10 thoughts on “4 Questions to Free Yourself from Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS)

  • June 2, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Woh! Elisha, this is too weird. This morning I posted my piece called Carpenter Ants or Quiche for my blog, ADHD from A to Zoë. A couple of hours later, yours appeared, listed directly above mine. I’ve added a note to my post directing my readers to yours, which is a great companion piece. Mine is also about ants representing negative thoughts, although I’d never heard of ANTS (honest). Funny how things happen sometimes, eh? Thanks for writing this post, and for such a cool, complementary synchronicity to jump-start my day!
    Zoë (ADHD from A to Zoë Psych Central blogger)

  • June 2, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    It’s amazing how strong these kind of thoughts can be… (and how powerful your question is in the face of them: ‘who would you be without that thought?’

    I think these kind of questions can really help free us.

    Which is why I’ve also asked some questions about these kind of automatic thoughts on my blog: http://onelifetherapy.blogspot.com/2010/05/spin.html

    Feel free to read them and see if they also work for you…

  • June 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks Zoe, lots of great synchronicities out there to remind us how truly connected we really are.

  • July 7, 2010 at 12:50 am

    My husband and I have been in marital counseling for a few months. I have really not had a connection with our therapist (turns out she is a licensed social worker). I feel like I am spinning my wheels but my husband has her so buffaloed (is that a word?) I am continuing to go to show that I am not giving up but it has cost us over $2000 in 3 months. Is there some type of degree professional that would be better to handle marital and parenting issues in a marriage? I have looked and there are so many initials behind peoples names it has confused me more. Any advice would be appreciated.

  • July 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Hi Kris,

    It’s not so much the degree that’s important, but the person’s experience working with couples and your connection with him/her. It would be worth bringing up your feelings in session.

  • May 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    amazing. People need a system to realize that what they perceive to be the absolute truth is actually the biggest lie they are telling themselves 🙂

  • May 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Well on the negative side this is awesome news. But I really wish I hadn’t read this AT ALL!! Now it makes me question my positive thoughts as well. sad face.

  • May 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    get another
    1 counsellor
    2 husband
    that will be $38 please.

  • May 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    This is something I am working on. I have to constantly fight the urge to believe the worst in every situation. This gives me one more tool to talk myself into believing the best in all situations. My husband will appreciate this.

  • May 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I. ANTS, Irrational Beliefs, and Cognitive Distortions

    1) The ANTS acronym is a very useful one. Many theorists/clinicians have used questions to dispute negative or irrational (distorted) cognitions. I’m partial to my own, but like to give credit to Ellis, who was certainly my biggest influence. But even he credits ancient philosophers for finding methods for understanding the role beliefs can have on emotions and behaviors. Typical disputes Ellis proposed include:

    1) Practical – How do you feel when you think you are a failure? And when you feel that way (e.g., depressed), do you behave in ways that are helpful to you?

    2) Empirical – What evidence do you have that you are a failure because you failed at this important project today? Is there any contradictory evidence? What could that be?

    3) Logical – How does it logically follow that you become a failure if you fail at something? What happens when you succeed at something then?

    4) Behavioral – Design a behavioral experiment (as Beck might have described it) to test your hypothesis (the irrational belief).

    II. Couples Counseling

    1) The letters after a clinician’s name may not be the most important factor. But, there is evidence the techniques used (and more likely the mechanisms of change which are often related to one’s reported technical orientation) do make a difference in emotional symptom reduction and behavioral change. There are numerous scientific studies that support particular forms of couples therapy that are very effective for the majority of people (there are of course no guarantees).

    2) First, regardless of whether it is individual therapy, couples therapy, or family therapy, I believe asking some questions of the clinician regarding his/her approach is prudent and reasonable first step. Second, meeting with someone who made you feel comfortable by phone will give you greater confidence that it is a fit.

    3) *** Most importantly for Couples Therapy – Behavioral Marital Therapy, for one, has been shown to be very effective for couples. Any clinician should be happy to speak to you about his/her familiarity training experiences, etc. regarding this or other empirically based (supported) therapies.

    III. Beliefs to be changed or treated differently?

    I’ll be interested to take a look at the mindfulness aspects of the text that was referenced. Relational Frame Theory and ACT have led some to conclude that perhaps disputing beliefs may not be the best approach- and could in fact give such irrational beliefs more power. The field is always evolving.

    Just finished at the office, so I hope that was somewhat coherent.

    All the best,

    J. Ryan Fuller, Ph.D.

    P.S. I did write about questions to ask a potential therapist, if someone has interest:



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