We are trying to balance the more reactive and defensive emotional mind with the sometimes opinionated and judgemental rational mind.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. It emerged during the 1960s and originated in the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck who noted that certain types of thinking (negative automatic thoughts) contributed to emotional problems and unnecessary distress.
Around the same time, Albert Ellis began to focus on the role thoughts and beliefs in causing psychological problems. He argued that people often upset themselves by thinking irrationally and that many of these psychological problems could be resolved by teaching people to think in a more rational way.
In a practical sense, we are trying to balance the more reactive and defensive emotional mind with the sometimes opinionated and judgemental rational mind, to find the stability of the wise mind which is more insightful, truth-focused, objective, reflective and aware.
The psychologist and client work together, collaboratively, to develop an understanding of the problem and to help the client learn to:
- Recognise distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to re-evaluate them in light of reality
- Develop a greater sense of confidence is one’s own abilities
- Develop greater self-awareness
- Take responsibility for one’s life and actions and lose the victim mindset
Some of the core assumptions of CBT, according to Beck:
- People are processors of experience rather than passive victims of circumstance
- People are not broken entities who need to be fixed, they just need to be understood
- If people learn unhelpful ways of thinking, they can also unlearn them
- Every person is solely responsible for their thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviours
- We can’t control the thoughts entering our mind, but we can choose to act on them or not
- All people have the ability to choose a new set of habits, thought patterns and behaviours
- The meaning of our communications is determined by other people, not by us
The ABC model explains why we feel what we feel, and why we can behave in a certain way sometimes. This can be very empowering to people who feel at a loss to explain some occasionally erratic and destructive behaviour.
- A – Activating Event or trigger
- B – Beliefs, the sometimes imperceptible thoughts that occur when the activating event happens
- C – Consequences, how you feel and behave when you have those beliefs
People or words (A) do not cause unhappiness (C) but rather how we interpret and react to them does. Our core beliefs (B) generate this reaction and while we cannot control the activating event, we can improve how we react to it. Our beliefs are just assumptions and can be a noose around our necks so we have to get good at analysing and critiquing them.