Cognitive Behaviour Therapy


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy rests on the view that what we think and believe (cognitions), basically determine how we act and behave. Symptoms of emotional distress often appear as a result of the fact that what we think or believe are based on ideas that are not true or accurate, may be exaggerated and leads to ‘self-fulfilling prophesies’ and often ‘The solution may become the problem’.

The main goal of therapy is to uncover these dysfunctional beliefs, to modify them and so change the ensuing behaviour towards more adaptive and self-fulfilling behaviour.

Challenging upsetting thoughts and identifying thinking errors are thus essential elements of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

Intense emotions such as anxieties and anger are often the result of unresolved painful experiences as a child. Those memories become embedded and the learnt reaction developed during childhood becomes the automatic reaction in adulthood. These reactions may have been appropriate for a child, but could be unhelpful and inappropriate in adulthood.

In CBT it is important to develop a high awareness of what the client’s main schemas and coping strategies are. Typical questions to explore the validity of thoughts are be:

  • When experiencing a difficult emotion, ask yourself: ‘is this emotion and my reaction to it connected to the current situation or to some memory of an event in the past?’
  • What is the evidence? What evidence supports my thoughts? What evidence is against this thought?
  • What alternative views are there? How would someone else I respect, view this situation?
  • What is the effect of the way I think on my mood? Does it help or hinder me from what I want?

The therapeutic process supports the client:

  • To develop an awareness of her/his emotions,
  • To develop the ability to tolerate the emotions,
  • To challenge false beliefs and
  • To develop new ways of dealing with everyday problems.

This process uncovers powerful Cognitive Distortions that fuel mal-adaptive behaviour. Some of the known Cognitive Distortions are:

  1. Am I thinking in all-or-nothing terms? Ignoring the middle ground or grey areas?
  2. Am I catastrophizing? Expecting a worst case scenario?
  3. Am I personalising? Interpreting comments or behaviour as personally directed at me, or taking blame for something which is not my fault
  4. Living by fixed rules – should, must, can’t?
  5. Am I mind-reading? Or are my thoughts projections of my own fears or concerns?
  6. Jumping to conclusions. Focussing on small detail and interpreting it out of context. Selective perception.
  7. Am I overgeneralising? Applying one interpretation to others: He doesn’t like me so no-one likes me.

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