Cognitive Therapy

What is different about Cognitive Therapy?

The other major models of emotional disturbances include the psychoanalysis,behavioral, and neuropsychiatric schools. While these have important differences with each other, they also have an important similarity: They all assume that emotional disturbances are caused by forces that the patient cannot either see or influence - or both. These may be repressed unconscious factors, hidden conditioned reflexes, or biological imbalances. These models all depend on the therapist to discover and resolve them.

Cognitive Therapy, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that emotional disturbances arise from thoughts that are created in order to interpret and react to specific events. These thoughts are accessible by the patient. In Cognitive Therapy, the therapist doesn't identify and treat these. Instead, the patient is guided to discover, examine, and modify them in a manner that the patient determines to be appropriate and functional.

The Cognitive Therapy Model

According to the Cognitive Therapy Model, our emotions and behaviors are formed by the way we interpret events. In other words, it is not the events that affect us, but the way we perceive them. From early childhood, we develop basic beliefs about the nature of ourselves, other people, and the external world. Based on these core beliefs, we develop general assumptions and attitudes that we use as a general philosophy for viewing and interacting with the external world. These are called intermediate beliefs. As particular events occur, our basic philosophy of life steps in to supply us with thoughts about those events that we use to interpret and react to them. These are called automatic thoughts.

The Cognitive Therapy Model says that all of these, from core beliefs to automatic thoughts, can be discovered and examined by the patient. If they are found to be irrational or dysfunctional, the patient can modify them. The therapist's role is to instruct and guide the patient through the process.