Cognitive Restructuring is a core technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It's a therapeutic process used to identify and confront negative thought patterns and help people understand that these thoughts are ineffective or disruptive, with the goal to ultimately change negative behaviors. It teaches patients how to think differently by replacing adverse and illogical thoughts ("faulty thinking") with more rational and positive types of thinking.
Cognitive restructuring is commonly used in treatment of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders. A therapist will aid the patient in attempting to replace irrational and distorted thoughts with realistic ones.
The steps in cognitive restructuring are: 1) identifying irrational thoughts, 2) challenging/disputing them, and 3) replacing them with more realistic, rational, and positive thoughts. An example would be a patient who was having repeated panic attacks because of their academic classes. The therapist would first help them identify the disruptive thoughts that are contributing to the panic attacks ("I am going to fail. I am stupid. The professor hates me. I am way out of my league"). Then the patient would need to dispute these negative thoughts with more positive statements ("I got here because of my good grades. I have passed classes in the past. Everyone else is struggling too right now"). Eventually the patient would replace the negative thoughts with realistic thoughts ("I need to study more. We need to form a study group. This is a rough patch that will be over soon. I can handle this").