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Cognitive Theory

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With ideas opposite psychodynamic approaches, Beck concluded the key to therapy was in a patients' cognition, which is the way we perceive, interpret, and attribute meaning. Beck's preliminary focus was on depression and developed a list of "errors" in thinking that he suggested could cause or maintain depression, including "arbitrary inference, selective abstraction, over-generalization, and magnification (of negatives) and minimization (of positives)." He later expanded his focus on anxiety disorders and introduced "schema", a patient's vulnerabilities or beliefs.

Cognitive therapists aim to discover a patient's core beliefs--the rules they set for themselves. "I should be perfect", "I should be liked by everyone", "My worth depends on other's approval", "I need to be certain", are just several examples of these set rules. Cognitive therapy also focuses on pinpointing and changing "distorted" or "unrealistic" ways of thinking, consequently effecting emotion and behavior. It is these biased or illogical thoughts that are associated with a negative affect. "`She thinks I'm an idiot" (Mind-reading), "I'll fail the test" (Fortune-telling), "I'm a loser" (Labeling), "My successes are trivial" (Discounting positives), "I fail at everything" (All-or-nothing thinking), "If I fail at this, I'll fail at other things too" (Over-generalizing), and "The divorce was all my fault" (Personalizing)."

In order to help the patient, the therapist will monitor thoughts, categorize the negative thoughts, implement vertical descent (uncovering patient's schema or assumptions), use the double standard technique (looking at the costs and benefits of a belief), role playing with the therapist (acting against the maladaptive thought), and improving coping statements and new adaptive beliefs.

Cognitive therapy has significantly affected ones who suffer from depression. Studies have shown cognitive therapy is as effective as medication and "may have long-term preventative advantages." People suffering from mood disorders, anger management issues, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, just to name a few, benefit from cognitive therapy.



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