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Behavioral Cognitive Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

June 12, 2024

The Behavioral Cognitive Therapy is one of the most important concepts of applied psychology, since it allows to address very diverse problems applying techniques that have scientific endorsement. Let's see what it consists of.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Within the areas of psychological intervention and clinical psychology there is a large number of proposals that are offered to many classes of patients and problems. The offer is very varied, and it is easy to get lost in the jungle of labels, names and descriptions of therapeutic approach. However, one of these types of therapy receives special attention in our days, both in the clinics and clinics as well as in the psychology faculties. It is about Behavioral Cognitive Therapy, a therapeutic orientation that has a scientifically proven efficacy in different types of intervention.


Modifying behaviors and thoughts

If you have ever stopped to think about the conventional idea of ​​what a "psychological problem" is, you may have realized that this type of problem has two sides. On the one hand, a material and objective aspect, which is recognizable by many people and can be measured from specific scales. On the other hand, a side that responds to the subjective states of consciousness, that is, aspects of the mental and private life of the person who has the problem and who usually have a translation in emotional terms.

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy responds to the need to intervene in these two areas. And it does so by propelling itself thanks to the synergies that are established between the part of the intervention focused on mental processes and that which is oriented towards actions and changes in the material environment of the patient. That is to say, that this therapeutic orientation that acts as much on the acts as on the thoughts.


What are the basics of this therapy?

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy is considered is born from the fusion of behavioral therapies and those that derive from Cognitive Psychology .

On the one hand, behaviorism (and especially the radical behaviorism of B. F. Skinner) serves as an example of exhaustive methodology and very close to the precepts of the scientific method, which allows objectively assess the progress that is made during therapy . On the other, Cognitive Therapy emphasizes the need not to renounce the consideration of directly unobservable mental processes, since much of the usefulness of a therapy falls on the subjective well-being of patients and this factor need not be able to be registered through pure behavioral analysis.

However, and although Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in any of its forms works with constructs that refer to the "mental world" not directly observable, Efforts are made so that the mental elements that come into play in the diagnosis and intervention respond to well defined and translatable categories to quantitative variables to be able to make an exhaustive follow-up of the changes that are made at the subjective level.


Therefore, all kinds of esoteric and ambiguous formulations on the way of thinking of the person are avoided and systems of categories are created in which the recurrent ideas are classified one within the other in classifications that respond to a single criterion.

Deepening the differences with behaviorism

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy is heir to certain foundations of Behavioral Psychology , such as the emphasis on practical learning processes and the idea that association is a central concept in therapy. However, it incorporates the need to act, in addition to the behavior, on the thoughts of the person. Mainly, the intervention on the "mental" part focuses on the cognitive schemes and the conceptual categories from which the person interprets reality.

We also explore the little adaptive beliefs, once these have been located, to train the client in his capacity to locate facts of his day to day that contradict these budgets. Thus, if the person has self-esteem problems, they can be taught to pay attention to the expressions of admiration from their friends and family members, which are a kind of stimulus easily ignored when the self-image is badly damaged.

In short, any type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea that emotions and behavior styles do not depend only on the physical stimuli that come from the environment but also the thoughts that shape our way of perceiving both those stimuli as our own mental processes.

How do you intervene in this type of therapy?

In Behavioral Cognitive Therapy we work teaching to recognize the styles of thought that predispose us to reach conclusions that are not useful for the patient, or dysfunctional thoughts . For this it is necessary to train the person to be able to reflect on their own way of thinking and consider which points are conflicting and which are not. In this way, it is pursued that the client has more capacity to question the categories with which he works (for example, "success and failure") and detect typical thought patterns that cause problems.

The process by which the patient is able to recognize the cognitive aspects that produce discomfort and can act on them is based on a model of action inspired by the Socratic dialogue . This implies that during a part of the Behavioral Cognitive Therapy sessions, the professional will return the feedback It is necessary for the patient to detect the contradictions or the undesired conclusions to which his thinking styles and cognitive schemes lead him.

The therapist does not guide the patient in this process, but rather raises questions and remarks assertions that the client has made for the latter to deepen in the study of their own thinking.

The second part of Behavioral Cognitive Therapy involves intervening on the cognitive and material foci that have been detected. This entails, on the one hand, setting specific objectives to be met, and on the other, train the patient to be able to determine from his own criteria the strategies that approach him and move him away from these goals . In addition, since the objectives have been defined so that it can be verified in an impartial way if they have been met or not, it is easy to measure the progress that is being made and the pace at which they take place to take note of it and, if the case, introduce changes in the intervention program.

Fulfilling the objectives when going through a program of sessions with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can suppose, for example, significantly minimize the effects of a phobia, ending with an addiction or, abandoning an obsessive thinking style. In short, problems with a material aspect and another subjective or emotional side.

In what cases is it used?

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy can be practically applied in all ages , and in a variety of problems . For example, it is used to intervene in anxiety disorders and phobias, dysthymia, Bipolar Disorder, depression, etc. It can also be used as an aid in cases in cases of neurological disorders in which it is necessary to provide support to know how to manage the symptoms in the best possible way, and even in psychotic disorders related to schizophrenia.

The effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Currently, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered to be the only type of psychotherapy whose results have been validated through the scientific method . With this it is understood that its effectiveness is supported by empirical observations in which many groups of patients who have undergone a treatment with Cognitive Behavior Therapy have improved significantly more than would be expected if they had not attended therapy or had followed a placebo effect program.

When it is said that Behavioral Cognitive Therapy has been shown to be effective through the application of the scientific method, this means that there are powerful reasons to believe that the improvement experienced by people who have tried this type of therapy is caused by the use of these psychological interventions, and not other variables. This does not imply that 100% of people who go to sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy will improve, but a very significant portion of these.

In addition, this improvement can be translated into objective and observable criteria, such as the success or not at the time of quitting. This is a characteristic that distinguishes Behavioral Cognitive Therapy from other forms of intervention, many of which, by not setting measurable objectives under a well-defined criterion, can hardly be subjected to empirical examination to determine its effectiveness through the scientific method.


Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (June 2024).


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