The classification of cognitive therapies shows that their common feature is that they view cognition as a determinant of behavior.
However, they differ in the importance they attach to the various processes involved. Thus, these cognitive processes can be activated by the same mechanisms that promote human learning.
Cognitive therapies always design treatments based on a cognitive formation of the problem. Moreover, they believe that learning is much more complex than the formation of stimulus-response associations. Thus, the therapeutic intervention urges to address cognitive processes as the main determinant of behavior.
Therapies are diverse and lack a unifying theoretical framework to bring them together as an overall theoretical model. However, they are often grouped together as “cognitive-behavioral therapies.”
The classification of cognitive therapies
There are three major classes of cognitive therapies (Mahoney and Arnkoff, 1978):
- First, there are the cognitive restructuring methods, which assume that emotional problems are a result of maladaptive thoughts and therefore their interventions try to create more adaptive thinking patterns.
- Then, secondly, there are the coping skills therapies, which attempt to develop a repertoire of skills to help the patient cope with a range of stressful situations.
- Finally, there are the problem-solving therapies, which are a combination of the two previous forms and focus on the development of general strategies for dealing with a wide range of personal problems, emphasizing the importance of active collaboration between a patient and his therapist.
Cognitive therapies based on cognitive restructuring
These are aimed at identifying and changing cognitions such as irrational beliefs, distorted thoughts and negative inner dialogue. We list the most representative exponents below.
Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy by Albert Ellis
This theory proposes that most psychological problems are due to the presence of maladaptive (irrational) thought patterns. So people are largely in control of their own destiny and their behavior is strongly influenced by their beliefs and values.
Rational emotive behavior therapy is a form of short-term psychotherapy that helps identify the thoughts and emotions that lead to self-neglect. Thus, the rationality of these feelings is reviewed and tested, and they are replaced by more productive and appropriate beliefs.
Finally, this approach focuses primarily on the present to help understand the mechanisms and schemas of thinking and the beliefs that cause discomfort. This discomfort, in turn, leads to harmful actions and behaviors. These hinder the achievement of goals and emotional balance.
Beck .’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Emotional and/or behavioral disturbances result from a change in information processing due to the activation of latent schemas. The central elements of this theory are therefore the following:
- First, during childhood, people develop a set of basic schemas that help them organize their cognitive systems.
- Second, they can get thoughts or mental images automatically, without the intervention of a preliminary process of reasoning.
- They can also make cognitive distortions and errors when processing information.
- Finally, stressful life events can trigger basic dysfunctional schemas.
Goldfried’s Emotional Restructuring Therapy
This has followed Ellis’s model as an attempt to achieve greater specificity and adapt it to a self-monitoring procedure.
The aim is thus to teach clients certain coping strategies and to deal with problematic situations. This is done for the purpose of enabling them to see more reasonable perspectives on distressing events.
Meichenbaum’s Self-Instructional Training Therapy
This theory is based on the work of Luria and Vygotsky. It is about the importance of “internal language” in the regulation of behavior. In addition, the historical background of self-training therapy goes back to work done in the 1960s with hyperactive and aggressive children.
Unlike emotional restructuring therapy, this form of training focuses more on the ability to change behavior and emotions through self-verbal expressions. The training also focuses less on the patient’s belief system and irrational ideas.
The procedure is as follows:
- external guidance, aloud
- self-instruction, out loud
- self-instruction, in a soft voice
- internal self-instruction, so without pronouncing it
Cognitive therapies based on coping strategies
These therapies try to teach skills so that a person can deal adequately with problematic situations. The most relevant are Meichenbaum’s stress inoculation therapy and Suinn and Richardson’s anxiety management training theory.
Meichenbaum’s stress inoculation training
Its purpose is to develop and/or provide subjects with skills and abilities that enable them to reduce/remove tension and physiological activation. Also to replace the previous negative interpretations with a series of positive thoughts to deal with stress.
There are three phases in stress vaccination training that sometimes overlap:
- conceptualization phase
- acquisition phase and skills training
- application phase of acquired skills
Suinn and Richardson’s Anxiety Management Training
The aim of this therapy is to teach a person to use relaxation techniques and other skills in varied situations. All with the aim of helping them control their fear responses.
The results of this therapy appear to be positive not only for generalized anxiety, but also for performance anxiety and fear of public speaking.
In the author’s opinion, it also seems superior to systematic desensitization. This is because it produces beneficial effects in the three response channels (affective, behavioral and somatic). Thus, it lowers blood pressure, improves performance, and reduces problematic cognitions.
Cognitive Therapies Based on Problem Solving
They are aimed at correcting the way a person handles their problems. It provides a systematic method to resolve these types of situations.
D’Zurilla-Goldfried’s Problem Solving Therapy
This therapy aims at teaching a person a systematic method of problem solving and provides methods for analyzing and evaluating possible opinions. It also provides a certain perspective to interpret the world.
It is effectively combined with other techniques and is the most commonly used problem-solving therapy. This form of therapy offers the greatest number of applications and experimental studies.
Interpersonal Problem Solving Technique by Spivack and Shure
The aim of this therapy is to increase social adaptation and competence. Thus, interpersonal problem-solving skills are being worked on to achieve this.
For example, one must define what a problem is: there is a problem when an effective response is not immediately available to deal with the situation.
The skills that measure social adaptation are alternative thinking, causal thinking, resource thinking (from 8-10 years to adolescence), and consequential thinking (during adolescence).
Mahoney’s Personal Science
Therapy aims to train the subject to become a personal scientist for the diagnosis and management of one’s own conflict behavior.
The resources are as follows:
- systematic reinforcement
- gradual completion of tasks
- the acquisition of self-assessment skills
So it is perhaps most attractive to people who value science, control and competition.