In a world that’s increasingly demanding, seeing a great therapist can be a game-changer. Yet for many, starting therapy can feel scary or overwhelming, or is simply cost-prohibitive.
But what if you could be your own therapist, at least to some extent? A skilled psychologist’s role often boils down to asking you the right questions at the right time – helping you arrive at your own insights & realizations.
Structured self-reflection allows you to mimic this process to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. With the right prompts, you can unearth & challenge any cognitive distortions contributing to negative emotions, and learn to better accept your feelings rather than fighting or repressing them.
While journaling is no replacement for professional help – particularly for more serious issues – it can still be a highly effective tool in taking a proactive approach to your mental health & well-being.
So grab a notebook and pen, think of the current challenges in your life right now, and try being your own therapist today with these impactful prompts rooted in psychological frameworks like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) & Acceptance-Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Coping with Stress
1. How do you usually cope with stress? Is this helpful or harmful in the long run?
2. What’s causing you the most stress right now, and what’s one action you can take to reduce its impact?
3. Imagine yourself one year from now, looking back at this stressful period. What advice would this “future self” give you right now?
4. What are the specific thoughts pop into your mind when you feel anxious? For each, determine if it is an assumption or exaggeration, and how you might reframe it to be more balanced & realistic.
5. List all the elements in a situation causing you anxiety, separating them into two categories: what you can control, and what you can’t. For the elements out of your control, how can you work on accepting them?
6. Write down the worst-case scenario, best-case scenario, and the most likely outcome for the situation causing you anxiety. How do you feel after considering the range of possibilities?
Managing Interpersonal Conflict
7. Think of the person you’re clashing with: what are you assuming they are thinking or feeling? Could you be wrong?
8. What qualities are most important to you in each type of relationship (e.g. romantic, friendship, professional)? Are your own actions demonstrating these qualities?
9. Do you notice any repeating patterns in your arguments or disagreements with others?
10. What are some negative thoughts you’ve had today? Can you think of any reasons why they might not be true?
11. What are some important things in life that you’re neglecting when you’re feeling down? How can you focus on them?
12. What’s one small thing you can do right now to improve your mood, even just a little?
Struggling with a Big Decision
13. Describe the decision you need to make, why it’s important, and list your initial thoughts and feelings about it. Are there any patterns/themes in your thoughts that you’ve noticed in other areas of your life?
14. What are the pros and cons of each option? How do these options align with your core values, and what would your “ideal self” choose?
15. For each option, visualize yourself at a point in the future having already made that choice. What does life look and feel like?
Dealing with Grief & Loss
16. What is the hardest part about dealing with your loss? What are some ways you can honor the memory of who (or what) you’ve lost?
17. Can you write down a cherished memory that brings you comfort?
18. Is there anything you wish you could have said or done before this loss occurred? How can you find closure?
19. What specific situations, people, or events seem to trigger your anger? Are there any common themes?
20. What immediate thoughts usually pop into your head right before you feel angry? Are they facts or assumptions?
21. Do you know someone who handles anger well? What can you learn from them?
Improving your Confidence & Self-Esteem
22. List your strengths, skills, and accomplishments. How do these qualities contribute to your sense of self-worth?
23. Identify a recent situation where you felt a lack of confidence. What were the thoughts that went through your mind, and how can you challenge them?
24. Visualize a future situation where you are feeling confident. What are you doing differently, and what’s within your control to implement now?