The main aid in improving cognitive processes (i.e. acquisition and understanding of knowledge, the formation of beliefs and attitudes, and decision-making and problem-solving), the ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs, was developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in the 1950s. He said that an activating event or situation (A) triggers a belief (B) in a person. When the belief is rational and helpful in the situation, it leads to a healthy emotion and functional thinking and behavior. On the other hand, when the belief is irrational or maladaptive, it is likely to lead to a negative consequence (C) such as an unhealthy negative emotion and dysfunctional behavior.
Therefore, a good therapist, counselor, or caregiver always identify the situations with which a problem can typically be associated and look for a negative belief that may underlie it. The resulting consequences (e.g. feelings and behaviors) are also noted.
The following exercise can be practiced by making an entry in the worksheet provided when a problem symptom occur. Calmly discuss the situation with the other person and inquire (1) how they perceived it, (2) what it meant to them, (3) what their thoughts were, (4) what their expectations were, (5) what feelings they had, and (6) what they did as a direct result. The exercise should help both you and the other person to gain understanding and insight of the beliefs and thoughts that are involved. This enables you to help them be more aware and challenge it in the future.
Using the worksheet below, take a few minutes and list at least 2-3 problem events or situations in the first column. Discuss with your partner, family member, or friend what beliefs, thoughts, and expectations are in his/her mind when they experience the unpleasant or distressing situation. Note how this makes them feel and behave as a result.
Download and print the worksheet here: ABC Monitoring Worksheet
Next, we ask you to do an exercise where you think through the thoughts, feelings, and behavior that are involved in a specific difficult situation and consider healthier perspectives or responses to the same circumstances.