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Background and Development of Cognitive Psychotherapy Pt2

Background and Development of Cognitive Psychotherapy Pt2

The theory and procedures of cognitive therapy have evolved over the last 25 years or so, but their initial impetus came from Beck’s early interviews with depressed subjects (Beck, 1963).  While operating initially from a classically Freudian perspective, he found, following several systematic studies, that Freud’s formulations of the depressive syndrome (melancholia) missed the mark in several respects.  The anger-turned-inward model did not fit and Beck found a clinically more satisfactory model focusing on the content of the depressive’s negative thinking.  His early descriptions emphasised the negative biases and distortions that he found common among depressed clients.  These descriptions led to hypotheses about the content and processes of cognition that are relatively distinctive to depression.  More importantly, he argued that these cognitive aspects are more central to depression and more verifiable than the dynamic (motivational) processes that were proposed in work to that time.

Beck believes that the depressive exhibits distorted information processing, which results in a consistently negative view of himself, the future and the world.  These views are presumed to underlie the behavioural, affective and motivational symptoms of depression.  The experimental work which has followed from these propositions has been encouraging, and evidence of the value of the therapy based on Beck’s theories is growing.

Although Beck’s early emphasis was on dysfunctional thinking in depression, the cognitive model he put forward represents a comprehensive understanding of mental illness in general.  He sees emotional disorders as being the results of distorted thinking or unrealistic cognitive appraisals  of life events.  So it is thought that a person’s emotional or affective state is due to the way in which they structure or perceive reality.  Furthermore, the cognitive model proposes that a reciprocal relationship exists between affect and the cognition such that one tends to reinforce the other, resulting in an escalation of emotional and cognitive impairment (Beck, 1976).

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