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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy in which the client and therapist form a trusted relationship in order to address and dissect issues causing the client distress. Both therapist and client work together to discover the most pervasive issue and begin addressing that issue first. Because of this, the client develops a respect for the ability of the therapist and trust begins to grow. The client forms a bond with the therapist by acknowledging that his or her primary concern has received attention. Cognitive behavioral therapy uses a practical approach in which the therapist helps the client understand the relationship between beliefs, feelings, and thoughts and the effect these have on behavior patterns and actions. The client learns that his or her perception will directly affect his or her reaction to certain conditions and circumstance and that this thought process is at the root of his or her behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy was developed by Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, Maxie Maultsby, Michael Mahoney, Donald Meichenbaum, David Burns, Michael Mahoney, Marsha Linehan, Arthur Freeman, and others.

CBT Tools and Approaches

CBT encompasses many different therapeutic approaches that have combined to create a fluid and flexible technique. Therapists will often use several various treatment tools, such as journaling, challenging beliefs, mindfulness, and relaxation. They will encourage the client to recognize unrealistic perceptions and maladaptive behavior patterns. Most people who receive this type of therapy usually do so for several months in sessions that last an hour at a time.


Process of Transformation in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The process of transformation is rarely fully recognized immediately. Clients learn how to replace negative thoughts and destructive behaviors with beneficial images, beliefs, and actions that will facilitate recovery. Clinicians often use CBT for the treatment of many mood disorders in conjunction with mood stabilizing medications. The relationship between the client and the therapist must be one of complete honesty and trust in order for the client to be receptive and willing to commit to the changes.


Autism/Asperger's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely used form of treatment for many psychological issues. Clients with autism or Asperger’s syndrome can also benefit greatly from the techniques used in CBT, such as play therapy or music therapy. Allowing a client to use various forms of expression offers these unique individuals ample opportunity to communicate their emotions. Many people with autism and Asperger’s also experience mood problems, and through CBT, can learn strategies for managing their symptoms in order to function more productively. CBT is founded on the premise that our cognition, how we think of something, affects how we feel and how we act. Thus, CBT address the cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects of a client. 


For people with autism or Asperger’s, extreme and erratic behaviors can be explored with CBT. Identifying the cognitive root of the emotion allows a client to understand why they engage in a particular behavior. In CBT, clients are guided through their emotions using various tools. Some therapists employ relaxation techniques, and others utilize social, physical and thinking exercises as a method for helping the client gain awareness into their emotional and behavioral patterns. Books and scrapbooks have proven to be highly effective tools for people with autism and Asperger’s. By recording emotions and feelings, a client can gain new perspective and begin to develop healthier responses. Uncomfortable and distracting sounds, textures and scents can be addressed through CBT as well, and working together, a client and therapist can reconstruct distorted beliefs related to previously disturbing sensations, and transform them into healthier, more realistic perceptions. 



Red Flags and Concerns in CBT

"There are a few red flags to watch for when working with a cognitive behavioral therapist, and for that matter, any therapist: One, that the therapist takes the role of the authority on you and your inner world of feelings. You are the expert and a good cognitive behavioral therapist should respect that. Two, watch for leading questions. Three, be wary of the controlling and overly directive cognitive behavioral therapist. Three, and perhaps most important to watch for, is a superficial consideration of your thoughts and feelings. A good cognitive behavioral therapist will explore the depths and source of the thoughts and feelings you carry. A less experienced cognitive behavioral therapist will not explore the belief to its fullest and may tend to believe that opposing the belief with positive thinking or affirmation is enough to counter, compensate, or overcome a belief. A good therapist will take as much time as is needed to truly, deeply, and respectfully understand and appreciate the source of a belief. It is through this understanding, not through countering, that healing happens in any therapy, including good cognitive behavioral therapy." - Excerpt from anonymous email sent to GoodTherapy.org


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Last updated: 05-02-2014


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