Cognitive-Behavioral Theories

Cynthia R. Kalodner

Cognitive-behavioral theories are best conceptualized as a general category of theories, or a set of related theories, that have evolved from the theoretical writings, clinical experiences, and empirical studies of behavioral and cognitively oriented psychologists and other mental health workers. The hyphenated term cognitive-behavioral reflects the importance of both behavioral and cognitive approaches to understanding and helping human beings. The hyphen brings together behavioral and cognitive theoretical views, each with its own theoretical assumptions and intervention strategies. Cognitive-behavioral is the hybrid of cognitive processes and behavioral strategies, with the goal of achieving cognitive and behavioral change (Dobson & Dozois, 2001).

Throughout the chapter, the blending of aspects of behavioral and cognitive approaches into cognitive-behavioral counseling and psychotherapy can be seen. There is no single definition of cognitive-behavioral theory because there are so many different cognitive-behavioral theories. All cognitive-behavioral theorists value the role that cognitions play in the development and maintenance of psychological problems (Dobson, 2001). In order for a therapy to be cognitive-behavioral, it must be based on the idea that cognitions mediate (lead to) behavioral change. Therapists using this model use treatments that target cognitions in the service of changes in behavior, and the outcomes of treatment are based on cognitive, behavioral, and emotional changes (Dobson, 2001). This chapter highlights cognitive-behavioral approaches to helping people. Aaron Beck's cognitive therapy (Beck, 1976; Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979) is described in detail in the chapter.

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