Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Depressive Thoughts

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an empirically tested form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in improving various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and anger. Cognitive behavioral therapy and its components have progressed over the last 50 years or so.

One of the founders of the cognitive behavioral therapy model, Albert Ellis, was one of the first psychologists who recognized that thoughts or beliefs were directly related to his or her emotional experiences and behaviors. Albert Ellis developed a psychotherapy called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which is still commonly practiced in the field of psychology today.

Another front-runner in cognitive behavioral therapy was Aaron Beck, whose Cognitive Therapy model also involved focusing on the client’s thoughts as the route to their mental health dysfunction. Both Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy are effective in treating depressive disorders.

Cognitive Therapy

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model involved identifying and restructuring ones maladaptive beliefs, under the premise that once these beliefs change, so will resultant negative emotions and behaviors. According to Beck’s Cognitive Therapy, there are different levels to one’s cognitions.

At the surface, one’s thoughts are termed automatic thoughts. These are thoughts that spontaneously come to people’s minds frequently, on a daily basis. If someone is experiencing depression, it is often the case that these automatic thoughts are distorted, or not based in reality. There are numerous types of distorted automatic thoughts. One type of distorted automatic thought is called mind reading.

If someone is mind reading they believe that they know what another person is thinking about him or her. It is often the case in which a depressed person mind reads and believes that other people are thinking negatively of him or her. Another type of distorted automatic thought is called fortune-telling. When someone is fortune-telling he believes that he can predict the future, which often coincides with anxiety and depression.

For example, people will often negatively predict about the future (“I am going to fail the test”). Another type of distorted automatic thought is called labeling. When someone is labeling they generalize about themselves or someone else based on one trait. For example, if somebody cut them in a line they would refer to the person as a “loser.” This may lead to severe problems, for example, when parenting issues occur.

Similarly, they may view themselves with overall negative quality, based on one negative behavior that may have occurred. Another type of distorted automatic thought is called catastrophizing. Catastrophizing occurs when someone perceives a small incident in reality to be something bigger than it actually is. For example, ruminating about forgetting someone’s name would be catastrophizing that incident.

Negative filtering is a distorted automatic thought in that a person focuses on negative occurrences, and fails to acknowledge the positive ones. Unfair comparisons occur when somebody compares himself to another person who is better than them in a specific area, which results in a person feeling less than. People who have depressive symptoms often compare up, rather than down. Read also this post about CBT and anger management.

Automatic Thoughts in Cognitive Therapy

According to Cognitive Therapy, underlying these distorted automatic thoughts are assumptions. Assumptions involve deep-rooted beliefs a person has about he should behave. Maladaptive assumptions often seen in people with depressive symptoms involve people thinking they should be perfect, should be better and never fail.

Finally, underlying maladaptive assumptions are core beliefs a person has about himself. Core beliefs may involve a person believing that he is worthless, unlovable or a failure. It is often the case where core beliefs result from a person’s learning history, possibly criticism from his parents. It is important for a cognitive behavioral therapist to explore childhood issues, as they pertain to a person’s maladaptive core beliefs.

Cognitive Distortions in Cognitive Therapy

It is the role of a cognitive behavioral therapist to help a client identify all three levels of maladaptive thinking and help the client to restructure these thoughts. A cognitive behavioral therapist restructures a client’s thoughts by pointing out that they are not entirely based in reality. Cognitive disputation is the technique used by a cognitive behavioral therapist, in which they use various techniques to help the client see that his thoughts are maladaptive.

One technique used in Cognitive Therapy in thought disputation involves having the client pretend he is talking to a friend, disputing his friend’s maladaptive thoughts. It is often the case in which a client can easily dispute his friend’s maladaptive ways of thinking, which will then help him to dispute his own maladaptive thoughts. What’s also interesting is this post about the best therapy when dealing with ADHD in patients.

Cognitive behavioral therapists dispute maladaptive thoughts I asking the client for evidence supporting his maladaptive thought and for evidence against his maladaptive thought. Cognitive behavioral therapists help clients understand that they do not have much evidence for their maladaptive thinking, thereby helping them to realize that it is illogical.

It is important for a cognitive behavioral therapist to begin thought disputation at the outset of therapy, yet keep in mind the clients level of receptivity. Being that thought disputation can be perceived as argumentative, if the therapist is not skilled at doing so, it is important that rapport and trust have been established at the outset of the therapeutic relationship.