Over the years, psychology has adopted several different approaches to understanding and dealing with human activity. Each psychological approach also has its own theoretical approaches and applications in practice. However, over three decades, cognitive behavioral therapy has grown into a psychotherapeutic orientation with the most experimental evidence of efficacy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been successfully applied to a wide range of problems with great results, and on top of all that, it is a very effective and flexible option. Cognitive behavioral therapy is capable of bringing about significant changes even over a limited period of time, and in addition, the techniques it contains offer therapy great flexibility to adapt to a particular problem and a particular patient.
Origins of cognitive behavioral therapy
The prevailing psychological trend has grown and changed with different eras, and over the ages, numerous new approaches have emerged with numerous new priorities.
Two of these, behaviorism and cognitive psychology, can be found at the origins of the form of therapy discussed in this article. And that is why we must first understand what these models of psychology consist of.
Behaviorism focuses on visible behavior. It focuses only on individual-mediated patterns of behavior that can be observed and measured.
According to this trend, human behavior is a reaction to certain stimuli, and which increase or decrease their frequency depending on the consequences. Through this, we can modify human behavior by altering the relationship between stimulus, reaction, and consequence.
For example, a person with a dog phobia has linked dogs and fear to each other, causing him to flee in the presence of that animal. If we manage to break this connection, the dog will cease to be a disgusting stimulus and the person will stop fleeing. On the other hand, in a similar situation, if we want a child to eat more vegetables, we should reward him every time he eats his vegetables.
This psychological approach focuses on the study of cognitive functions, that is, thoughts or mental processes. It is interested in understanding the process a person goes through after receiving information: how he handles it and how he interprets it.
The basis of cognitive psychology is that we do not understand reality as it is, but as we are. Each of us, with our own internal processes, has a different meaning to how we perceive reality.
For example: you call a friend and he doesn’t answer you. You may think he hasn’t heard his phone ring or you may interpret that he doesn’t want to talk to you because in reality he doesn’t like you. The reality is the same, but the process within a person is completely different.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy thus occurs as a combination of these two previous trends and focuses on both thought and behavior. This approach states that there is an inherent relationship between thought, emotion, and behavior, and that a change in any component has consequences that affect other components as well.
In this way, cognitive behavioral therapy takes advantage of very diverse techniques designed to change one of these three elements while knowing that in this way it expands to touch the whole person. For example:
- Cognitive rearrangement is a technique designed to help a person change their beliefs or thoughts. To this end, technology encourages a person to evaluate the truthfulness of their thoughts and to look for alternative thoughts that would better adapt to the situation. Once you have changed the way you interpret reality, you will also change the way you feel and act.
- Exposure is another technique designed to change behavior. The person is encouraged to stop avoiding and fleeing the fear situation and to face their fear. When you change your behavior and face a fear-producing situation, you can ensure that it is a truly harmless situation, in which case your beliefs and feelings about fear will also change immediately.
- Relaxation techniques, on the other hand, focus on shaping emotions. In particular, they help a person regulate their own feelings and level of activation. If your feelings change, your thoughts will also become less catastrophic, causing your behavior to stop utilizing escape as a solution and take the face of the situation instead.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a very comprehensive, flexible, and effective approach. It can achieve very significant improvements in a short period of time and can be applied to a wide range of disorders and states of mind. In addition, it is the psychological approach for which the most experimental evidence can be found. However, with regard to treatment, it is advisable to obtain a wide range of information on all the options available and to choose the approach that seems to suit you best.