The core principle of cognitive reconstruction is to find your preferred version of reality, which is based on your own values, and then act on your brain to change how you view the world so you can change how you act in the world. 

What this looks like: I want to be less controlling of situations where my top value in the situation isn't to influence or guarantee a specific outcome.  

Specifically: When interacting with my partner, treating them like the friend I value and love is more important than picking out the right movie or making sure dinner includes the pine nuts that are specified in the recipe. 

So you can do this cognitive reconstruction or reframing with a therapist, you can practice it on your own, and you can even find an app or two that can help (which, if you're a tech enthusiast like me, is exciting). 

 The Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan is a poorly named app that attempts to be cognitive therapy in a box. It's fun to try but not to continue.

The Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan is a poorly named app that attempts to be cognitive therapy in a box. It's fun to try but not to continue.

WOOP

The first App is called Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan and is for Android and iOS.  It describes itself as : "the systematic way to motivate yourself. Through the app, you will learn the self-regulatory technique Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions, also called Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan".  In practice it is a decent yet incomplete method of helping you plan for and deal with the problems that keep people from achieving personal goals.  It has a lot of focus on mindful meditation and envisioning your preferred outcome. It's just not fun.  The process gets a bit stale after a few repetitions, even though you know that what you are working on is very important.  This is an interesting phenomenon.  Should change, especially self-guided change, be fun and self-rewarding? It certainly seems as if it would help. 

If you do get into the app, you will find it to be good at targeting cognitions more than behavior, which I think is a very good sign.  Behavior will change after the cognitions and emotional content change. 

 

 Just like having this guy as your therapist

Just like having this guy as your therapist

Annoyster (iOS) and Randomly Remind Me (Android)

These two are lumped together here because they effectively work in the same manner.  They are designed as reminder tools, but because they have the ability to show these reminders randomly, they can be wonderful tools as a cognitive therapy add-on or even as a self-help stand alone program. 

The basic functioning of the apps are the same. You set up a schedule by telling it how often and what you want reminded of.  I can have it remind me to spend time thinking about how I want to be kind to those I care about and I can set it to tell me 8 times during the day.  Randomly Remind Me also lets you keep track of how often you actually follow through on any prompts, such as preferred cognition repetitions or kindness gestures.  

The process with cognitive change is not complicated, but catching yourself in the right situation is very difficult because when you are agitated or otherwise stuck in a negative emotional situation you instinctively resort to older, more practiced habits.  Either of these apps have the ability to catch you in those situations and help you build new experiences.  

Personally I have had good success with Randomly Remind Me, though I rarely have more than one change active at any time.  It is really wonderful to see it pop up and to be able to make small cognitive changes right then and go back to doing other things.  

Any of these three apps can be very useful, especially if you are working with a therapist to implement changes to your thoughts.  Some therapists want you to do quite a lot of work outside the office and having a reminder tool gives you more likelihood of being able to make your practice count much more than if you set aside time only when it is convenient to you (which almost always means when your negative emotions and cognitions are not activated). 

In combination with these I have also created a practice repetition device that operates much like a prayer rosary, which brings up a very interesting conversation about what the similarities between prayer and cognitive therapy end up being once you boil each down into it's constituent parts. 

But that's content for another post. 

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