International Journal of Cognitive Therapy

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 100–116 | Cite as

Cognitive Behavioural Chairwork

  • Matthew Pugh
Regular Article


Recent years have seen increased interest in the use of experiential techniques within cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Chairwork techniques such as empty-chair and two-chair interventions are popular therapeutic tools which originate from the psychodrama and gestalt schools of psychotherapy. Despite a growing body of evidence, however, such techniques are often neglected in CBT. This article provides an overview of key cognitive behavioural chairwork (CBC) techniques used for addressing maladaptive patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Chair-based methods for restructuring distressing cognitions, resolving ambivalence, generating metacognitive awareness, bolstering self-compassion and improving emotional regulation are outlined. Evidence for the clinical effectiveness of CBC is then reviewed, and possible mechanisms of action are discussed with reference to theories of cognitive science. The paper concludes by discussing the limitations associated with chairwork and provides guidelines for introducing, conducting and consolidating CBC.


CBT Chairwork Empty-chair Experiential Multiplicity Two-chair 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Statement

This article has not required approval from an ethics committee.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Cognitive Psychotherapy 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vincent Square Eating Disorders ServiceCentral and North West London NHS Foundation TrustLondonEngland

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