Situation Analysis –
ABCD Method

Negative thinking patterns and negative belief scan significantly impact our state of mind and well-being. If you are often angry, frustrated or stressed, there’s a high probability that you have some negative thinking patterns and core beliefs you can address.

Situation analysis, a core tool in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), provides a powerful tool with which to examine your thoughts and how they impacted the outcome of a difficult situation. Following through with identifying an alternative enables you to find a way to learn and move forward. And yes, ultimately, change!

But you don’t need expensive therapy – that’s the beauty of CBT methods. Personally, I have been using situation analysis for over 15 years now.  What amazes me still is how doing it enabled me to change outcomes. Even better, after numerous analyses after the fact, I began to do micro analysis in my head during emotional and difficult situations.  I began to apply the alternatives before I had actually reacted to the negative thoughts and emotions.  NB I still have to go back and do it sometimes!

Situational analysis – ABCD method

So how does it work? It’s a simple as sitting down with a piece of paper and writing down what happened to start with.

A – activating event

This is what happened at the very start

B- behavior

This is what happened next. How did I react to the activating event.

C – consequence

This is the end result of my thoughts and behavior.

D – dispute

Now you’re going to dispute your thoughts and behavior.  What is an alternative to the way you thought, acted and reacted?


Let’s look at an example. Sally’s boss came to her desk and asked if he could see her later that day. Sally started to worry. She thought “I messed something up”…..and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was in trouble.  She went over and over her recent mistakes and started to get very anxious.  Her stomach got all clenched and she skipped lunch. She had a hard time concentrating and she didn’t get much done before her appointment with her boss in the afternoon.

When she got to her boss’ office, she was anxious and nervous, sweating and trembling. It turns out the boss just wanted to talk to her about a potential new project coming to the team. He had some ideas and wanted to brainstorm a few more.  Unfortunately, Sally was so shaken up and distracted from her empty stomach that she felt like her brain was asleep.  She didn’t say much and just agreed that it was a great project.

Looking back on it, she was able to recognize that she was focused on negative thoughts. She obsessed about something she didn’t really know anything about.  She projected the future as necessarily negative. Her anxiety lead to physical distress (clenched stomach) and her reaction, skipping lunch, left her shaky physically in addition to feeling shaky emotionally.

She realized that the alternative way of dealing with such a request from her boss would be to simply go about her business without speculating and obsessing about it.

Here’s how you could capture that in the ABCD method.

ABCD Method

Now you try!

You can give it a try now by analyzing a recent situation in which you feel you could have changed your thoughts and behavior to get a better outcome.

Keep doing it! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to get some coaching along the way. Sign up for a free discovery session to see if coaching is right for you.

PS. By the way, about the time when Sally’s inner voice was whispering “You messed something up”, she could have changed the channel on that little voice.