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Background and Development of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Background and Development of Cognitive Psychotherapy

“A science comes of age when students stop studying its history”.

Most textbooks on cognitive psychotherapy, or as it is often termed, cognitive-behavioural therapy, start with a history of its development which suggests how young it is.

Until fairly recently, psychotherapy in Britain has had two main streams.  The older followed from the work of Freud, Jung etc., and is the psychodynamic school with analysis as the main strategy.  The newer thrust has been behavioural therapy with its emphasis on scientific measures, experimentation and replication, based on the theories of learning and conditioning.  One might consider humanistic approaches to be a third stream, but it could be argued that they have some similar features to the dynamic schools.

Most of the therapy available in the National Health Service has been behavioural, with analysis and other less proven practices being the prerogative of the private sector.  The concept of “mind” was ignored in behaviour therapy as one could not measure what went on in the “black box”, what was of interest were the stimuli and responses.  However, this non-mediational approach was found to be insufficient to account for all human behaviour, particularly the more complex.  Consequently the concept of mind or cognitions became acceptable and the idea of working with cognitions in therapy became possible in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

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