Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple — Book Summary

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple Book Cover

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry

by Seth J. Gillihan

Published: 2018 | 234 pages
Rating Amazon:  stars rating 4.7 
Rating by reviewer:  stars rating 4.8 
Author of the article: Baseerat Iqbal
Date of the summary: Aug 17, 2020

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way to treat mental disorders. And if you want to learn the simple and easy steps, this is the right book for you.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple Book Cover

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven effective treatment for several disorders like anxiety, depression, and OCD. This book teaches us the 10 effective ways to get lasting relief from stress, anger, and other mood-related conditions. CBT Made Simple tells us how to apply the fundamental principles to life. This is easy to understand guide to CBT that is perfect for self-help.

Interesting quotes from the book

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling.

— Seth J. Gillihan, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

For something that can’t be seen, heard, or measured, thoughts have incredible power. Our mood for an entire day can hinge on how we interpret a single disappointment. Thoughts can also have a profound effect on our behavior, affecting whether we forgive or retaliate, engage or withdraw, persevere or give up. No matter what you’ve been struggling with, chances are that your thoughts have played a role, either in causing your distress or in prolonging it.

— Seth J. Gillihan, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

Values give rise to goals, and we reach those goals by planning and completing specific activities.

— Seth J. Gillihan, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

Summary of the book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

The book CBT Made Simple introduces us to 10 strategies for managing anxiety, depression, anger, panic, and worry, let us have a look at them.

  1. Setting goals as your priority
  2. Activate your behavior
  3. Spot and break negative thought patterns
  4. Change your core beliefs
  5. Remain mindful
  6. Stay consistent on your task, pass through procrastination
  7. Tackle the worry, fear, anxiety and rise above them
  8. Stay calm and work on your anger
  9. Be kind to yourself and others
  10. Keep going, don't give up

Aims of CBT

  • CBT can be successful only when patients show interest and interact actively.
  • CBT emphasizes on identifying the problem.
  • CBT not only focuses on past experiences but also on how someone's thoughts and actions are part of his struggles today.
  • CBT teaches a person how to help himself without a therapist
  • CBT teaches us how to avoid events that lead to mood disorders
  • CBT is time-specific.
  • CBT helps to identify negative thoughts.
  • CBT is structured, and the treatment is predicted on behalf of a person's progress.

What does CBT focus on?

CBT not only changes what you do but also changes how you do a task.

Divide the task into smaller portions

  • CBT helps to breaks down a challenge into a small manageable form.
  • First, identify the problem and then apply a specific technique to overcome it.
  • Practice repeatedly to incorporate that in your life.

Help yourself

Allow CBT to help you by identifying the problem and finding a solution for it.

How to break depression?

If you want to fight depression then practice to quit negative thinking and instead practice the technique of mindfullness which reinforces improvement in the behavior, thoughts, and feelings.

How to manage anxiety?

CBT offers different ways to manage anxiety. Things like progressive muscle relaxation and meditation can enforce calming the nervous system. Cognitive techniques address that if we have fear of something then the best way to battle the fear is to face it, this was the fear no longer remains scary.

How to manage panic?

For panic, CBT teaches us to control our breath when things are out of hand. Don't let your brain manipulate you into negative thoughts because it will only aggravate the panic.

Face challenging situations to help you control your panic and perform better.

How to reduce worries?

CBT helps to battle worry and tension. Train yourself to stop thinking negatively when the mind starts to worry about something and correct the false beliefs about worrying.

How to reduce stress?

Calm yourself with the help of breathing exercises. CBT helps to train you on how to tackle stress and believe in yourself.

How to reduce anger?

CBT teaches us ways that will help to control the anger. CBT helps to manage anger by making changes in your daily routine. For example, if you wake up early and start your day 15 minutes earlier than your routine time then you will be less stressed behind the wheel. CBT also teaches us how to express anger in a constructive way.

Learn to manage anger

  • Identify the triggers.
  • Remind yourself how dangerous could be the after-effects of anger.
  • Ask yourself is it worth the anger?
  • Calm yourself down with a talk.
  • Banish the thoughts that feed the anger.
  • Remember your goals.
  • Ask yourself if your assumptions are true or you made them up.
  • Get proper rest and sleep because a lack of sleep can make you cranky.
  • Give yourself enough time to complete a task to avoid stress and anger.
  • Don't argue unnecessarily.
  • Postpone arguments when necessary.
  • Don't keep the anger bubbling inside of you.
  • Practice acceptance.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Practice relaxation exercises.
  • Breathe when you are angry.

Set your goals

When we have a clear thinking of what we want to do, then it is easier to achieve.

Goals let us stay focused on the task and help us to find ways to accomplish the target.

Goals let the therapist know the progress of treatment.

Be specific

Find the right way to accomplish a goal. If you set the goals that are too high or too difficult, you will feel discouraged, so focus on one task at a time. Make sure your goals aren't too easy as well because such goals can be demotivating as well. Always set goals, that are a bit challenging, and make your efforts constant.

If you have too many things that need to be done, start with the one that you care about the most. Because selecting a goal that you care about will motivate you and change your life.

Steps to determine the goal

What you need to do first is to determine and accept the thing that you want to change in life. Be honest with yourself, and be willing to face the limitations in your life.

Your closest relations have the highest impact on your life and goals. So, set your goals accordingly.

Determine how it impacts the life and struggles that you might face.

Set your goals according to the passion of your life, and what you are ambitious about, only then will you be able to focus on the goals.

Work on your physical and mental health because these are two factors that impact your focus and will to achieve your goal.

Add things in your life like exercise and trips to add leisure to your life. Because such activities have a positive effect not only on your mental health but also on the will to achieve your goal.

Quit the things that harm your life and goals.

If you take drugs for recreational purposes then, think about how it will impact your relationships, goals, and important things in your life. And then decide whether you want to make a change in your habits or not.

Eat healthy and nutritious food because what you eat has an impact on how well you perform.

Think about how satisfied are you with your food and is there any change you want to make in your eating routine.

Sleep and emotional health also impact your life. If you have a night of adequate sleep, then achieving goals can be easier. Think about the changes you want to make in your sleep routine.

Why we avoid things when we are depressed?

Sometimes while suffering from depression we find relief in avoiding activities and tasks.

Depression de motivates you and takes you far away from your goals.

Take action

Even when depressed, start with small activities and keep rewards once you have achieved the goal.

Determine the value of each domain in your life and act upon the goals.

  • Write down the domains and what activities need to be done and make a plan on how to achieve the goals.
  • Identify the activities that will reward you. Make sure that the goals and activities that you have to do bring you enjoyment or at least reward you.
  • Don't worry if you don't do things very fast because every step towards your goal counts.
  • Identify the difficulties that you face. Some of the activities that you wrote down may be easier, and some might be difficult. With the help of three scale rating, rate the tasks that you feel may be difficult as compared to others.
  • Plan the activities accordingly. Once you know the rate of difficulty of each activity, then pick at least five to ten activities with a mix of challenging and easy ones and start doing them.
  • Mark them on a calendar.
    • Mark the activities on a calendar with dates time in how much time you need to accomplish them.
    • Marking them on the calendar will keep you motivated.
  • Complete the activities on time. Once you start an activity, make every effort to complete it on time and reward yourself once completed. Be fully present when you start an activity.

Apply behavioral activities to the goals.

Behavioral activities devise a specific plan for each activity that includes step by step advancement to the goal.

Work step by step towards your goals.

Think with a holistic approach when you feel demotivated.

Sometimes it becomes impossible to complete the task on time even if you have full focus and intentions, what matters if you work hard and progressively because after all, you are human.

Reward yourself at the end of a task

If you can't find the motivation to complete the task simply to think about the incentive that you will get at the end of the task and your motivation will boost.

Break down the big tasks

Break the tasks into smaller manageable sections, this will make it easier to complete the task and you won't find yourself stuck in a task that is too big to handle.

Set a time to complete the task

Always set a limit for completing a specific task.

Make yourself responsible

Share the task with someone who will ask you about it, once you do that you will know that there is someone who is going to ask whether you completed the task or not.

By making yourself accountable, you will find it easier to complete the task on time.

Keep your focus on one task

Make sure, you focus on completing one task at a time, don't entangle yourself in multiple tasks. You won't be able to complete a single task this way.

Talk about problematic thoughts with yourself

Certain thoughts might get in the way of completing a task.

Address the negative thoughts and talk to yourself about them and banish them.

Keep track of your activities

Keep track of your activities by writing them down. This will enable you to know what have you done so far.

Banish your negative thoughts

Identify the thoughts that are taking away the motivation and kick them out of your head.

See if the thoughts have any evidence

See if there is an actual reason to skip the task or you are just making excuses.

Look at the bright side

Count the pros and cons of your thoughts and decide whether you will do the task of ignoring it.

See if there is an error in your thinking

Sometimes there may be an error in the way you think and if you find the errors write them down.

Find an optimistic way of looking at things

Look at things with a more optimistic approach, look for actual evidence and not your self-made thoughts.

Notice if your thought patterns change

When we start with evidence-based thinking, we begin to realize that we start looking at things with a new way of thinking.

Identify the core beliefs

Identify the false core beliefs that we have since childhood and develop new ones.

Once you've written your core beliefs now peek into your history and find evidence related to your core beliefs. Don't let the core belief bias your thoughts.

Test the negative core beliefs

Test the negative core beliefs in the present. Don't force yourself to go against or in the favor of the beliefs, let your unbiased self decide.

Keep a positive approach

Negative thoughts and core beliefs will take you far from the goals. So, think positively, develop positive core beliefs, and lead with the positive thinking when starting a new activity.

Keep the record

Record all the things that you were able to accomplish.

Think about the facts about why things went well and write them down.

Practice makes the man perfect

With practice, minimize the negative thoughts and phrases from your life. Later you will learn to brush the negative thoughts away.

Start to practice mindfulness

  • Notice what the mind is up to and where it is focused.
  • Bring your mind to the present.
  • Accept the thing as they are.
  • Don't invest your energies on things you can't change, rather look for a better way to tackle them.
  • Select activities to help you practice mind fullness like meditation and exercises.
  • Read the book that focuses on the topic of mindfulness.
  • Start practicing mindfulness into your life.

Say no to procrastination

At times we have a habit of delaying things because of fear of the unknown. Condemn this habit.

How to fight procrastination?

  • Stop believing the things that we tell ourselves to justify procrastination.
  • Tell yourself why you don't want to delay things.
  • Don't fool yourself by telling that you cleaned the room, so you won't complete the real task for that day.
  • Just start it without thinking about where and how to start.
  • Tell yourself that you will complete the task once you start it.
  • Use reminders.
  • Work in a place with a minimum distractions.
  • Use a calendar to remind yourself.
  • Break the task into smaller ones.
  • Don't think that everything you do will be perfect; accept the imperfections.
  • Reward yourself.
  • See how far you have come.
  • Don't worry if you feel uncomfortable about a task to accept it.
  • Live in the present.
  • Meditate to help you stay focused.
  • Identify how you work best.
  • Prioritize the tasks.

Face your fears

  • Don't be afraid, face your fears.
  • Get rid of safety behaviors.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Accept the uncertainty.
  • Make a list of things you are afraid.
  • Accept your fear.
  • Practice exposure therapy.
  • Continue your work according to the plan.

Be kind to yourself

  • Treat yourself like you treat someone special.
  • Prioritize your sleep.
  • Make a positive change in your eating habits.
  • Add exercise to your routine.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Create a plan.
  • Be good to others.
  • Take a pencil and note down three things that you are grateful for every evening.

What can we learn from the book CBT Made Simple?

Lesson 1: Take care of yourself and your mental health

The book teaches us that firstly we should take care of ourselves and our mental health. Because taking care of ourselves isn't a luxury but a necessity.

Lesson 2: By helping others we can help ourselves

According to the book, no matter how depressed we may be feeling, always try to serve others. Because sometimes the inner peace lies in helping others.

Review of the book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple

I think that this is an amazing book with accessible cognitive-behavioral strategies for depression and anxiety. I have learned how to manage my anger and stress and anyone who wishes to learn these principles in their life will benefit from this book.


There is a smart way to deal with anger, panic, and other mood-related conditions. By incorporating the approaches of CBT in daily life, one can take control of the emotions. The principles of CBT help us how to keep working with the determination to reach our goals.

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