Cognitive-behavioral therapy




Cognitive-Behavioral Theory

Summary of Theory

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to develop new patterns of behavioral, affective, and cognitive responding by modifying or replacing maladaptive behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. Unlike other traditional psychotherapies, which focus on past experiences to explore the causality of the presenting problems, CBT emphasizes the solutions by conceptualizing the presenting problems.

Tenets of Theory

The central tenet of cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the learning theory: the classical conditioning model. The classical conditioning model provides us the explanation of the formulation of clients’ problems. It promotes the idea that unconditioned stimulus (US) leads to unconditional response, when a neutral stimulus is paired with the US, it becomes a conditional stimulus to produce a conditional response. Also, the more intense and less controllable over the aversive experiences during the negative events are more likely to develop the classical conditioning response. In addition, the person’s temperament and life experience may contribute to the generation of conditional responses. In conclusion, the classical conditioning model can help us to understand the clients’ learning experiences related to their mental problems in order to formulate effective interventions.


There are many techniques in cognitive-behavioral therapy, including self-monitoring, relaxation, behavioral rehearsal of social skills and assertiveness, problem-solving training, etc. Self-monitoring encourages clients to record themselves in order to objectively observe their behaviors. In this way, clients can obtain an awareness of their behaviors, at the same time, their motivation can be reinforced by receiving the positive feedback from the therapist. Relaxation involves helping clients to experience the difference between feelings of relaxation and tension; thereby they are able to develop relaxation response in their daily life when intense emotions detected. In the process of behavioral rehearsal of social skills and assertiveness, psychoeducation, skill training, and behavioral rehearsal are used to help clients develop a specific alternative skill or behavior to remedy their deficits in a specific area. Problem solving also involves teaching clients a set of skills for coping with their daily life problems. In the process of problem-solving, initially clients are encouraged to identify their problems and negative beliefs, then they can generate the most realistic solution by going through the cost-benefit analysis. The successful and effective solutions can serve as a reinforcement to generate a new pattern of lifestyle.

Personal reflection

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the concept that people’s cognitions are the central factor that affects how they experience the events. Therefore, we might have different interpretations regard to the same event. For example, if I was doing a presentation in the class and one of the students kept yawning during my presentation. I might think “Why is this guy does not interest in my presentation? Am I doing it so bad? Why people do not have any respect?” In this scenario, I would be so angry. However, I might interpret differently, such as “this person is having a long day and he is so tired.” With those thoughts, I would more likely to just concentrate on my presentation without being emotional. This is why CBT is effective in the treatment of social anxiety disorders. Because people with social anxiety disorders are more likely to think negatively when they expose to a social or performance situation. Therefore, people can develop new patterns of behavior by having a better understanding of their cognitive processes.

It is no doubt that CBT is the most widely used psychotherapy in the counseling field. With the problem focused and goal-oriented approach, CBT is effective to deal with a wide range of mental problems. However, it can cause a problem when the client gets lost and struck in his or her dysfunctional thoughts. For example, by using CBT in the treatment of a victimized client, it would be helpful for the client to change his or her view about themselves from a victim to a survivor. However, a traumatized client is more like to have difficulties in identifying their cognitions because of self-protection. Therefore, I would prefer to focus more on the development of past experience instead of trying to change their cognitions.


How can we address the client’s emotion in the cognitive-behavioral therapy since it places central focus on the cognition and behavior?

CBT is effective with reducing symptoms even without focusing on therapeutic relationship and underlying causes, how can we balance it from the humanistic perspective?


In VandenBos, G. R., In Meidenbauer, E., & In Frank-McNeil, J. (2014). In Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (pp. 111-133). Psychotherapy theories and techniques: A reader.

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