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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in your pocket with the CBTReferee app

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that deals with dysfunctional emotions and feelings in a structured manner usually involving journaling, and reflecting on your journaled thoughts. The idea is to discover incorrect thinking and emotions. It has been found to be effective in quite a number of disorders including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and OCD.

CBTReferee [iTunes Link] $4.99US, was written by Andrew Arrow to assist in his personal therapist-directed CBT. Finding himself always needing to carry around a notebook, since negative thoughts and feelings happen at random, he built quite a simple app for his own use. Finding it personally effective, he decided to put it in the app store, not really knowing if it would be useful for others. Feedback he received convinced him otherwise.

The app contains a brief description of CBT and clear instruction on how to properly utilize the app. It's just enough information to get started, and doesn't bog down in theory, so you can get up to speed quickly.

When a negative thought occurs, the app directs you to write it down immediately. Once done, tapping the next button takes you through a screen of ten potential fallacies inherent in your entry. Some of these include: Nothing or All (black and white thinking where one small flaw kills an entire concept), Conclusion Jumping (assuming facts that don't' exist), Emotions as Evidence (assuming that if you feel a certain way, it must be true), and many others.

With the journaled text visible, scroll through the list and check any of the options that you think may apply to your statement. Next, you are presented with a type-in screen titled:
Referee Says, where, based on your statement and the options you have chosen, you try to write as objective an assessment as possible, to negate the statement.
Finally you are presented with a screen showing a reverse chronological listing of each journaled entry. Tapping on one brings up a screen with the entry, the chosen options and the refereed response. From all of this, the idea is to try and discover patterns, and over time, become more objective and a better personal referee. This can lead to a fuller understanding of yourself, and the potential to avoid thinking similar erroneous thoughts over and over. This app isn't intended to be a panacea, but rather an indication of how you think and how that thinking can be improved to be less toxic.

In practice, I had one major concern: the listing of ten possible fallacies, at least for me, just scratched the surface, were sometimes too simplistic, and often didn't apply to my journaled entry. I would like to see that listing expanded with more categories, but outside of that I was quite impressed with CBTReferee's structure and simplicity.

This is not for everyone, nor is it meant to be. But for those that find journaling therapeutic, CBTReferee can be a helpful tool both to learn more about yourself and to find flaws in thinking that over time and with a growing number of entries, can shore up fuzzy lines of thinking into something more solid that you can do something about. You can also become more objective in unpacking your statements, which I consider important, since, with nothing mediating between you and the app, one may have a tendency to lie to themselves. The discovery of patterns may tend to lessen unfounded assumptions and improve your objectivity.

This is a very intriguing app, and one that I believe can be helpful to many interested in the niche market of self-help apps. It's an interesting niche and one that I will be exploring a bit more in further reviews.

Here are a few screen shots to give you a better idea.


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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that deals with dysfunctional emotions and feelings in a structured manner...