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Overview of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Updated on August 26, 2014


I have always been afraid of flying. The thought of being suspended in the air with nothing more than a flying piece of metal to keep me from falling terrifies me even to this day. Since 911 my fears have intensified, and every time I get on a plane, I panic and have to struggle to board. I have always wanted to find a way to stop my irrational fears but never started the process for therapy. One suggestion given to me was to see a therapist for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how will it work on such phobias as flying? The answer lies in two different articles written about the subject.

First Article

The first article I will be reviewing is Greg Mulhauser’s Introduction to Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Approaches. In this article, the topics are about the theories and criticism of Cognitive Therapies, and the various therapy approaches. According to Greg Mulhauser, the reason behind behavioral problems is caused by external and internal unconstructive effects combined. What does that mean? It means that negative emotions feed on external event(s): for example, failing a test could result in feeling that future test would have the same outcome. A person then can internalize this event and generalize this feeling to all examinations. The pessimistic responses to external and internal events are what cognitive therapy is supposed to correct.

The approach to cognitive therapy, as described by Greg Mulhauser, is that the negative thoughts that a person holds can be cured or lessened by Cognitive Therapy. This is because the cognitive psychologist will be working on a fast pace therapy while having the client do various groundwork during non office hours. An example of outside work would be writing a journal entry about the thoughts of a particular event, covering how you felt before, during and after. The whole point behind cognitive therapy is to teach the client coping strategies and boost their awareness skill of the event they have downbeat thoughts about.

The criticism of cognitive therapy has two main points. One point is that some of the cognitive therapists has to break the person-centered approach (the client is free to discuss anything without being judged or told their thoughts are wrong). In cognitive therapy, at times the therapist has to tell the client that their negative thoughts are not realistic. For example a person who passes a group who is laughing and will think the group is laughing at him or her. The therapist will have to remind the client that the group of friends could have been laughing for many different reasons and not because of something the client did. Another point is that the therapist is seen as a leader, and the client may feel like the therapist is controlling their feelings and thoughts, leaving the client non-empowered.

Second Article

In Cognitive Behavior Therapy…and understanding Cognitive Behavior Therapy combines the therapy and how to understand cognitive behavior therapy it in a logical order. In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the main focus is how this therapy compares with other therapies, and why cognitive behavior therapy seems to work. Cognitive therapy is different from other therapies due to the rapidness of the sessions. On average, the number of sessions a client needs to go to in cognitive therapy is under twenty; while other therapies can takes years. Another difference is that during cognitive therapy, the client does not stop therapy at the end of the session; instead they are given homework and other assignments. The goal is to teach the client to overcome their negative thoughts/phobias by self-counseling skills, even after the sessions are over.

In Understanding Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the main points is what causes people to have negative emotions and thoughts, and how the therapy works. Cognitive therapy helps the client identify, analyze, and change counter-productive thoughts which produces feelings like depression and anxiety. What could cause these negative thoughts to develop? These negative emotions and thoughts develop early in the person’s life and can magnify with time. Cognitive Therapy seems to work because the therapy is fast pace and very goal oriented. Every session has its own agenda working toward the major goal of decreasing or terminating the counterproductive mind-set.


How Will It Work With Fears Like My Fear of Flying?

So back to my predicament, would cognitive therapy work for my irrational fear of flying? A phobia could be described as a negative thought, sense it tends to make you stray away from whatever the phobia is. In Greg Mulhauser’s An Introduction to Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Approaches, fears are dealt in session and out of sessions. In session, the therapist focuses on the causes of how the fear is developed and how to cope with the fear. Out of the therapy sessions, the client is supposed to do some sort of journal describing their level of fears surrounding the event : using a numerical scale of their fears from zero to ten. In my case, the minute I book the plane ticket my stress would be around two.

A week before the flight my stress level would be about a five. The night before I broad the plane my stress is about a seven. The morning of the flight I am about a eight, boarding the plane will be around a nine, and the take off would be around a ten. From these journal entrees the therapist will see how my stress is toward my phobia at different times and be able to help me surpass my phobia starting from starting with my lowest point of stress (booking the ticket), to the highest (the plane takes off).

Will This Therapy Work For Everybody?

This therapy works well with short term psychological issues like fears and phobias, addictions (judging by the strength of the addiction-if a person has a strong addiction, CBT might not be the only therapy involved), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and even hoarders can benefit from this therapy. As well as people who want to change the way they act or think like a person who is pessimistic can use this therapy to be a more positive person, a person who has anger issues can benefit from this to be a more patient and calm individual.

However there are some who will not benefit like those who have serious mental disabilities like Schizophrenia, Bi-polar, or those with personality disorders like Narcissistic, Anti-social, psychopathic and Sociopathic, or those who have deep rooted basis for their psychological issues that lead more therapy sessions.

Also it depends on the individual. Some clients can do great with the quick sessions while others need to take littler and lengthier steps. Some prefer to have a more psychoanalytical approach to therapy where they just want to speak about their issues and that is enough for them. Some may prefer a mixture of therapies. So it depends on the client and the therapist to see if the therapy is the right direction for the individual.

In Conclusion

Cognitive Therapy has proven to be a successful treatment fear and phobias, OCD, Hoarding, addictions, and people with poor self esteem. Cognitive Therapy is a fast paced therapeutic treatment which makes the client takes responsibly for their problems and helps them beat their problem. The therapy only works if the client is willing do their homework every single day and listen to what their therapist tells them to do. If the client does not do this, the therapy will fail because when the sessions go by so quickly, every day counts, in and out of the therapy room.

It is a therapy I completely recommend because it works and if the person puts the time and effort into it, the results are long-term. However I urge anybody who is looking for therapy to research all the different types of therapy and research the therapist you will be seeing when you make the appointment. Sometimes the therapist does not match you and if that happens do not get discouraged just tell them exactly what you want and ask if they have anybody they recommend.


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      3 years ago

      Your posting really stnrtghieaed me out. Thanks!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      You're a real deep thikenr. Thanks for sharing.


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