for testing our thoughts and beliefs, and replacing those that are irrational and harmful with healthy alternatives. What makes behavioral experiments so powerful is that we get to challenge our thoughts in the real world, as opposed to just hypothetically.
In the Behavioral Experiment worksheet, clients will identify one of their irrational thoughts, plan an experiment to test it, and execute the experiment. After the experiment is complete, they will describe their experience, how they felt, and how their original thought has changed.
When planning an experiment, be sure it is realistic so clients are more likely to follow through. During the next session, follow up and discuss the results of the experiment. Focus on the expectation versus reality of the experiment, and how the original thought might change as a result.
1. Bennett-Levy, J. (2003). Mechanisms of change in cognitive therapy: The case of automatic thought records and behavioural experiments. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 31(3), 261-277.