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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy


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Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of directive therapy. Unlike psychodynamic therapy, it does not focus on the past. It is more concerned with the present, especially the problems and difficulties that the patient brings to the therapist. It is based on the premise that our thinking influences our feelings and behaviours and, therefore, our perception and experience of life. Let us consider the following example of cognitive behavioural therapy.

Mary was hoping that her friend Jane would telephone her on Saturday night. She waited patiently for a call that never came. Mary became depressed. She thought that Jane no longer wanted her friendship because she was ‘ugly and dumb’.

Within the framework of cognitive behavioural therapy, Mary’s clinician would:

  • Encourage Mary to talk about her problem.
  • Help Mary to realise that she was depressed because she believed that she was ugly and dumb, and that she would feel differently if she had a more positive self-image.
  • Help Mary explore other, more plausible reasons for Jane not calling, such as a family commitment or she was simply too busy.
  • Guide Mary to recall other occasions in which Jane had proven herself to be a good friend.
  • Help Mary to build her self-esteem.

Cognitive behavioural therapy appears simple, but is not. It takes a skilled therapist to understand the negative beliefs patients have about themselves, and to show how these negative beliefs adversely affect the feelings and behaviours of the client. It is a highly effective form of therapy and is particularly suited to those who want their therapist to be “hands on” and active.


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