Cognitive Behavioral Approaches Essay Example

Aaron Beck pioneered the Cognitive Behavioral Approaches in 1967. These theories are founded on three underlying assumptions. First, problems or abnormalities result from faulty thought processes about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Second, these cognitions instigate biases or distortions in the way humans perceive situations, and third, people interact with their environment through the mental representations that they have formed of the world. Therefore, if these mental representations are distorted, then people’s ways of reasoning or interpreting situations become disordered. 

Markedly, this is to say that it is not situations themselves that cause distress in individuals but rather how they perceive and react to them. If a person interprets a specific situation negatively, then he/she is likely to develop psychological distress. The cognitive element of distress is often termed as negative automatic thought (NAT) meaning that individuals are not conscious of them. Furthermore, these thoughts are as a result of negative core beliefs and assumptions that are shaped by personal experiences as a person grows up (Simmons & Griffiths, 2017). 

Beck (2011) describes the core beliefs as schemas. Tse et al. (2007) define a schema as a cognitive framework that is useful in organizing and interpreting information. Furthermore, they are beneficial in allowing individuals to take shortcuts in construing the vast amount of information that is available in their surroundings. In other instances, schemas also cause people to disregard or omit relevant data and instead focus on information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs. According to Beck (2011), these maladaptive core beliefs can be categorized into three- unlovability, worthlessness, and helplessness. Examples of unlovable core beliefs include “I am unwanted,” and “I am bound to be rejected,” and so forth. If a person believes these thoughts, they are more likely to interpret other people’s actions towards him/her in a negative light. For instance, if another individual is genuinely offering him/her friendship, the individual may perceive that he/she is being made fun of or the other wants to take advantage. Beliefs of worthlessness can be exhibited in words like “I don’t deserve to live,” I am toxic,” and so forth. 

Albert Ellis was also a proponent of cognitive behavioral approaches. He developed Rational-Emotive Therapy [RET] (Beck, 2011). His outlook on human nature is that people have the potential to be irrational or rational. Moreover, humans, perceive, think, feel, and behave concurrently. Thus, it is critical to understand the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior to apprehend self-defeating behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral therapies are founded on two elements- behavioral interventions which focus on altering behavior by reducing dysfunctional feelings and practices, and cognitive interventions which aim at moderating or diminishing dysfunctional emotions and behaviors by modifying thinking patterns.

Ellis refers to issues that lead to problems as the ABCs of human disturbances. A stand for activating experiences such as losing a marriage, B stands for beliefs like “I am not capable of being loved or making a marriage work,” and C for consequences such as depressions and anger. This theorist also explores the core musts, should, and ought that cause psychological distress if not fulfilled. For example, for me, there are certain goals that I have set, like achieving a good score in study, having a well-developed relationship with others and extra. Therefore, having the mentality that these goals “must” be fulfilled sets me up for additional stress rather than focusing on how to achieve them. I have come to understand the value of compromise. While one may work hard, it is not always true that things will work out according to plan. Therefore, one must let go of the “must” and “should” and do the best he/she can.

All these factors have helped me to understand my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as those around me. In one of the lecture presentations, Gautama Buddha is quoted saying that “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” In this regard, I am reminded of how environmental factors have contributed to shaping my thoughts. One of the most significant contributors to my thoughts and beliefs are my parents. When I  was growing up, they taught me to believe in my abilities and self-worth. In line with this, I have grown up to acknowledge that I can achieve anything I want as long as I have the will and determination to do so. Moreover, I trust that failing in some circumstances is not a definition of my abilities and talents. While these beliefs may lessen adverse psychological reactions like developing stress and anxiety, it does not mean that I have none whatsoever. Another environmental factor is the media.

Through advertisements, television programs, social media conversations, and so forth, subjects like beauty have to a greater extent influenced how people view themselves. The message that has been put across is that beautiful or attractive people look a certain kind of way. If these ideas are not challenged from the beginning, an individual may internalize them and believe them throughout his/her life. For example, a girl might think that being plump or skinny makes her unattractive and unlovable. These thoughts result in stress and a desire to change physical appearance. Consequently, the person might engage in harmful behaviors like purging or extreme physical exercise to achieve what he/she think is desirable. 

In challenging negative thinking processes, one of the essential things to do is identifying core beliefs. One of the fundamental techniques that Simmons and Griffiths (2017) suggest is journaling. According to these authors, journaling helps an individual to become more self-aware. I have had experience with journaling. For example, noting down thoughts and emotions has helped to identify patterns. Reviewing past entries has allowed me to identify self-defeating thoughts and beliefs. Moreover, I have been able to check whether some of these thoughts are rational or irrational.

Another technique that I have used to challenge the irrational thoughts is by keying in a sensible or encouraging statement against an irrational belief. For example, if my previous thoughts were “I feel incompetent,” the rational statement would be “I am capable of achieving it.” Journaling has not only helped me to be aware of my thoughts but also substitute them with rational ones. In conclusion, I think that cognitive behavioral approaches can help me understand more about my feelings and behaviors.



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