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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • I was referred to this site, but I don't know how to use it. How do I start?
    • If you have been referred to this site without special instructions, your task is simply to begin recording your thoughts about what is going on as “Journal Entries” and to notice how they are coded. These coded entries should give you a place to start a conversation with your counselor or therapist.
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  • If I let my account expire, what happens to my history and account(s)?
    • Your history can be captured locally at your discretion (copy/paste, print screen, etc.). This must be done before your account expires. We reserve the right to block access to your information immediately upon expiration, and then delete your account(s) and all of your history after 30 days.
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  • I have an account purchased by a provider. Will my account still be active if my provider's account expires?
    • Your account will not still be active and you will not have access to the journal entries entered under that account. You can however continue to use the Thought Helper website by creating an individual account.
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  • If I change from a supervised account to a private individual account, can I transfer my journal entries?
    • Similar to an account which is about to expire, your supervised account history can be captured locally at your discretion (copy/paste, print screen, etc.). The supervisor of the supervised account may or may not save your historical data for some length of time. Contact them for more information.
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  • How is Thought Helper Scored?
    • The scoring formula for Thought Helper is:

      [1 – (count of dysfunctional words/phrases)/(count of words including punctuation)] )] x 100%.

      This is the same as:

      [(functional words including punctuation)/(count of words including punctuation)] )] x 100%.

      This produces a “functionality” score representing the percentage of functional words in the entry. The score can range from 0% to 100%. Normally, scores range from about 80% to 100% for longer sentences or multi-sentence entries.

      We have chosen to present a score for the entire entry rather than for each individual sentence in the entry because it allows the entry to exist as a unit, keyed to an optional “mood”, without further calculation. Individual sentences could also have been scored (if they can be detected) – they can also be run as separate entries and scored. We could also have created an average score per sentence in the entry, instead of a total percentage score, and this would dilute the effect of longer, more functional sentences slightly. In other words, it would emphasize the dysfunctional sentences, again slightly. Comparability across entries would be the same. We have kept the scoring as it is for five reasons:

      1. It subtly rewards wordiness (especially functional wordiness).
      2. The “mood” variable is chosen for the entire entry (not for each sentence).
      3. We had several examples where sentence grammar was not followed.
      4. The effect of the change is slight and still produces a higher range of scores for longer entries.
      5. It was already in place.

      What we have in mind is a score which can be used to compare cognitively similar entries (of any size) so that efforts at cognitive restructuring may be evaluated.

      Another possible scoring system could involve not including grammatical functional words (or punctuation) in the calculation. Only “content” words, determined by parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs), would be counted as functional/dysfunctional. This would further dilute the length-of-entry bias, but see 1-5 above.

      It is also easy to use these same scores to look at the entries (or sentences) as all-or-nothing evaluations. 100% is functional, everything else is dysfunctional. We chose to present the proportional scoring since it allows such easy conversions (conversion in the other direction is non-trivial). All-or-nothing scoring does not allow meaningful comparisons between dysfunctional entries. Partial restructuring would not “count”. Because of the color coding, it is also easy to find the dysfunctional parts of entries to focus on.
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  • How is the text coded?
    • Thought Helper codes and counts 4 categories of dysfunctional usage – Drama, Shoulding, Fortunetelling, and Mindreading (1-4 below), and 5 subcategories of Drama. The experience of CBT practitioners includes familiarity with other categories and category names. Our goal was to create an easily understandable approach to having cognitive distortions pointed out to users, and to include healthy interaction with a therapist as part of the cognitive restructuring process. Purely in the interest of user simplicity, we collapsed several categories into the Supercategory “Drama”. These subcategories of Drama are subcoded in the analysis and their counts and descriptions are available by expanding Drama in the Legend (see 1.a.-e. below). Putting the cursor on a coded word also displays subcodes. We chose the supercategory and the word “Drama” because it made the category clear to our handcoders – the subcategories all indicate extreme negative usages with technically unrealistic meanings. We could call it “Extreme” language, or something else. The point is the same one made by Judith Beck in her 1995 book Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond (p. 118 at the bottom) – the complete list is “overwhelming”. The categories of “Shoulding”, “Fortunetelling”, and “Mindreading” are straightforward from our reading of the CBT literature (2-4 below).

      The most important thing to understand is that this coding is simply a step in the interaction between a therapist and client. It points out things to ask the therapist about, or for the therapist to emphasize. For these specific categories it may help guide cognitive restructuring. By itself all it can do is make someone aware of some basic dysfunctional linguistic usages. We believe that this language awareness is an important goal in itself. A therapist may of course notice other things in a client’s entries to bring up. For example, a particular subcategory of Drama may be prominent in a client’s usage and need to be emphasized.

      There are other indicators which are used in the scheme, mostly to help generate the other codings, but they are not outputted directly. The outline below is fairly exhaustive:

      Thought Helper Indicators (with examples):

      1. Supercategory "Drama" (output as red)
        Available Subcodings:
        1. "can't-ing" (I can't ...)
        2. "labeling" (idiot)
        3. "awfulizing" (horrible)
          • c1 - subset "crazy" words (demented)
          • c2 - subset "bademotion" (loathe)
          • c3 – awfulizing emphasis (so -, too -)
        4. "all-or-nothing" (everyone)
        5. "unclassified drama” – emphasis of negativity (simply - )
      2. "Shoulding" (Perceived Personal Obligation) (output as purple)(I should ...)
      3. "Fortunetelling" (Catastrophizing) (output as underlined)(It will be bad)
      4. "Mindreading" (Others' mental states)(output as light purple highlighting)(John wants ...)
      5. self/other as needed
      6. condemnation indicated ([self-condemnation-indicated], [other-condemnation-indicated], condemnor, condemnation, condemnee)
      7. desire (want, partial-to)
      8. goals (try, intend)
      9. "emoreasoning" (seems ..., feels ...)
      10. good/bad – unambiguous positive/negative sentiment
      11. hedges/hedging (almost, sometimes, probably, ..)
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