A form of PSYCHOTHERAPY based on the premise that thoughts and perceptions shape emotional and mental processes and reactions; becoming aware of the resulting patterns of behavior makes it possible to change both perceptions and responses. Cognitive therapy, also called cognitive behavioral therapy, focuses on a particular issue or concern such as relationships, family dysfunction, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY DISORDER, and OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD). The therapist guides a focused exploration of the person’s present perceptions and helps the person to develop skills for coping with negative expressions and challenging circumstances.
A key element of cognitive therapy is learning to identify automatic negative responses—such as “Women despise me” or “I never do anything right”—and exploring their basis in reality, which typically is minimal to nonexistent. This recognition alone often is enough to spur many people to change their perceptions and hence their behaviors. The therapist teaches specific techniques for countering such negative thoughts, tailored to the person’s circumstances. A cognitive therapist might ask a man who says “I never do anything right” to write down what he is doing, who he is with, and where he is every time this thought enters his consciousness, and to write down any supporting evidence for this thought. Two results generally occur: The man becomes increasingly aware of the extent to which this particular negative thought automatically shapes and defines his interactions with others, and he realizes the thought has no basis in reality and is able to reshape his perceptions and their influence on his actions and feelings. Cognitive therapy generally lasts from several weeks to a few months and is highly goal-oriented. It may or may not include short-term treatment with ANTI-ANXIETY MEDICATIONS or ANTIDEPRESSANT MEDICATIONS. It is one of many approaches in psychotherapy; many therapists blend cognitive therapy with other modalities according to each individual’s needs. Cognitive therapy often is helpful for people who have chronic health conditions that limit their daily activities, such as CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS), HEART DISEASE, CROHN’S DISEASE, IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS), or HIV/AIDS.Tags: anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychotherapy