A Critical Evaluation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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Introduction This essay aims to critically evaluate one therapeutic intervention in psychology, named, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It begins with defining CBT and discussing the underlying principles and concepts of this approach. Some examples of treating psychological disorders by employing a CBT approach in children and adolescents will be made and then, It will move on to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this therapeutic intervention. The review will be finished by a conclusion regarding employing such approach. What is CBT? Modern CBT has been influenced by two major therapeutic approaches: firstly, ‘Behaviour Therapy’ as developed by Wolpe and others in 1950s and 1960s; and secondly, ‘Cognitive Therapy’ which was developed by A.T. Beck in the 1960s. As defined by Emery & Tracy (1987), CBT is “a series of strategies that relieve psychological suffering by correcting distorted and maladaptive thinking. The therapy is based on a theory of psychopathology that recognises the reciprocal interrelationship among the cognitive, behavioural, somatic and emotional systems”. Although CBT is often referred to as a unitary treatment, it is actually a diverse collection of complex and subtle interventions that must each be mastered and understood from the social learning perspective (Reinecke, Dattilio, & Freeman, 2003). According to Graham (2005), CBT aims to change a patient’s unhealthy behaviour through examining assumptions behind the thought patterns (cognitive restruction) and also through using behaviour therapy techniques. In CBT, therapist and patient work with each other to identify the thoughts that may cause distress, and the therapist employs behavioural therapy techniques to modify the resulting behaviour. It aims to address patients’ certain fundamental core beliefs (schemas) that lead to negative influences on their behaviour and functioning (Rufer et al, 2000). CBT is the treatment option for some mental disorders, such as depression, dissociative identity disorder, eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, hypochondriasis, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorder without agoraphobia (Clark, 1986). In contrast, as Flannery-Schroeder & Kendall (2000) describe, CBT is an inappropriate treatment option for some patients. Patients with significant cognitive impairments (for example patients with traumatic brain injury or organic brain disease) and individuals who are not willing to take an active role in the therapy and treatment process are not desirable candidates. Principles of CBT: The cognitive principle: the core idea of the cognitive element of CBT is based on looking at different interpretations which people make of events (Graham, 2005). It basically highlights that when two people react differently in a situation, it is because they feel and see the event differently and gives different ‘meaning’ to it.
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