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  What is Cognitive Therapy?

What is Cognitive Therapy?

The main clinical treatment adopted by the Northern ireland Centre for Trauma & Transformation for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is trauma focused cognitive therapy (one of two approaches for PTSD which is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence: NICE & PTSDwww.nice.org.uk/page.aspx).

Cognitive therapy is a 'talking therapy' (psychotherapy), which was developed by Aaron T Beck in the 1960's and 1970's.  It is one of the few forms of 'talking therapies' that has been extensively scientifically tested and has been found to be effective in over three hundred clinical trials for many different disorders.  In contrast to most other talking therapies, cognitive therapy is usually more focused on the present, more time-limited, and more problem solving orientated.  The focus is on solving current problems and not reflecting substantially or exclusively on the past.

Because of its focus on the here and now, the length of time over which people recieve therapy tends to be less than is the case with most other talking therapies.  The therapist and the client, work together as joint experts.  Indeed, much of what the patient does is solve current problems.  In addition, patients learn specific skills that they use for the rest of their lives.

These skills involve:

  1. Identifying unhelpful ways of thinking about problems (such as distorted thinking, or black and white thinking) that result in distress, sadness, etc.
  2. Modifying unhelpful thoughts or beliefs that may have evolved over time
  3. Relating to others in different ways (i.e. on the basis of new and more constructive assumptions)
  4. Changing unhelpful behaviours.

© NICTT 2007; v1.0