Another person reading this information might think, "Well, this sounds good but I don't think I can do it." This person feels sad and discouraged. So it is not a situation which directly affects how a person feels emotionally, but rather, his or her thoughts in that situation. When people are in distress, they often do not think clearly and their thoughts are distorted in some way (Beck).
Cognitive therapy helps people to identify their distressing thoughts and to evaluate how realistic the thoughts are. Then they learn to change their distorted thinking. When they think more realistically, they feel better. The emphasis is also consistently on solving problems and initiating behavioral change (Beck).
Thoughts intercede between some sort of stimulus, such as an external event, and feelings. The motivator (stimulus) brings out a thought -- which might be a weighted judgment -- which turns into to an emotion. In other words, it is not the stimulus that somehow brings out an emotional response, but our judgment of or feelings about that stimulus.
Two other assumptions buttress the method of the cognitive counselor or therapist: First, that the patient is mentally and physically capable of recognizing his or her own thoughts and of altering them. And, secondly, that sometimes the thoughts brought out by a stimulus of some kind alter or fail to reflect reality accurately.
A "real" example of different thoughts about the same situation and the resulting emotions is the case of a person being turned down for a job. She thinks and feels like she lost the employment opportunity because she was inept. She could become depressed, and she might not apply for the same kind of job again. However, if she feels she was not hired because the other candidates' resumes were stronger, she might feel frustrated and disappointed but not necessarily depressed, and the experience probably wouldn't keep her from applying for other similar jobs.
Cognitive therapy suggests that psychological distress is caused by distorted thoughts about stimuli giving rise to distressed emotions. The theory is particularly well developed (and empirically supported) in the case of depression, where clients frequently experience unduly negative thoughts which arise automatically even in response to stimuli which might otherwise be experienced as positive (Mulhauser).
For instance, a depressed client hearing "please stop talking in class" might think
"everything I do is wrong; there is no point in even trying." The same client might hear "you've received top marks on your essay" and think "that was a fluke; I won't ever get a mark like that again," or he might hear "you've really improved over the last term" and think "I was really abysmal at the start of term." Any of these thoughts could lead to feelings of hopelessness or reduced self-esteem maintaining or worsening the individual's depression (Mulhauser).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
The first cousin of Aaron Beck's theories and practice of cognitive therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
The goal of cognitive therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is to comprehend how emotions, behaviors and thoughts interrelate, and how they may be "manipulated" by an outside stimulus -- including events which may have occurred early in the client's life.
The goal of cognitive counseling/therapy is not to correct every thought distortion in a client's perspective -- just those which may be the cause of his distress. The therapist will attempt to understand experiences from the patient's point-of-view, and the client and therapist will work together with a practical outlook, pursuing the client's thoughts and assumptions. The therapist assists the client in learning how to test these by comparing them to reality and against other assumptions.
A client who is afraid of dying in an automobile accident is causing her great concern when it comes time to leave for work, might write down their estimate of the odds of dying in a car crash at various points in the morning -- when they first get up. Then she might repeat that exercise when she is nearly ready to leave the house, again when she is almost to the car, and, finally, when she is driving to work. (These odds might be: 1,000 to 1 against (dying) when first getting out of bed; 20 to 1 against when nearly ready to leave the house; 2 to 1 against when almost to the car; 5 to 1 in favor of dying in a car crash when actually driving.) The patient can see that their estimated odds of actually dying in a car crash are changing minute to minute as they eat breakfast and get ready to depart. This can force them toward making the estimates more realistic in the first place and reducing the anxiety which accompanies the thought that one is very likely to die in a crash while driving.
There are several approaches to cognitive-behavioral therapy, including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy. All have similar characteristics:
External things, like people, situations, and events do not cause our emotions or the way we behave -- our thoughts do. This is a help to us because it means we can alter the way we think about things in order to change the way we feel and act even when the circumstance doesn't change.
The client receives less than 20 sessions. Psychoanalysis can take years. CBT is briefer because of its highly instructive nature and the fact that it makes use of homework assignments. Clients are helped to understand at the very beginning of the therapy that there will be a point when the therapy will end and that ending is a joint decision made by the therapist and client. CBT is never an open-ended process.
CBT therapists believe that the clients change because they learn how to think differently and they act on that. In other forms of counseling, the good relationship between client and therapist is given the credit for why people get better. Therefore, CBT therapists focus on teaching rational self-counseling skills.
The counselor's part in the therapy is to pay attention, instruct, and provide support, while the patient's role is to express concerns, absorb the lessons, and take action concerning each lesson. The therapist's objective is to learn what their clients want out of life and then help them achieve it.
Most people seeking counseling do so because, basically, they do not want to feel the way they have been. Some of the CBT therapies emphasizing stoicism teach the benefits of feeling calm when confronted with undesirable situations. They also stress that we will have our unwelcome circumstances whether we are upset about them or not. If we are concerned or emotionally upset about our troubles, we have two problems -- the problem, and the fact that we are concerned or bothered by it. If we can learn to calmly accept a problem, we are in a better position to make use of our intelligence, energy, and resources to fix whatever is troubling us.
CBT counselors want to understand their patients' problems. They ask questions and patients are supportively asked to question themselves about how they are feeling.
CBT therapists do not "capture the prey" for the clients -- they teach them how to hunt! In other words, clients are not told what to do but how to do something. CBT counselors keep an agenda for each session and teach specific techniques or concepts during that lesson. Counselors show clients how to think and act in ways that will allow them to obtain the things they want.
The objective of CBT counseling is to assist clients to discard their unwanted responses and to acquire new ways of reacting. What CBT is not, is "just talking." One of the main priorities of CBT is long-term results. People who comprehend how and why they are doing well, know what to do to continue doing well.
Inductive thinking allows us to self-analyze our thoughts and determine if they are guesses, and if so, question and test them. And if we find our guesses are incorrect (because we have new information), we can adjust our thinking to be in line with what the new situation is. Our thinking is always based on fact. The client learns to assess the facts of his situation to determine if he really should waste his time getting upset over his perceived idea of what the circumstances are.
Homework. Like writing or math, you can't learn when you don't practice. Reading is assigned as part of the CBT sessions. Goal achievement could take a very long time if a person were only to think about the techniques and topics taught for one hour per week. That's why CBT therapists assign reading assignments and encourage their clients to practice the techniques learned.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
The first discrete, intentionally therapeutic approach to CBT to be developed was Rational…