Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy based on cognitions, assumptions, beliefs, and behaviours, with the aim of influencing negative emotions that relate to an inaccurate appraisal of events. The general approach developed out of behaviour modification, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, has become widely used to treat various kinds of neuroses and psychopathology, including mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
The objectives of CBT typically are to identify irrational or maladaptive thoughts, assumptions and beliefs that are related to debilitating negative emotions and to identify how they are dysfunctional, inaccurate, or simply not helpful. This is done in an effort to reject the distorted cognitions and to replace them with more realistic and self-helping alternatives.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is not an overnight process. Even after clients have learned to recognise when and where their mental processes go awry, it can take months of effort to replace a dysfunctional cognitive-affective-behavioural process or habit with a more reasonable, salutary one.
An example will illustrate the process: Having made a mistake, a person believes, “I’m useless and can’t do anything right.” This, in turn, worsens the mood, leading to feelings of depression; the problem may be worsened if the individual reacts by avoiding activities and then behaviorally confirming his negative belief to himself.
As a result, a successful experience becomes more unlikely, which reinforces the original thought of being “useless.” In therapy, the latter example could be identified as a self-fulfilling prophecy or “problem cycle,” and the efforts of the therapist and client would be directed at working together to change this. This is done by addressing the way the client thinks and behaves in response to similar situations and by developing more flexible ways to think and respond, including reducing the avoidance of activities. If, as a result, the client escapes the negative thought patterns and destructive behaviours, the feelings of depression may, over time, be relieved. The client may then become more active, succeed more often, and further reduce feelings of depression.