Thought processes, emotions, and behaviors - oh my! Does the way we process information affect our emotional health and reactions to the world around us?
Imagine that you have an exam tomorrow and you're afraid that you will fail. Because of this, you're using distractions around you as a way to avoid studying. Not studying causes you to fail, but you believe that you failed because you are unintelligent. Your belief that you're unintelligent is based on how you processed the information when you learned you failed the test.
Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the way people process information. A therapist using cognitive psychology will help you examine and then rationalize the situation in order to understand the most valid reason for your failure. Then the therapist will teach you how to make changes that will help you succeed.
Two Forms of Therapy
Cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy are two areas of cognitive psychology used in therapy. The approaches used in cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy are very similar. Both have the following four characteristics:
- The client and therapist work together as a team.
- A belief that problems are the result of cognitive processes, or how we process information.
- A focus on changing thoughts to produce desired changes in emotions or behavior.
- Time-limited, educational treatment targeting specific problems.
The main difference between the two is that cognitive therapy focuses on eliminating psychological distress, while cognitive-behavioral therapy targets the elimination of negative behavior, as well.
Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that changing the way a person thinks about an event can improve outcomes because problems are caused by errors in reasoning. These systematic errors in reasoning that lead to faulty assumptions and misconceptions are called cognitive distortions.
Aaron T. Beck developed the cognitive therapy approach. While researching depression, he observed that most depressed people interpret events in a negative way. This led him to assume that how you feel is related to the way you perceive your experiences.
Remember our example at the beginning of the lesson? You believed that you failed the exam because you are unintelligent. This may make you feel like there's no point in trying to study in the future and could even lead to feelings of helplessness or depression.
The cognitive distortion is your belief that you are unintelligent. What do you think might happen if you replace this belief with a more functional one? If you believe you failed the test because you have poor study habits, you may be disappointed by the failure but determined to improve your study habits before the next exam. You now have a more manageable situation to deal with.
Cognitive-behavior therapy merges behavior therapy with cognitive therapy and focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
A therapeutic technique called cognitive-behavior modification was developed by Donald Meichenbaum. This technique focuses on identifying negative self-talk in order to change unwanted behaviors. When a person is controlled by negative thoughts, they find it more difficult to control their behavioral responses in unpleasant situations. Cognitive behavior management's goal is for the client to gain back this lost control.
Think back to our example of the failed exam. Let's imagine you have your next exam coming up. You are anxious about it and fearful that you'll fail again, so you decide you're not even going to attempt to take the exam, and you stay home instead. You tell yourself, 'I won't pass the exam so there's no reason to take it.' If you can use cognitive behavior management to change your negative thinking, you may be able to take your next exam rather than avoiding it out of fear.
Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the way people process information. Two areas of cognitive psychology used in therapy are cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy. Both of these involve the client and therapist working together, the belief that problems are the result of cognitive processes, and a focus on changing our thoughts to change our emotions or behavior. They are also both based on time-limited, educational practices for a specific problem. However, cognitive therapy focuses only on emotions and cognitive-behavior therapy also addresses behavior concerns.
Cognitive therapy was developed by Aaron T. Beck and is based on the idea that changing the way a person thinks about an event can improve outcomes because problems are caused by errors in reasoning. Systematic errors in reasoning that lead to faulty assumptions and misconceptions are called cognitive distortions. Cognitive-behavior therapy merges behavior therapy with cognitive therapy and focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
A therapeutic technique used in cognitive behavior therapy was developed by Donald Meichenbaum. It is called cognitive-behavior modification and focuses on identifying negative self-talk in order to change unwanted behaviors.
As a result of thoroughly studying this lesson, you could:
- Give a brief description of cognitive psychology
- Enumerate the four characteristics that cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy have in common
- Name the persons credited with developing cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavior modification
- Detail both of these approaches to therapy