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Types of cognitive therapy: what they are and what are their characteristics

Types of cognitive therapy: what they are and what are their characteristics

July 18, 2024

The way in which we think, in which we process the information of our environment and convert it into our own mental schemes, conditions us when we feel and act. Such is the weight of our thoughts that the generation of distorted ideas can lead to some kind of psychological condition such as anxiety or depression.

This fact was what drove the creation of the different types of cognitive therapies . Thanks to them, the patient can learn effective skills and strategies that help him modify the way he thinks and, therefore, the way he feels and behaves.

  • Related article: "Types of psychological therapies"

What is cognitive therapy?

The term "cognitive" refers to the thinking processes of the person, including they include attention, learning, planning, judgment and decision making . Therefore, cognitive therapy is a type of psychological therapy that considers that some mental or emotional disorders or conditions are intimately linked with cognitive processes.


This means that, according to the theories that frame the different types of cognitive therapies, people suffer and develop psychological conditions by the way they interpret the environment and the events that happen to them and not by the nature of these in themselves.

Therefore, the mission of psychological intervention through cognitive therapy is that the patient is able to find flexible, functional and adaptive interpretations of vital events who experiences.

Other interpretations of cognitive therapy describe it as the practical implementation of cognitive psychology, which supports a psychological conception in relation to different mental processes and from an intrapsychic point of view. In saying, it is understood that there are a series of different elements within the mind of each person that makes it different from the others.


Main types of cognitive therapy

The choice of one type of cognitive therapy, to the detriment of another, is usually subject to recognition of the different needs of the patient. The different types of cognitive therapy are only intervention techniques, but rather they make up a whole framework of applied science that can take different forms depending on the objectives that you want to achieve.

Throughout the history of psychology, different types of cognitive therapies have been developed. However, there are two that stand out above the rest, these are Aaron Beck's cognitive therapy, which emphasizes automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions; and the rational emotional behavioral therapy of Albert Ellis, in which irrational ideas are worked on.

Both cognitive therapies encompass a whole set of techniques and therapeutic strategies, as well as a methodology that distinguishes them. But always adjusting to a scientific and rigorous method.


1. Cognitive therapy of A. Beck (TC)

Aaron Beck's cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy, developed in the 60s by the American-born psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck. This type of therapy is based on the cognitive model, which establishes that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are closely connected and that, therefore, people can overcome their difficulties and achieve their goals identifying and changing the useless or incorrect thoughts.

To achieve such a modification, the patient must work in collaboration with the therapist to develop all kinds of skills that allow him to identify the distorted thoughts and beliefs and then modify them.

At the beginning of Beck's cognitive therapy, he focused on the treatment of depression by developing a list of mental errors or cognitive distortions that caused depressed mood . Among them were arbitrary inference, selective abstraction, excessive generalization or the expansion of negative thinking and minimization of positive ones.

However, with the advance in the practice and research of this type of therapy has been observed that it can become highly effective in the treatment of many other psychological and mental disorders among which we find:

  • Addictions
  • Anxiety disorder .
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Phobias
  • Low self-esteem .
  • Suicidal ideas
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Weightloss.

Method: cognitive restructuring

The way in which the professional gets the person to learn and practice these skills independently, is known as cognitive restructuring.

Cognitive restructuring consists of an intervention technique in which the patient identifies and questions their irrational or maladaptive thoughts , known as cognitive distortions. The steps to carry out a cognitive restructuring include:

  • Identification of problematic thoughts .
  • Identification of cognitive distortions within these thoughts.
  • Questioning, through the Socratic method, of these distortions.
  • Development of a rational argument for these distorted thoughts.

2. Ellis rational-emotive-behavioral therapy (TREC)

Halfway between cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy we find Ellis's rational-emotive-behavioral therapy. This was first exhibited in 1950 by the American psychotherapist and psychologist Albert Ellis, who was inspired by the teachings of different Greek, Roman and Asian philosophers to develop this type of cognitive therapy.

Also known as rational therapy or rational emotive therapy, it consists of an active, philosophical and empirical management therapy that focuses on the resolution of emotional and behavioral problems and disturbances; and whose goal is to ensure that the patient leads a happier and more satisfying life.

One of the fundamental premises of the TREC is that the emotional changes that people experience are not due to the very circumstances that cause them , but to the way in which the points of view of these circumstances are constructed through the use of language, beliefs and meanings.

In the REBT, the patient learns and begins to apply this premise through the model A-B-C-D-E-F of disturbance and psychological change. Model A-B-C maintains that it is not adversity (A) that causes the emotional consequences (C), but also the irrational thoughts that the person (B) creates in relation to adversity. By adversity can be understood both an external situation as a thought, feeling or other internal event type.

Thanks to this type of therapy, the person can identify and understand the illogical or erroneous interpretations and assumptions made to, thus, question them (D). Finally, the creation (E) of ways healthier ways of thinking leads people to new feelings (F) and behaviors more appropriate to the circumstance (A) that is addressed in therapy.

Through the use of various methods and cognitive activities based on dialogue and Socratic debate, the patient can achieve a new way of processing information; that is, to think, much more favorable, constructive and emotional.

Relationship with cognitive-behavioral therapy

If we take into account his name, we can deduce that cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy have certain common aspects. Traditionally, a difference is made between both types of therapy, taking into account the level of inference and the theoretical framework of departure, whether cognitive or behavioral.

The classical cognitive current supports the idea that within cognitive and thought processes we find an explanation for our behaviors. On the other hand, according to the behavioral approach, the reasons or reasons for our behavior can only be sustained in the medium and not in cognitive arguments. So they both have different starting points.

However, the premises of the cognitive-behavioral approach establish that there is an intimate relationship between behavior and cognition. Starting from the idea that both cognition, behavior and affect or emotion are interrelated, and that by making a change in any of the three, we will also be able to modify the other two aspects of the person.


Insidermedicine In Depth - May 14, 2010 - Depression and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (July 2024).


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