Change your thoughts and you change your world.”–Norman Vincent Peale
Is it true? Is it possible to change your thoughts for a more positive outlook on the world? Aaron Beck, father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), certainly thought it was. He believed that people are capable of self-healing by restructuring their thoughts and changing the schemas, or cognitive concepts that created them. By altering the negative thoughts, symptoms of anxiety and depression could be safely treated. CBT is now one of the predominant therapeutic treatments used in clinical settings to alleviate and treat cognitive distortions or false beliefs.
What are some examples of Cognitive Distortions, aka False Beliefs?
• Mislabeling aka Global Labeling . Mislabeling is represented as extreme, emotionally charged, negative, and irrational generalizations such as : I flunked a test therefore I will never succeed at anything/I’m a failure – They didn’t say hello to me therefore they must hate me/no one likes me
• Catastrophizing – Castastrophizing is represented by “what if” questions that magnify both positive or negative possibilities to an extreme degree such as: Oh no, it’s raining. What if I drive my car and I begin to aquaplane? What if I walk in the rain and then I slip and hurt myself?
• Polarized Thinking – Everyone and/or everything is black or white, there is no middle ground. Examples such as X gave me chocolate, they are a good person but Y did not give me chocolate, means they are a bad person, speak to a difficulty to see shades of grey.
Techniques used in CBT
Once the schemas or distortions are found, therapists will use some of the following techniques to help clients reshape their thinking processes.
• Reattribution. Therapists begin by testing assumptions and automatic thoughts via alternative causes or events using questions such as: Have you failed all your tests? No? Hence you are not a failure.
• Redefining. By providing new thoughts that will empower the client such as: Say “I will study more” instead of “I will fail this test, therapists are able to give control back to clients.
• Diversion. Interrupting thought patterns by using activities such as social clubs, sports, work activities, are examples of techniques therapists use to reduce negative thinking. The key is to distract and help clients from ruminating about their problems..
Therapy using CBT is very structured and usually encompasses homework and/or a workbooks.
CBT in Action with Aaron Beck
In this video, Beck is using a technique called downward arrow to find the client’s schema. Once discovered, he begins to restructure the thoughts using redefining, reattribution, and decatastrophizing.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Sofia University
Learning at Sofia University is both intellectual and experiential. One of the best strategies to understand the therapy is through self-evaluation and role play. CBT is covered in different classes such as “Critical Thinking in Clinical Psychology”, “History and Systems of Psychology”, “Psychotherapy theory and Interventions”, and more! Special thanks to Dr. Sersecion for her lecture on CBT!
If you feel ready to heal yourself in order to better heal others, come join us at Sofia University!
Come join the family 🙂
A bientot! by Pierre Araman
If you would like to learn more about CBT, here are some links to additional resources:
- BECK Institute: https://www.beckinstitute.org/get-informed/what-is-cognitive-therapy/
- A study on The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses by Stefan G. Hofmann, Anu Asnaani, Imke J.J. Vonk, Alice T. Sawyer, and Angela Fang (2012)
- A video on CBT techniques – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoFNs-3r0Go
- Another study on The efficacy of CBT for Individuals with Chronic Pain by Dawn M. Ehde, Tiara M. Dillworth, and Judith A. Turner (2014) – https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-a0035747.pdf
CBT distortions: http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/
Blog writer Pierre Araman is a student in the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program who enjoys sharing his growing knowledge of therapy and therapeutic technique with the wider audience.