Cognitive therapy is a form of medical treatment which was developed by an American psychiatrist named Aaron T. Beck. Cognitive therapy, in fact, is a part taken from the whole group of approaches called the cognitive behavioral therapy. However, cognitive therapy per se, initially got expanded and improved by Beck in the 1960s.
The following lines will explain the basic postulates of this therapy and present its ways of helping people deal with mental illnesses.
Cognitive Therapy for Dysfunctional Thinking
In order to treat dysfunctional thinking, cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and changing it first, through the process of observation of emotional responses and general behavior. So, basically, cognitive therapy helps patients develop the skills necessary for modifying their beliefs and identifying the inadequate patterns of their thinking. Later, once they have managed to do this, the patients gradually become able to change their behavioral patterns into more desirable ones, through collaborating with their therapists.
In order to achieve all these demanding steps of progress and recovery, the therapist needs to test the assumptions which the patient makes, assessing how distorted, unrealistic or unhelpful these are. Simply, people who suffer from certain behavioral problems or disorders experience these problems due to the fact that they make behavioral errors repeatedly, succumbing to inadequate and damaging patterns of conduct and thinking. For example, people who are depressed, according to cognitive therapy make errors in forms of arbitrary inference, selective abstraction, over-generalization, minimization of positives and magnification of negatives. Hence, these are the behavioral problems which need to be corrected in order for a person to overcome his/her condition.
Sometimes, when the therapy cannot make the patient fully expel the negative thought out of his/her life, these are left with him/her. However, some other behavioral patterns are modified, allowing the patient to successfully avoid the potentially harmful effects of the negativities. In such a behavioral setting, the negative thought patterns disappear on their own, over a course of time.
Methods of Cognitive Therapy
The methods this therapy uses depend greatly on the condition the patient suffers from. Simply, cognitive therapy knows of 10 most frequent patterns of improper thinking, calling these cognitive distortions. Thus, if these are present, cognitive therapy will treat them in order to help the person overcome any of the behavioral problems he/she has.
First of all, all-or-nothing thinking is a form of cognitive distortion. Here, people cannot notice the middle scenario of things. Rather, they focus on “forever”, “never”, “always” and some other absolute terms. Secondly, people with behavioral pattern problems are prone to over-generalization believing that all occurrences in the world are same and that nothing can be applied on an individual level. Thirdly, they commonly reject the positive beliefs and attitudes, focusing on the negative ones. Subsequently, they always concentrate on the worst possible conclusion to any situation, even though there is neither evidence nor sense to this form of cognition. Additionally, people who have cognitive distortions are commonly guided by their emotions rather than logical patterns of thinking, often being prone to ignoring the facts, applying harsh labels, both to themselves and to others. Finally, these individuals are prone to blaming themselves for things that they could not possibly change or influence.
Therefore, the methods for cognitive therapy may range, varying and aligning with the number of cognitive distortions present. The best way to describe this is through an actual example which follows.
A person was bothered by thoughts related to the fact that no one likes her, especially her boss at work. Subsequently, she constantly feared her thoughts that her boss is bound to fire her sooner or later and that, due to such pressure and hardships life is equal to hell. Understandably, these thought patterns were setting this person in a world of negativity and low mood. Fortunately, once cognitive therapy showed this person the behavioral and thought patterns responsible for her negative mood, she was capable of noticing them when these appeared in her life, avoiding to get affected by them. She stopped jumping to conclusions and focused on the positive things rather than on the negative, reasonless ones. Logically, this turned her life upside-down, from a negative one to a healthy, productive, happy and creative one.
The problems that cognitive therapy is known to help people with are depression, anxiety, phobias, problematic relationships, OCD and eating disorders, even though the list can be expanded, depending on the patient's response to the treatment. In fact, many experts compare this therapy to anti-depressants, in terms of effectiveness. Yet, cognitive therapy is even better since it results in a much lower occurrence of relapses and side-effects, especially when it comes to the treatment of depression.
To sum up, there are countless of behavioral problems you can overcome through cognitive therapy and this ever-growing and expanding discipline surely has a lot to offer to all people in need.