Cognitive behavioral therapy constitutes the predominant orientation of practical clinical psychology in most of Europe and the United States. His great investment in theory and research has demonstrated its effective application to multiple psychological and psychiatric problems.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Within psychology, despite being a recent scientific discipline, it offers a multitude of orientations and perspectives from which to approach the treatment of different psychological disorders.

Perhaps because of its object of study, the human mind, psychology has developed very different theoretical schools, psychoanalysis being the most popularly known among them .

However, within the practice of clinical psychology, at least in the territory that we have indicated at the beginning, psychoanalytic practice is not the most widespread. But in the day-to-day life of the psychologist, the most common is the only theory and techniques of the cognitive-behavioral branch . They are so widely used because, unlike other schools, they have proven their efficacy experimentally even above many drugs.

Origin of cognitive-behavioral therapy

Another of the great schools of psychology is behaviorism, the origin of which can be pointed out in the first works of classical or associationist conditioning by Ivan Pavlov. However, the fundamental development occurred in the United States with the works of Thorndike, Watson and Skinner among many others constituting what is called first generation therapies or behavior therapy.

The therapy cognitive behavioral is the second generation of therapies within the behaviorist orientation and arises from the limitations posed by the previous model focused exclusively on observable behavior. This new form of treatment emphasizes cognitive aspects as originating from mental disorders.

The Basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Within cognitive-behavioral or cognitive therapy, the author of reference is Aaron Beck, an American psychiatrist whose fundamental work is the Theory of Depression from which he derived the therapy and multiple theories for other disorders with their corresponding treatments.

Without forgetting the importance of practical learning, behavior and association (inheritance of the first behaviorism) incorporates the need to act on the thoughts and beliefs of the people that would constitute the origin of the problem . From there, various techniques are developed, cognitive restructuring being very important, to try to change them and thus convert a change in behavior and emotions.

Beck is not the only author within this orientation, but, ultimately, they all share that: both emotions and behavior styles do not depend on physical stimuli or the environment but on the mental representations and beliefs of the individual.

How do you intervene in this therapeutic orientation?

Cognitive-behavioral treatment is not unitary since many authors have contributed to building the theoretical and technical body of therapy. In any case, if there are aspects that they share and that we will briefly summarize.

The fundamental objective of the therapy is to teach to know the own style of thought that is in the origin of the emotional problems, since they take us to little useful conclusions or far from reality. These are dysfunctional thoughts that arise from deeper irrational beliefs that distort information processing.

To achieve the change, the person is expected to be able to reflect on their own way of thinking and find the errors or distortions that occur. The method commonly used to achieve this goal is Socratic dialogue. This technique seeks that, based on the therapist’s feedback , the patient will detect errors and reflect on the appropriate alternatives to these inappropriate styles of thinking.

Another similar way of working is through the aforementioned technique of cognitive restructuring. This method is more directive and, based on a record of behaviors, emotions and thoughts , it focuses on detecting irrational thoughts and proposing the correct thought alternatives.

When it’s used?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a very versatile set of treatments that can be applied, with their pertinent modifications, to a wide variety of problems and to practically all ages.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy in depressive, anxious , phobic, personality problems … has even been developed for the treatment of schizophrenia.

For most of them, it is the only type of psychotherapy with valid and reliable results that have shown an efficacy far superior to the placebo effect. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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