Cognitive and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

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  • 0:02 Cognitive Psychology
  • 0:49 Two Forms of Therapy
  • 1:38 Cognitive Therapy
  • 2:57 Cognitive-Behavior Therapy
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Thought processes, emotions, and behaviors - oh my! Does the way we process information affect our emotional health and reactions to the world around us?

Cognitive Psychology

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

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

Cognitive-behavior therapy merges behavior therapy with cognitive therapy and focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

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