Depending on the emotional health and personality of the client, some Cognitive Therapists may use active disputation to rigorously evaluate the logical validity of automatic thoughts and maladaptive core beliefs, and to activate more adaptive interpretations (Leahy, 2003; p37).
Key techniques of logical disputation include defining key terms such as the labels that a client uses (e.g. the definition of a failure) and establishing criteria for proving an assertion (e.g. the criteria for success). Clients’ definitions and criteria are often idiosyncratic, global, vague and inconsistent. Logical disputation tests the validity of definitions and assesses how reasonable the criteria are (Leahy, 2003; 38-40).
‘Cost-benefit analysis’, a strategy often used in relapse-prevention, is an example of logical disputation. Applied to substance use, cost-benefit analysis involves a detailed examination of the short-term and long-term advantages and disadvantages of continuing to use substances (Ball, 2007).
It is also useful for challenging automatic thoughts and core beliefs that are being used to support ongoing substance use, or any other unhelpful coping strategy.