Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely used term that describes a number of approaches focussing on attitudinal and behavioural change. Included are Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy; Donald Meichenbaum’s Stress Inoculation Training; Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy, among others. While each of these approaches differs with respect to the techniques used to ensure change, all share some important elements.

The Elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Firstly, there is an emphasis on cognitions as the primary focus of change. Terms used to refer to the cognitions include thoughts, internal dialogue, self-talk, schemata and cognitive maps. The major premise of CBT is what and how an individual thinks, how an individual views the world and people how s/he reasons and attempts to solve problems. The relationship between attitudes and the resulting emotional and behavioural reactions was first presented by Albert Ellis (1962) using the ABC Model where:

A = Activating Event, i.e., the situation;

B = Belief, i.e., how the situation is perceived and evaluated;

C = Consequences, i.e., how the individual reacts.

Secondly, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is based on three primary principles:

You behave and feel the way you think: Cognitive approaches assume that negative emotions (e.g. anger, depression, anxiety, etc.) and negative behaviours (e.g. criminal and other antisocial behaviours) result more from negative or antisocial thoughts than from external events.

Most negative or pro-criminal feelings and behaviours come from distorted or antisocial thinking: This principle assumes that antisocial thinking is nearly always illogical, harmful and distorted even though the individual rigidly adheres to it.

You can change the way you feel and behave by altering what you think: Cognitive approaches assume that it is necessary to alter the content of thought in order to alter the way you feel and behave.

Thirdly, a systematic analysis of the cognitions that contribute to inappropriate or painful emotional and behavioural reactions is required to change those cognitions and the consequent emotion and behaviour. Though the methods vary according to the approach used, individuals are taught to identify, analyze and then alter those cognitions that lead to problematic emotions and behaviours.



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