Cognitive Theories in Psychology

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Last updated: April 6, 2019


* Therapies based on the cognitive model attempt to show people that their distorted/irrational thoughts are the main contributors to their disorder. By changing faulty thinking, disorders can be treated.

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* Bandura’s approach to therapy uses modelling. As well as changing behaviour, models aim to change thoughts and perceptions. Modelling is useful in the treatment of phobias and is also effective in assertiveness and social skills training. One reason for this is the development of self -efficiency.

* Ellis sees emotional difficulties as a result of ‘irrational beliefs’. People have the capacity for rational understanding, but are also capable of deluding themselves and thinking irrationally. Rational-emotive therapy (RET) aims to help people find flaws in their thinking by creating a dispute belief system.* When irrational beliefs have been identified, they are substituted by more realistic ones. RET is an active, direct and argumentative approach, which has been questioned by those who stress empathy’s importance in therapy. However it seems to be effective for certain disorders.* Beck’s cognitive restructuring therapy also sees disorders as stemming from irrational beliefs.

The therapy is specifically designed to treat depression, and is effective in this. In a less confrontational way than RET, it identifies depressed people’s implicit and self-defeating assumptions.* Attributional therapy is derived from the revised theory of the learned helplessness and also treats depression. Attributional therapists try to break down the vicious circles that low self-esteem people experience.

Changing attributions like this can lead to increased self-esteem, greater confidence and better performance.* Meichenbaum’s stress inoculation therapy assumes that people sometimes find situations stressful because of their misperceptions about them. The therapy trains people to cope more effectively with potentially stressful situations through cognitive preparation, skill acquisition and rehearsal, and application and practice.* Cognitively based therapies are particularly helpful in treating panic disorder. They have also been shown to have a significant impact on many medical conditions and to reduce the psychological impact of unemployment.

Their effectiveness with other disorders is, however, less clear-cut.

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