Aaron Beck: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) looks at the role of meaning, emotion and behaviour in mental health difficulties. It works on the principle that when we anticipate something good is about to happen to us we usually feel happy and excited. Likewise if we attach distressing meanings to events we are likely to experience distressing thoughts and feelings. These are likely to change our behaviour. CBT is concerned with understanding the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviours in the here and now.

Unlike many ‘talking therapies’ the CBT practitioner will work collaboratively in a ‘hands on’ approach with their client. The first step in the process is to establish what is troubling the client during an initial assessment. This will include identifying any goals the client would like to work towards. The second stage is called the ‘case formulation’, in which the practitioner will produce a diagrammatic representation of what the client has identified as their distressing issues. Frequent discussion is used by client and practitioner to ensure this formulation is truly representative of where the client feels they are emotionally, and corrections made where necessary.

On completion the case formulation is used to help the client understand the connection between their thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Using a goal oriented approach the client works through these connections, testing out how each part of the process affects them. The client is then encouraged to discover new ways of dealing with each part of the process, and to try out new forms of behaviour.

According to Christine Padesky, Aaron Beck hoped CBT as an individual approach would “no longer exist by 2010′. He hoped CBT principles would be assimilated into all forms of psychotherapy.


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