Karen Kerschmann, LCSW

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Clinical Supervision


Kerschmann & Associates

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Clinical Supervision

Kerschmann & Associates

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Clinical Supervision

Transforming Your Unhelpful Core Beliefs with CBT

What are Core Beliefs and Why are they so Important to Our Mental Health? 


Core beliefs are deeply ingrained convictions that individuals hold about themselves, others, and the world around them. These arefundamental to one’s sense of self and play a significant role in shaping thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Core beliefs are often formed early in life through various experiences, interactions, and socialization.

This text shows untangling of a core belief

These thoughts tend to be stable over time unless they are consciously challenged and modified. Positive core beliefs contribute to a healthy self-esteem and resilient mindset, while negative core beliefs can lead to self-doubt, low self-worth, and psychological distress.

Examples of core beliefs include:

– I am unlovable and unworthy of affection

– I am worthy of love and respect

– I am incompetent and destined to fail

– I am capable enough

– I am fundamentally flawed and defective

– I am deserving of success and happiness

– Others will always reject or betray me

– Others are generally trustworthy and kind

It’s easy to see how core beliefs serve as the lens through which individuals interpret their experiences and perceive themselves and the world at a subconscious level. These are the ‘roots’ of our psychological tree, and it takes conscious and consistent efforts to change.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), these core beliefs are a central focus. Cognitive behavioral therapists work with clients to identify and challenge negative core beliefs, replacing them with more adaptive and constructive beliefs. This process, known as cognitive restructuring, helps individuals develop a healthier self-concept and achieve greater emotional well-being.

One exercise I use in my CBT practice is a positive data log:

Using CBT’s Positive Data Log

A Positive Data Log is easy to create. Here is a template for your reference.

Step 1: Identify the Unhelpful Core Belief

In this case, we will use ‘I’m not good enough’

Step 2: Develop a more useful alternative belief

Let’s use ‘I’m good enough’

It’s important to note that the goal is to not convince yourself of the opposite of your core belief, but more of a balanced perception of yourself. ‘I’m good enough’ doesn’t allude to ‘I’m perfect’.

Step 3: List evidence from your recent experiences that contradict or challenge the core belief. 

These would be instances where you succeeded, received positive feedback, or felt valued. The more specific the evidence, the more helpful it will be. Additionally, it’s very important to recognize the small pieces of evidence we may be ignoring.

Some evidence may look like this:

– My friend Mark called me to say ‘hi’

– I completed my grocery shopping on my own

– I didn’t get fired today

– Barbara laughed when I made a joke

– A stranger made small talk with me

– My dog was excited to see me when I got home

Last words on Positive Data Logs

Be Patient

Adding to this this positive data log every day can help reinforce useful self-beliefs and challenge negative thinking patterns. This is a long-term practice; we spend our whole lives living through a certain lens, so it takes time to shift. Patience is key here! Many people find that a therapist or other support is vital to stay accountable and also to review and process the evidence collected.

Expect Your Brain to Push Back

It’s natural to find yourself hearing ‘yes but’ after writing down evidence that contradicts our core beliefs. If you find you are having trouble accepting the new evidence, be gentle and remind yourself that you will have time to focus on the opposing data, but for now, you are just collecting some positive information.

Positive data logs are an effective, CBT based method of challenging the unhelpful ways we view ourselves and our world. Used consistently, you can find yourself shifting into a more balanced and rewarding mindset. 



From Overwhelm to Overcome: Reaching Your Goals One Step at a Time


Small Steps, Big Impact: Emily’s Story of Reaching Her Dream

Emily had a burning desire to become a renowned painter, but she often felt overwhelmed and anxious by the enormity of her aspirations. She would head to art shows wondering how anyone could reach such recognition. This left her feeling stuck as she continued working her well-paying, albeit unexciting manager position at a Fortune 500 company. Her free time consisted of watching TV, going to the gym, and visiting art museums with good friends. Her life was not dull, but she knew she was avoiding going after what she really wanted.

One Saturday, Emily decided that instead of her normal routine of grocery shopping and cleaning theHow to Manage Overwhelm While Reaching Your Long Term Goals Picture of Ladders with Different Number of Rungs house, she would focus on doing one thing that aligned with her dream. She grabbed her sketchbook and pencils and went outside to simply draw what she saw around her. No more, no less. After thirty minutes of sketching, Emily felt accomplished. She didn’t worry about creating a masterpiece; instead she had fun with the process of improving her skills one drawing at a time, and gave herself an internal ‘gold star’ for every improvement she made.

As days turned into weeks, Emily’s confidence grew and her anxiety waned. She started experimenting with different techniques and subjects, pushing herself to explore new styles and perspectives. Some days were challenging and overwhelm would creep in, but Emily would just take smaller steps and she noticed her anxiety was more manageable than she anticipated.

Eventually, Emily’s hard work began to pay off. Her sketches caught the eye of a local art gallery owner who offered her a small exhibition space. Excited but anxious, Emily accepted the opportunity.

The night of her art show arrived, and Emily watched people admire her artwork. She felt a sense of pride knowing that each piece represented countless small actions taken toward her dream. Some visitors even expressed interest in purchasing her work, leaving Emily feeling that much more energized.

With each sale, Emily felt herself climbing higher on the ladder of success. She realized that reaching her goal wasn’t about making one giant leap but rather about embracing the journey of growth and perseverance, one step at a time.

Years passed, and Emily’s reputation as an artist continued to flourish. She traveled the world, showcasing her paintings in prestigious galleries and sharing her story of how she became so accomplished. Young women would come up to her in awe, asking her how she accomplished such an outstanding reputation. Emily explained that it was the minuscule day to day work that had led her to her achievement. As Emily learned, it wasn’t the height of the ladder that mattered, but openness to understand that  small steps and patience are the key to managing the anxiety and overwhelm she had at the beginning.

The Science of Small Steps

BJ Fogg, behavioral researcher and founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, asserts that the baby steps we make are the path to success in ‘Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything’. “It’s easier to create habits and change than most people think, and it’s faster than most people think,” . “It can even be fun, if you do it in the right way” Bogg states in an interview with NPR.

Most of us have heard the old Chinese Proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  We can visualize this by comparing two ladders that are the same height but the number of rungs are different. Oftentimes we dismiss our small efforts as ‘not enough’ or a waste of time. However, if one can conceptualize this in terms of two  ladders, we can see that this method can not only be easier, more fun and faster, but also make something we believe is impossible entirely possible.

While the idea of big goals may lead to overwhelm and shut down, it’s the small, consistent actions taken towards them that pave the way to accomplish what we never thought we could. By embracing the importance of our tiny efforts, you can make significant strides throughout your journey.