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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: What does it stand for?

There has been a clear upward movement in the medical referrals for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It does not come as a surprise that as a psychologist, I often receive enquiries from clients asking whether I specialise in CBT. Though my training and practice allow me to confirm a specialty in the CB approach, I chose to inform that CBT is one of the therapies that I practice.

While the popularisation of CBT is an undeniable fact, there has also been a parallel progressive movement among therapists towards the idea that “no theory can fully explain the complexity of human beings, nor can any single therapeutic intervention account for therapeutic outcome. Each theoretical model or school of therapy has a valuable contribution to make”(Woolfe,2010, p.173).

I find that CBT in itself deserves recognition as it has really provided me and most of my clients with a good theoretical framework and a rationale for understanding their problems. The approach has also received considerable recognition and empirical attention as a leading model in the treatment of a wide range of psychological difficulties (NICE, 2011, Borkovec, et al., 2002; Ladouceur et al., 2000). Essentially, the CBT approach represents the merging of two psychological traditions. At its core CBT holds that people are inclined towards absolute thinking, or mental and behavioural tendencies. The approach is designed to help people develop better understanding of their patterns of thinking and behaving.

The cognitive psychologist, Aaron Beck provided the dominant conceptualization of cognititve and behavioural theoretical ideas that were based on a cyclical interplay between environment, cognition, and behaviour. Beck’s Model of Cognitive Therapy (1979) beholds the understanding that the way a person feels and behaves is determined by the way a person thinks and makes sense of their experiences. Therefore, in CBT practice, cognitive interventions guide clients to re-appraise their own perceptions of aversive stimuli in order to manage potentially difficult situations, whilst behavioural work aims to activate new and corrective experiences.

At its core, psychology as a profession holds deep respect towards human complexity and diversity. The field comes hand in hand with broad philosophical understandings of the subjective nature of unique human experiences. Though various theoretical methods and schools have been developed over the years, deeply rooted within the overall psychological therapy are phenomenological values of engaging people as individuals with unique realities and needs.


Borkovec, T. D., Newman, M. G., Pincus, A. L., & Lytle, R. (2002) A component analysis ofcognitive–behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety disorder and the role of interpersonal problems. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70,288–298

Ladouceur, R., Dugas, M. J., Freeston, M. H., Le ́ger, E., Gagnon, F., & Thibodeau, N.(2000) Efficacy of a cognitive–behavioral treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: Evaluation in a controlled clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68,957–964

National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (2011)

Woolfe, R., Strawbridge, S., Douglas, B. & Druden, W. (2010) Handbook of Counselling Psychology, London: Sage

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