Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive theories argue that there is no direct relationship between consequences and events, but rather a strong influence based on how we interpret events ("As I think, so I Feel").

Beck's ABC Model

Aaron Beck is regarded as the father of cognitive therapy. His ABC Model goes A->B->C, rather than A->C:

  • A = Activating Event/Adversity
  • B = Beliefs
  • C = (Emotional) Consequences

Model of Mental Disorders

Cognitive accounts of mental disorder consider them to be caused by distortions in thinking, or a maladaptive cognitive style; e.g.

  • Depression: Views negative events as global, stable and internal
    • Specific vs Global (considering negative things to be internally caused)
      • Specific: I'm fine at interviews but slept badly last night
      • Global: I'm terrible at interviews
    • Unstable vs Stable (generalising bad events to all events of the same kind)
      • Unstable: I'll have better luck next time
      • Stable: No-one will ever hire me
    • External vs Internal (viewing oneself as the fault, not an external factor)
      • External: Maybe the interviewer had someone in mind
      • Internal: The interviewer didn't like me

Treatment of Mental Disorders

cognitive therapies focus on identifying and changing unrealistic or unhelpful beliefs. Following the ABC model, modified thoughts lead to modified behaviour.

Rational Emotive Therapy

RE(B)T aims to:

  1. Identify irrational thoughts (from a select determined set)
  2. Challenge said thought
  3. Correct the thought


  • Anxiety and Depression:
    • “I absolutely MUST, at all times, perform well and win the approval of significant others. If I fail, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer”."
  • Anger and Vindictiveness:
    • “Other people with whom I relate absolutely MUST, at all times, treat me nicely, considerately and fairly. Otherwise, it is terrible and they are rotten, bad, unworthy people who do not deserve a good life”
  • Self Pity/Anger/Depression
    • “The conditions under which I live absolutely MUST be favorable, safe, hassle-free, and quickly and easily enjoyableif they are not that way it's awful and horrible and I can't bear it and my life is impossible and hardly worth living”

Examples of Therapy


Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioural therapy is a broadened group containing both cognitive and behavioural approaches. There's strong evidence for its effectiveness.