Developing effective therapies that provide measurable results in patients’ lives has been the goal of psychology professionals for many years. Cognitive therapy is showing these results in patients who experience a variety of psychological problems, including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and some personality disorders. Although the principles are simple, the effects of CT can be powerful, and it is being used in a variety of settings to help patients achieve mastery over their thinking patterns and behavior.
What Is Cognitive Therapy?
The basis of cognitive therapy is the connection between thoughts, emotional responses and behavior. The individual’s thought patterns have a direct bearing on how he or she responds emotionally, and this, in turn, affects how the individual will behave. It’s different from the recent trend in Life Coaching, where people seek help for their entire lives, not necessarily just a specific mental health condition.
History of Cognitive Therapy
The concepts of cognitive therapy were developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck during the 1960s, when he was working in the field of depression at the University of Pennsylvania.
He learned that patients with depression spontaneously experienced long streams of negative thoughts that appeared to arise automatically. When patients were encouraged to stop and examine these thoughts objectively, they could change their thinking, and subsequently, improve their mood. In addition, the changes lasted for a long time after therapy, which made it a significant development in the treatment of mental health conditions. Ongoing research continues to explore how the therapy can be used to help those with psychiatric conditions and medical conditions that also have a psychiatric component.
How Cognitive Therapy Can Help Mental Health Problems
Cognitive therapy encourages patients to examine their thinking to determine how realistic it really is. The patients collect data regarding their ideas and behaviors that interfered with their achieving their goals. They develop “action plans” to take an active part in implementing changes that will provide better outcomes.
Benefits of Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive therapy can be used with or without medication that may be needed to help control symptoms. It is a practical approach that allows patients to ultimately be their own therapists when incorrect thoughts, disturbing emotions and inappropriate behaviors prevent them from living a more fulfilling life.