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Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Psychology Essay

Cognitive Behavioral therapy was developed by Aaron Beck. Beck grew up with parents who had very strong personalities, his father a strict socialist and his mother over protective. As a child Beck broke his arm which led to a life threatening staph infection. This changed Beck a lot he went from being a very active young man to choosing to sit quietly and read. This also led to him growing up with a number of self- defeating beliefs, phobias and anxieties. “He developed a fear of hospitals and blood, even the smell would make him feel as if he was going to faint. He later states that I learned not to be concerned about the faint feeling, but just to keep active,” (Spear). He later in the development of his theory overcame his fears.

Beck believed that people had faulty thinking; they could not distinguish between fantasy and reality. He believed that there might be a genetic predisposition towards certain disorders that are reveled under stressful conditions. Beck thought that a combination of genetics, biological factors and experiences combine to produce specific cognitive schemas and core beliefs which in turn made people make incorrect inferences based on incorrect or in adequate information and their failure to distinguish fantasy and reality. Beck thought that a large amount of negative traits are called “mental disorders” but if an individual’s parents teach them effective skills and the individual learns ways of modifying his or her cognitive processes the negative traits may never be expressed.

The Goal of Cognitive therapy is to show clients how current thinking affects their attitudes feelings, and behaviors and have them learn how to change their cognitions so they can live a more fully functional and meaningful life. Beck uses many Therapeutic Techniques to help clients to change their cognitions: He builds a strong therapeutic alliance. Therapeutic alliance is the relationship between the client and the therapist. It gives a basis for treatment it out lines goals and client preferences. He uses Socratic questioning. Socratic questioning is a form of inquiry to get the client to distinguish between what they know and don’t know, a way to get them to really think about the presenting problem and to think more rationally vs. irrationally

He educates the client about the cognitive model. He challenges and identifies automatic thoughts and images surrounding client’s cognitions. He identifies and challenges cognitive disorders. He identifies intermediate beliefs. He identifies and challenges core beliefs.

Becks approach was simple he did not focus on the past he wanted the client to focus on the here and now, the presenting problem. There are only three times that he would focus on the past:

When the client has a very strong desire to do so. When the current focuses produces little change. When examining the clients past is important to uncovering the origins of current dysfunctional thinking.

Rational Emotive Behavior therapy (REBT) was developed by Albert Ellis. Ellis’s parents were very distant and aloof growing up. He knew they loved him but that they had a hard way of showing it. He was very sick as a child, he a lot of his child hood in the hospital. Ellis did not get visits from his parents during his hospitalizations which made his relationship distant with his parents. An interesting fact about Ellis is that he originally got his degree in business but became uninterested with a life in business, so he wrote about human sexuality. Soon after people started coming to him for help with their sexual problems, this led him to a life in the therapy field.

Ellis believed humans were imperfect beings that had complex interactions between thinking, feeling and behavioral states, and all humans have the potential for having both rational and irrational thoughts. Ellis had the thought that the depth and length of time someone experiences self defeating emotions was related to how embedded irrational thinking is. Development of rational or irrational thinking is based on early child hood learning practices, societal influences, family dynamics, and innate biology. With this it’s also said that an individual’s belief system is mostly created early in life, but an individual sustains or changes there way of thinking.

REBT has many therapeutic techniques that are used: Psycho- educational approach to counseling, which relies on techniques to enhance ones learning about one’s self, showing unconditional acceptance, teaching, being active and directive, encourages the disputing of dysfunctional cognitions behaviors and emotions, challenge the client, using humor, using metaphors and stories, homework, and the ABC’s of feelings , behaviors and emotions.

A big tool that a REBT therapist uses is there ABC’s. A is the activating event, B is the belief about the event, C is the consequences or the result of the irrational belief not the activating event, D is the therapists disputing intervention, E is to develop effective responses which then equal rational beliefs, and finally F is having a new feeling about the event.

Theses therapeutic processes can be seen through a series of five steps. The therapist assesses the client’s situation and hypothesizing about how ABC’s apply. The therapist teaches the REBT philosophy. The Therapist then demonstrates how the client’s situation fits the REBT model. Then the direction to change the process and reinforce change has to happen and at the end terminating the relationship of the action to the irrational thought has to happen for this to be affective.

There are some differences between Rational Emotive Behavior therapy and Cognitive Therapy. The view of dysfunctional beliefs is quite different. With Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy it is generally believed that the client’s beliefs are irrational. For example a parent says to their child “you’re making me angry” when the true way to express this is your actions are making me angry, your anger is your responsibility not the child’s, you choose to become angry. In the case of Cognitive therapy it is belied that the dysfunctional belief is just problematic. For example “because I did poorly on my first test, I would not be a good counselor” this is overgeneralization the person would be making a negative generalization based on a specific event, when one test does not decide the whole out come. REBT works to persuade clients that certain beliefs are irrational and non functional where as Cognitive theorists view dysfunctional thoughts as being problems because they interfere with normal cognitive processing, not because they are irrational.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy’s therapeutic style is highly directive, persuasive and confronting. The therapist does a lot of the talking and gives instructions and dictations on what is irrational and why it’s irrational. The client that normally goes to this therapist wants to know “why they do what they do” and they want to be told why. In the case of Cognitive Therapy it focuses more on the clients self discovery of misconceptions through reflective questioning. The therapist asks the client questions to get them to think about why I do this and gets them to discover the irrational belief and why they feel that way. The therapist has them use their own words to fix their own problem by using cognitive questions such as “can you summarize in your own words” or “what do you think the main issue is here.”

There are also similarities between Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and Cognitive therapy. They both make use of homework for example for a client who has anger issues when they don’t get there way every time have them write on a card phrases to rehears to say to change the behavior such as ” Its is disappointing when I can’t do what I want when I want but it’s not the worst thing ever.” Or for perfectionists have them agree to do something during the week that they have a high chance of failing. They both require explicit identification of problems and the situations in which they occur. REBT and Cognitive therapy have a different way of pin pointing the exact problem but they both arrive at it. REBT uses the ABC method to come to their conclusions and Cognitive focuses on feelings and self discovery. They are both very active methods. Both REBT and Cognitive therapy are very structured. In REBT the therapist follows the ABC method religiously and in Cognitive they fallow a process between therapist and client to build a relationship, then guide the client and show genuine positive regard and empathy. They are both empirical they collect evidence or hypotheses about thoughts, guide clients and resolve issues in the end.

Spear, Jane. “Beck, Aaron T. (1921- ) | Encyclopedia of Psychology | Find Articles at BNET.” Find Articles at BNET | News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics. 6 Apr. 2001. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. .


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