The Basics of Cognitive Theory in Relation to the Development of Abnormal Behavior

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Nicole Maloney 18th October 2011 Approved…………… Explain the basics of cognitive theory in relation to the development of abnormal behavior. Use Aaron T. Beck and Albert Ellis as theorists for reference. If you believe the saying ‘Perception is everything,’ then you may well be a cognitivist. According to the cognitive perspective, people engage in abnormal behavior because of particular thoughts and behaviors that are often based upon their false assumptions.

Cognitives believe that without these thought processes, we could have no emotions and no behavior and would therefore not function. In other words, thoughts always come before any feeling and before any action. Aaron T. Beck and Albert Ellis are major proponents of the cognitive view. Beck emphasizes the cognitive triad in depressed patients (having a negative view of themselves, the world, and their future) while Ellis focuses on common irrational beliefs that must be overcome (e. g. , “Everyone must love me”).

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Beck and Ellis independently developed the therapy that later became known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. Cognitive therapy (CT), often labeled as the generic term cognitive behavior therapy, (CBT) has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms and relapse rates, with or without medication, in a wide variety of psychiatric disorders (Beck, 2005). Wright (2006) describes Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as a pragmatic, action-oriented treatment approach that has become a widely used psychotherapy for major mental disorders.

He further states that the CBT methods were initially developed for depression and anxiety disorders and later they were modified for many other conditions, including personality disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse; they have also been adapted for use as an adjunct to medication in the management of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Aaron T. Beck was trained in Freudian psychoanalysis and became dissatisfied with the lack of empirical support for Freudian ideas. In his work with depressed patients, Beck found that people who were depressed reported streams of negative thoughts that seemed to appear spontaneous.

Beck called these cognitions automatic thoughts. These thoughts are based on general, over arching core beliefs, called schemas (or schemata) that the person has about oneself, the world, and the future. (Stefan, 2011) According to Wright, the theoretical structure and basic method for CBT as outlined by Aaron Beck in a classic series of papers published in the 1960s and then elaborated in a treatment manual for depression, focused primarily on pathology in information processing styles in patients with depression or anxiety, but he also incorporated behavioral methods to activate patients, reverse helplessness, and counter avoidance.

As CBT matured, contributions from behavior therapy research and studies of cognitive processes in mental disorders enriched the clinical practice of this form of psychotherapy. Beck’s reason for developing his treatment method was to help patients identify and evaluate their thoughts and higher order beliefs so that they can think more realistically, behave more functionally, and feel better psychologically. Even though Albert Ellis was more of a therapist than a theorist, his interpretation of cognitive theory has gained a great deal of notability over the past twenty plus years.

On the surface, his model is quite simple and often described as the A-B-C process. In his article Christopher, states that “According to Ellis, we experience Activating Events (A) everyday that prompts us to look at, interpret, or otherwise think about what is occurring. Our interpretation of these events results in specific Beliefs (B) about the event, the world and our role in the event. Once we develop this belief, we experience Emotional Consequences (E) based solely on our belief”. Similarly to Beck’s Ellis’s treatment approach emphasizes the importance of cognitive processes and is an active and directive form of psychotherapy.

Therapists’ help patients realize that their own beliefs contribute greatly to, maintain, and even cause their psychological problems (Stefan, 2011). Stefan added that this approach leads patients to realize the irrationality and rigidity of their thinking and encourages them to actively change self defeating beliefs and behaviors. Ellis initially named the treatment Rational Therapy, the Rational Emotive therapy, and finally Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy to stress the interrelated importance of cognition, behavior, and emotion. Like all theories, the cognitive perspective is not free from criticism.

First, behaviorists see this theory as weak due to the abstract nature of thoughts and the difficulty in defining them. What may be seen as self-critical by one researcher may look like a rational remark by another. Second, there is no agreed upon definition or application of the theory. It is seen as fairly new and while it receives a great deal of research, the underlying theory of personality development is weak at best. So while it may have very positive outcomes in treatment, it does not provide a solid understanding of development.

For the neo-Freudian, this might mean that cognitive therapy is only a temporary approach and does not address the real reason behind a personality issue. [ (Christopher, 2004) ] As you read, the basic premise behind cognitive theory is the idea that the way we think about or perceive ourselves and others, determines how we respond to the world with our emotions and behaviors. The goal of any treatment would have to include changing the way a person thinks about himself and/or the world. Beck, Ellis, and others see the application of cognitive theory as key in overcoming many negative aspects of personality.

They believe that cognitions always precede behavior and emotion and therefore changing our thoughts will lead to a change in the other two. References Beck, A. T. (2005). The Current State of Cognitive Therapy: A 40-Year Retrospective. Archives of General Psychiatry , 953-959. Christopher, L. H. (2004, March 23). Personality Synopsis: Cognitive Theory. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from All Psych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom: allpsych. com/personalitysynopsis/ellis. html Stefan, G. H. (2011). An Introduction to Modern CBT: Psychological Solutions to Mental Health Problems. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons.

Wright, J. H. (2006). Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basic Principles and Recent Advances. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from Clinical Manual of Psychosomatic Medicine: focus. psychiatryonline. org/cgi/content/full/4/2/173 Beck prefers the term maladaptive or dysfunctional, rather than irrational, to describe the nature of the distorted cognitions, since thoughts do not have to be irrational in order to be maladaptive. For example some people with depression might have a more realistic assessment of the potential danger in life. However, this “depressive realism” is mal adaptive because it interferes with normal life. Stefan, 2011) Cognitive theory is focused on the individual’s thoughts as the determinate of his or her emotions and behaviors and therefore personality. Those in the field of abnormal psychology study people’s emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral problems. Abnormal behavior may be defined as behavior that is disturbing (socially unacceptable), distressing, maladaptive (or self-defeating), and often the result of distorted thoughts (cognitions). The behavioral perspective. Those espousing a behavioral perspective contend that abnormal behavior results from faulty or ineffective learning and conditioning.

Treatments are designed to reshape disordered behavior and, using traditional learning procedures, to teach new, more appropriate, and more adaptive responses. For example, a behavioral analysis of a case of child abuse might suggest that a father abuses his children because he learned the abusive behavior from his father and must now learn more appropriate parenting tactics. The cognitive perspective. Treatments are oriented toward helping the maladjusted individual develop new thought processes and new values. Therapy is a process of unlearning maladaptive habits and replacing them with more useful ones. cliff notes) Cognitive: One’s misconceptions of the world and misinterpretations of experience lead to beliefs and thoughts that cause negative feelings and behaviors, making one more vulnerable to abnormalities. 1. Dysfunctional ideas and causal attributions are distorted, self-defeating, and irrational. These incorrect thoughts are based on faulty schemas (organizations of beliefs and assumptions). 2. .(spark notes) This article delineates the core principles of CBT, describes procedures used in clinical practice, and notes some of the recent advances that have been made in this treatment method.

The extensive research supporting the efficacy of CBT is briefly reviewed. The basic framework of the cognitive theory of psychopathology and cognitive therapy of specific psychiatric disorders was developed more than 40 years ago. Since that time, there has been continuing progress in the development of cognitive theory and therapy and in the empirical testing of both. A substantial body of research supports the cognitive model of depression and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the various anxiety disorders.

These schemas determine how a person may interpret a specific situation and thereby give rise to specific automatic thoughts. These specific automatic thoughts contribute to maladaptive cognitive appraisal of the situation or event, leading to an emotional response. Biological theory was popular for thousands of years, second only to mythology in explaining personality. In the early 1900’s, Psychoanalysis gained in both popularity and criticism. By the 50’s, Behavioral thought ruled contemporary psychology, ousted by the growing interest in Humanistic thought in the 60’s and 70’s.

Knowing this, you could say that Cognitive theory became king in the 80’s and 90’s. Many self-help books have been written from the cognitive perspective, each telling us various ways to change the way we think about ourselves and the world. By changing our thoughts, they wrote, we can change our mood, decrease our anxiety, or improve our relationships. We can quit smoking, make more friends, and enjoy our jobs more. The basic premise: If we perceive the glass as half full rather than half empty, the world will look much brighter; In a brighter world, we are happier individuals.

Cognitive Theory, or How to Change Your Mind Many Cognitivists have applied cognitive theory to treatment, most notably Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. Beck developed several assessment techniques such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) which are both very popular quick assessments of an individual’s functioning. Research has provided a good deal of support for this idea, especially concerning depressive disorders, anxiety related disorders, anger, and interpersonal or relational difficulties.

Some research even suggests that cognitive treatment, especially when combined with some behavioral aspects such as relaxation (often called cognitive-behavioral treatment) provides better and more long-lasting results than medication in the treatment of depression. Strengths of Cognitive Theory First, as discussed, research has provided a lot of knowledge abut how people think and perceive and has consequently provided a lot of support for cognitive theory. Second, perhaps because of these positive findings, cognitive theory has gained in popularity both in the professional and pop psychology arenas. Weaknesses of Cognitive Theory


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