Cognitive therapy is a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and was devised by Aaron Beck, who was initially a psychoanalytic psychologist. Beck realised that therapies, such as Freudian therapies, which mainly dealt with past experiences and memories, took a very long time to work, so he formed an idea about targeting conscious thoughts for treatment.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is largely Cognitive therapy, as it is essentially a combination of therapy focused on thought processes, or ‘cognitions,’ combined with the behavioural element, wherein the individual has to do something or change their behaviours in order to disprove their own negative thoughts, as this has been found to be more effective, because they may have not believed what a therapist has told them, yet they find it harder to deny concrete evidence. For example, someone suffering from depression may believe that they do not enjoy going out and doing things with friends. The psychologist treating this person would firstly challenge their beliefs by asking them where their evidence is, and would then consequently set them a task, such as going to the cinema with a friend, which should be relatively stress free, as the individual would not have to socialise for much of the time they were out. That person would be also asked to keep a diary, to write in how they found their task, and to write down when any negative thoughts seemed to arise. As such, it may be possible to derive a trigger, e.g a certain person makes the individual feel worthless, so they may be advised to stay away from that person until the therapy is complete. Theoretically, the tasks set to change the behavioural elements, should have disproved the individual’s delusions, or the irrational beliefs, so that the psychologist can consequently begin to change the person’s maladaptive thought processes.
The aim of Cognitive therapy is to identify then change negative thought processes, in order to either cure or at least alleviate symptoms of mental illness. It seems that CT is very useful for treating depression, as people suffering from it often have a negative schema of the world, which is something they have acquired, so, equally, they can un-learn this way of thinking. CT does treat depression, but it may not be appropriate for someone with severe depression, who is suicidal, as they type of therapy relies on the individual talking to the therapist, and someone on the verge of suicide, would probably not be in the right mindset to talk to a therapist, and they would need immediate intervention, to prevent them from harming themselves. Equally, CT is not used for treating disorders such as schizophrenia, because the patient’s thoughts are disjointed, therefore so is the speech, so it would be difficult, if not impossible to identify negative thought processes, which are beyond the individual’s control any way, regardless, of the paranoia which would probably prevent a schizophrenic talking to a therapist.