Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In 1960, Aaron T. Beck developed Cognitive Therapy. The technique entailed structure, was short in duration, and aimed to solve problems by reframing dysfunctional thinking and modifying behaviors (Beck, 1995). Although the cognitive model has changed over the years, the basic premises remain: psychological disturbances (i.e. mood- or behavior-related issues) are tied to distorted or dysfunctional thinking.

Over time, theorists combined aspects of behavioral therapy (a theory based upon the principles of conditioning) and cognitive therapy to develop the cognitive behavioral framework. Empirical data supports the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of a multitude of disorders including, but not limited to depression, anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, substance abuse, eating disorders, and couples conflict (Beck, 1995). The techniques are adaptable and consequently effective for treating patients of different ages, socioeconomic status, education level, and cultural background. Further, CBT has been modified for use with individuals, group, family, or couples.

CBT focuses on the “here and now” rather than early childhood experiences, and patients consequently gain awareness of how their current thinking, behaviors, and methods of communication play a role in their emotional wellbeing. Nevertheless, at times it may be beneficial to review the sources of problems or distress (which may lie in the past) so that patients can change the way they presently think about and relate to such problems. Through a variety of interventions, which may include guided discussion, homework, or role-playing, and patients can begin to develop problem solving and self help skills that they carry with them even after treatment is completed.

 Beck, J. S. (1995). Cognitive therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: Guilford.