Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Cognitive therapy, originated by Aaron Beck (1976), was inspired by Stoic philosophers who believed that by discarding false beliefs through the means of logic, a person could prevent emotional disturbances (Murguia, & Diaz, 2015). Cognitive refers to; thinking, conclusions, understandings, schemas, and biases. Behavioral refers to measurable changes in the way people conduct themselves (Lorenzo-Luaces et al. , 2016). Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) shifted away from the psychoanalytic approach to therapy, which viewed dysfunctional behavior a result of fundamental mental constructs.

CBT was focused on the client’s interactions with the environment, different than psychoanalysis, which focused on their internal drive. Psychoanalysts regarded modification of behavior as superficial and that behavioral therapy only reduced symptoms and did not address the person’s inherent problems. The psychoanalytic approach viewed the therapist as a blank slate; in that, the therapist was not to reveal anything personal information about themselves to the client; they were also not to answers questions (Bloch, 2004).

It is important to note that there is not a single model cognitive behavioral therapy or an underlying theory for which it is based (Herbert, et al. , 2013). It is a broad “umbrella term” that covers a variety of separate therapy models and techniques from both cognitive and behavioral (Herbert, et al. , 2013). For the purpose of this meta-analysis when referencing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) this writer is referring to the work of Aaron Beck (1976); who began with the development of cognitive therapy (CT) and later integrated behavioral techniques.

The work of Albert Ellis, who was the creator of rational emotive behavioral therapy, was very influential to Becks new approach to therapy. Beck was much less direct than Ellis and helped clients come to their own conclusions (2005). Cognitive behavioral therapy emerged and shifted the focus in psychology and therapy to the causes of maladaptive thinking and how it affects the view of self, the world, and the future (Lorenzo-Luaces et al. , 2016). Self and Society Cognitive Behavioral Therapy views the self as being founded on central or core beliefs, which are developed from past experiences.

The way people view themselves stems from the way they feel about themselves (Block, 2004). Psychopathology comes from interpreting the world from a dysfunctional worldview or biased lens (Beck, 1976). Feelings are influenced by thoughts; consequently, in order to heal, dysfunctional thoughts need to be avoided or changed (Weinrach, 1988). Because people have free play of emotions they are not simply rational beings; rather the self is comprised of subjective, emotional, motivational, and behavioral reactions to different life occasions (Weinrach, 1988).

This system of functioning is the basis for how a person understands, deciphers, and assigns meaning to various life events. The self is shaped by the interactions between an innate disposition and the environment. In each relational exchange, each person assigns meaning to the behaviors displayed by the other person. The observed behaviors elicit automatic thoughts which are based on previous core beliefs. From this, a feeling occurs which is constructed from the automatic thoughts. As a result, a new interaction or behavior ensues.

Therefore, interactions are less about reacting to another person’s behavior but reacting to a thought that is based on personal core beliefs (Carriger, 2009). When it comes to observing the self in interpersonal relationships, CBT believes that unhealthy relationships get caught in a vicious relational cycle of each member in the relationship attempting to fix the other person; whereas healthy relationships aim to derail and redirect these unhealthy behaviors in the first place (Carriger, 2009). The way a person interacts in relationships is based on personal core beliefs.

Core Beliefs. The sense of self begins during early childhood when the child begins to cultivate beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them. These core beliefs may not be in the conscious awareness even to the person themselves (Beck, 1995). This is because they are deeply ingrained understandings or a lens in which the world is viewed. These beliefs exist as absolute truths or just the way things are for each individual, therefore, become the way in which people internalize or assign meaning to situations and how they view the world (Beck, 1995).

Impressions or conclusions made about an event impact the way a person conducts themselves. (Beck, 1995) Feelings are based on the way in which a particular situation is interpreted. These interpretations are grounded in the way a person has assigned structure or meaning to their personal worldview (Beck, 1976). The evaluation of core beliefs is a vital part of cognitive behavioral therapy. Dysfunctional thinking shapes the focal part of subjective case conceptualizations and is where most of the time in therapy is spent (Bhar, Beck, & Butler, 2012).

As the therapist and client work together to identify and modify core beliefs, development and change may be seen across several areas of functioning. Therapy constitutes a deliberate focus on the progression of rational interventions to alleviate identity issues (Bhar, Beck, Buterl, 2012). The validity of maladaptive behaviors is challenged and replaced with new healthy behaviors. This is done through a variety of techniques and assignments that encourage an examination of the person’s core beliefs and assumptions.

Negative feelings and maladaptive practices are made in the typical stream of consciousness. Reflections, assessments, and pictures are made as a reaction to life encounters and thus shape maladaptive behaviors (Rector, 2006). Behavior, both adaptive and maladaptive, is influenced by the construction of mental structures called schemas. Schemas. A schema is a pattern of speculative mental structures that contain a particular belief. The schema is, in a sense, a map or structure that initiates perception and contains specific beliefs about the world and how it operates.

This belief is a continuing element of a person’s psychological temperament (Rosner, 2012). Schemas are developed based on the attitudes and assumptions a person has about a particular event and are a derivative of past experiences. Schemas lead to biased thinking and increased the potential for the development and implementation of maladaptive cognitions, thought patterns, and illogically and emotionally derived value structures (Lorenzo-Luaces et al. , 2016). Regardless of the situation, schemas are perceived generally as established cognitive structures.

Schemas provide a cognitive infrastructure from which thought processes will be developed, evaluated, and incorporated into emotional experiences and both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated behavioral patterns (Rosner, 2012). Schemas are activated when the individual is affected by a specific stimulus. The midpoint of a schema contains neutral thoughts. The extreme ends of schemas contain drastic thoughts that can often be dangerous, for example, thoughts about suicide. Thoughts and cognitions are then created from the schema abstracts and a conceptual framework is created.

The depressive identity is initiated when a schema reaches the extreme end and energy overflow into extreme ends of nearby schemas. (Rosner, 2012) Distinctive schemas are primitive in a way that closely resembles the essential or primary process found in psychoanalysis. The secondary process is an arrangement of developed and flexible structures that examine, validate, and dismiss primitive ideas and concepts. Cognitive behavioral therapy, unlike psychoanalysis, not only addresses and alleviates symptoms of mental illness it also provides lasting structural changes that can also impact personality (Rosner, 2012).

Personality. Cognitive behavioral therapy measures identity by social reliance and independence (Rector, 2006). The dependent person interprets happiness by the success of their relationships and when relationships end or fail this person becomes depressed. The autonomous person interprets happiness by achieving specific goals and therefore becomes depressed if that goal is not achieved or failed. Personalities that are socio-tropic, people invested in interpersonal relationships; possess personality traits that are related to closeness, nurturing, and dependence.

Autonomous individuals possess personality traits related to goals, self-determination, and independence. In CBT identity is not seen as a fixed structured rather it is viewed as a style of how a person conducts themselves or their behavior (Rector, 2006). A maladapted personality has established a pattern of dysfunctional beliefs. Patterns in behavior are seen as explicit displays of primary structures of thinking (Bhar, Beck, & Butler, 2012). Often these behaviors are based on automatic thoughts which are influenced by a person’s core beliefs. Automatic thoughts.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is founded on the cognitive model which suggests reactions are based on core beliefs. Every reaction begins with an event or situation which elicits an automatic thought. From that, an emotion is formed. The automatic thoughts triggered by the event also influences behavior. Automatic thoughts are based on core beliefs which are often dysfunctional (Beck, 1995). Often these automatic thoughts are not in immediate awareness or consciousness. Automatic thoughts are sudden, coincide with a more obvious stream of thoughts, and are usually understood to be true without careful reflection and rational.

Generally, it is the emotion brought about by the automatic thoughts that are noticed. Helping clients gain awareness of their thoughts is a major goal in cognitive behavioral therapy. (Beck, J. , 1995) In cognitive behavioral therapy, clients learn to identify, evaluate, and respond to automatic thoughts; which can elicit a change in affect (Beck, 1995). Automatic thoughts are both visual and verbal in form. When identifying these thoughts it is important to measure the validity of the thought which requires examining core beliefs.

It is also important to identify the utility of the thought in order to identify the purpose or what it does for the client (Beck, 1995). Clients also need to learn the distinction between their automatic thoughts and their emotions; often these two get interchanged. Once the client is able to correctly identify their automatic thoughts from their emotions the client is able to begin making an evaluation of both the validity and utility. The client learns what thoughts are helpful and which thoughts are destructive. There are three areas the client can focus on once an automatic thought has been identified (Beck, 1995).

The first is to look at the emotions and behaviors that are driven by the thought. This is done by putting a lot of focus on the thought. The second is to investigate further into the event that precedes the thought. The third place a client can focus on when experiencing an automatic thought is to look at the frequency in which that particular thought occurs. These three options all help the client evaluate the purpose of their automatic thoughts. Different patterns of behaviors, events, and emotions can be identified by looking at all three of these areas. (Beck, 1995)