Cognitive-Behavioral Theory and Intervention


in Building Strengths and Skills

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780195154306
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199864287 | DOI:
 Cognitive-Behavioral Theory and Intervention

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This chapter provides a brief overview of cognitive-behavioral therapy, a broad class of present-focused interventions with a shared focus on changing cognition (thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions about the world), changing behavior, and building clients' coping skills. Cognitive theory focuses on the rationality of one's thinking patterns and the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Behavior theory is not concerned with internal mental processes but rather how human behavior, whether adaptive or problematic, is developed, sustained, or eliminated through its external reinforcement. The nature of change in cognitive-behavioral theory is apparent in its hyphenated term. That is, clients can be helped to change in three ways: 1) cognitively, by teaching them how to identify and change distorted thinking; 2) behaviorally, by offering skills training to improve coping capability; and 3) experientially, by helping clients set up natural experiments so they can test the extent to which their beliefs about an event are rational. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used in the strengths- and skills-based model when people are ready to take action toward their problems and when it appears that a lack of knowledge or skills represent a barrier to more effective functioning.

Keywords: cognitive therapy; classical conditioning; reinforcement; operant conditioning; coping skills

Chapter.  7651 words.  Illustrated.

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