TBCT/Trial Based Cognitive Therapy

Application areas: Focus on changing Core Beliefs (CB) stemming from childhood.

Developed by: Irismar Reis De Oliveira in 2011 

TBCT was inspired by Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”.

It is a 3-level, 3-phase case formulation approach. TBCT maintains that perceptions contribute to exaggerated feelings. TBCT has a particular focus on altering CB (the cast in stone, rigid belief system about the self, world and other developed due to early childhood experiences).

In TBCT, principles of Cognitive Therapy (CT) are applied in metaphorical fashion by using an analogy with the Law. The client engages with their CBs as if they were participating in a judicial process, questioning CBs that were previously accepted as the truth.

The process aims at an awareness of these CBs and at the development of more functional beliefs. A Trial-Based-Thought Record is constructed as a representation of ‘the trial’.


1st level (to change automatic thoughts)

  • Cognitive Distortion Questionnaire
  • Intra-personal Thought Record
  • Inter-personal Thought Record
  • Participation Grid

2nd level (to change underlying assumptions)

  • Behavioural experiment facilitated by colour-coded symptoms hierarchy
  • Consensual role-playing

3rd level (to change core beliefs)

  • Trial Based Thought Record
  • Trial Based Metacognitive awareness
  • Sailboat metaphor

Resource: trialbasedcognitivetherapy.com

Beth Cooper Howell Proof reader/copy editor

Contributions by
Prof David Edwards
Dr Linda Blokland
Matthew Watkin
Edgar Tyrone
Bertus Swanepoel
Dr Shane Pienaar-Du Bruyn