Fundamental Principles of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1737 Words
Date:  2022-07-15


Individuals struggle with different situations on a daily basis. Some of the situations take a toll on them and impact their lives negatively. In extreme cases, individuals take their lives to escape their constant suffering. Therapy therefore plays a very essential role in people's daily lives. Cognitive and behavioral therapy are both guided by a few underlying principles. Cognitive therapy has three fundamental principles. One of its principles states that a person's mood is influenced by his or her own cognitions or thoughts. The second principle states that feelings of depression are caused by pervasive negative thoughts. The third principle states that a person's negative thoughts are usually made up of gross distortions (Cherry, 2012). The fundamental principle of behavioral therapy is that any behavior can be learned or unlearned. The theory focusses on how some types of behavior may get rewarded in particular environments. The behaviors which get rewarded are bound to be upheld. The behavioral theory greatly borrows from B.F Skinner's classical conditioning.

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

The major assumption made in regards to the cognitive theory is that changing cognition can bring about changes in how an individual behaves and reacts. The theory also assumes that individuals are always actively involved in learning processes and they are not merely victims of changes in the environment. The other assumption posited in regards to the theory is that learning meaning and memory arte closely interrelated. Cognitive theorists assume that an individual's decision to learn a particular activity is affected by the meaningfulness of the activity. Behavioral therapy also makes certain assumptions in trying to explain the factors which may affect an individual's behavior. One such assumption is that psychological distress which may be experienced by a person is usually a result of faulty behavioral patterns or thought processes. The theory also assumes that individuals tend to correct faulty patterns during their present times.

The cognitive therapy has two other major branches. One of the branches is called the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) while the other branch is referred to as the Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. REBT was advanced by Albert Ellis for the sole purpose of managing and controlling irrational beliefs or behaviors (Herkov, 2016). On the other hand, the MBCT was developed by three individuals; John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Mark Williams. This therapy was developed to help individuals who were vulnerable to occurrences of depression (Herkov, 2016). Unlike cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy has slightly more branches. The most common and popular branch is cognitive behavioral therapy. The other major branches are Cognitive behavioral play therapy, system desensitization and aversion therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be a popular means of dealing with mental issues since it combines both the behavioral and cognitive approaches. Therapists who use this method focus on changing an individual's thoughts since they have a direct bearing on the person's moods and actions. The system desensitization branch greatly borrows classical conditioning advanced by B.F Skinner. Aversion therapy, on the other hand is used to handle cases of substance abuse or alcoholism.

Historical and Philosophical Origins of the two Approaches

The cognitive therapy approach was developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck. It was during the 1960s and he was working as a psychiatrist (Martin, 2018). Professionally, Beck had studied psychoanalysis and he would often conduct experiments whenever he felt the need to test various concepts of depression which were related to psychoanalysis. His experimental findings are what prompted him to seek other ways of conceptualizing the issue of depression. During the course of his experiments, he noted that the depression patients he was dealing with would experience negative thoughts about the world, themselves and the future. Beck decided to help his patients identify and deal with their automatic thoughts. By helping his patients in evaluating their thoughts, he would make them think more realistically about the world themselves and the future. His main aim was always to make his patients change the negative beliefs about not only themselves but also the world and other people. The patients who were able to change their thoughts regarding the three issues would enjoy lasting peace unlike others. He referred to this approach as the cognitive therapy.

Behavioral therapy traces its origins to Edward Thorndike who was the first person to use the terms "modifying behavior". In 1911, he wrote an article about acquired behavior and learning (Martin, 2018). Other researchers such as Joseph Wolpe picked up where Edward had left and continued with his work. Wolpe and his research team mainly concerned themselves with matters of clinical psychology. Hans Eysenck is also recognized as a pioneer of behavioral psychology. It was however, B.F Skinner's work which led to the modern development of behavioral approach. Skinner's first major work was on operant conditioning and how it could be used to help patients who had been diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia. Even though Skinner, Wolpe and Eysenck worked from three completely different origins and had different approaches on the issue, their work has been harmonized and greatly contributed to the development of behavioral therapy. Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis further developed the behavioral theory approach and made it even more useful. These two psychologists added a cognitive element to the original theory which resulted in the development of the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Similarities and Differences between the two Approaches

Behavioral therapy places a great emphasis on behavior. The approach utilizes techniques such as systematic desensitization and in some incidences aversion therapy which utilizes concepts of classical conditioning advanced by B.F Skinner. Classical conditioning is used by therapists to help their clients learn or unlearn specific behavior. Cognitive therapy on the other hand, focuses on any cognitive distortions a client may have. Cognitive theorists place a greater emphasis on an individual's thought processes as compared to the person's behavioral patterns. Behavioral therapy also tends to be more empirical compared to cognitive therapy. Behavioral theorists believe in conducting experiments and making objective measurements based on observable results. One assumption made in regards to cognitive therapy is that human beings have the ability to process and organize information in their subconscious. On the other hand, the behavioral approach assumes that individuals learn through the association of certain events with specific consequences. The theory also assumes that whenever certain events take place at the same time, they become associated with one another.

There is also a slight difference in the role played by therapists in regards to the application of the two approaches. In behavioral therapy, the therapist focusses on altering negative or unwanted behavior and replacing it with desired behavior (McLeod, 2010). For instance, individuals who may have various phobias may be taught relaxation or breathing techniques so that they can react differently whenever they are afraid. In cognitive therapy, the therapist takes on a more collaborative approach when dealing with his or her client. The therapist's main role is to teach his or her client new ways of thinking. They help their clients to develop a rationale outlook on life. The two approaches have a few similarities. For instance, they both acknowledge that human action is influenced by physical laws. The two approaches focus on improving learning processes. For the cognitive approach, clients are taught to think differently while the behavioral approach teaches the clients to behave differently. The two approaches make use of previous knowledge before deciding on what is to be taught. Lastly, the two approaches are usually combined to come up with the most effective treatment methods for mental health issues. Discussion of Concepts

Core beliefs and Automatic Thoughts

Core beliefs are an individual's thoughts regarding himself or herself, other people close to the close and the world in general. These beliefs are usually stuck in an individual's mind and do not easily change. For instance, a person may say that he or she is a bad person or that they do not trust others. Automatic thoughts are those thoughts which come up in a person's mind whenever the person is depressed. These type of thoughts are usually triggered by a certain event or action. The people who experience these thoughts normally have less control over them and they require the help of a psychologist to change them.

Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement and Punishment

This is the addition of a stimulus which is mean to encourage the occurrence of a certain behavior. For example, giving a bone to a dog after it performs a certain task. It occurs in operant conditioning. Negative reinforcement is the removal of an aversive stimulus and it is meant to encourage certain behavior. For example, an individual may decide to take an antacid before having a spicy meal. While reinforcements increase the frequency of certain behaviors, punishments aim to reduce them. For example, when a child touches a hot stove, the child will feel pain. The pain is the aversive stimulus which will reduce the behavior of touching hot objects.

Strengths and Limitations of Cognitive and Behavioral Approaches

The cognitive theory has grown to be popular due to its many practical applications. For instance, a study known as theory of mind has been applied differently and today, it is used to determine whether an individual is autistic. The other advantage of the cognitive approach is that it utilizes experiments as a research method. Experiments are great since they make it possible to determine cause and effect. The main disadvantage of the cognitive approach is that it greatly focusses on processes which cannot be directly observed. It also ignores some factors which may affect an individual's behavior. The behavioral approach is based on characteristics which can be easily seen. This makes it easy to quantify and collect empirical data unlike the cognitive approach. The behavioral approach also uses classical and operant conditioning. These are applied in the treatment of various phobias. One limitation that has been raised in regards to this approach is its continued use of animals in experiments. The animals cannot provide consent neither can they withdraw from these experiments. This approach has also failed to account for learning which occurs without the use of reinforcements and punishments.


Cherry, K. (2012, December 7). How Does Behavioral Therapy Work? Retrieved from

Herkov, M. (2016, July 17). About Behavior Therapy. Retrieved from

Martin, B. (2018). In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. (2010). Behavioral Therapy | Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

Cite this page

Fundamental Principles of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy Essay. (2022, Jul 15). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism