Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness


What is cognitive psychotherapy?

Behaviorism dominated American academic psychology well into the 1960s, at which point the cognitive revolution brought the mind back to scientific respectability. Previously, behaviorists had thoroughly dismissed subjective experiences as unworthy of scientific attention. Taking advantage of this movement, psychologists such as Aaron Beck (1921-), Albert Ellis (1913-2007), and Martin Seligman (1942-), developed a new form of psychotherapy, known as cognitive psychotherapy.

All three branches of cognitive therapy start from the premise that psychological distress can be linked to maladaptive thoughts. Negative thoughts stimulate negative emotions, which in turn motivate self-defeating behavior. The negative consequences of these patterns reinforce the problematic thoughts, creating a vicious cycle. Unlike psychoanalytic treatment, which explores psychological distress in an open-ended, nondirective way, cognitive therapists actively identify unhealthy thought processes, and train patients to restructure their thoughts into healthier responses.


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