Techniques in cognitive therapy
Cognitive therapy is usually administered in an outpatient setting (clinic or office) by a therapist trained or certified in cognitive therapy techniques.
Cognitive therapy is usually administered in an outpatient setting (clinic or office) by a therapist trained or certified in cognitive therapy techniques. Therapy may be in either individual or group sessions, and the course of treatment is short compared to traditional psychotherapy (often 12 sessions or less). Therapists use several different techniques in the course of cognitive therapy to help patients examine thoughts and behaviors. These include:
- Validity testing. The therapist asks the patient to defend his or her thoughts and beliefs. If the patient cannot produce objective evidence supporting his or her assumptions, the invalidity, or faulty nature, is exposed.
- Cognitive rehearsal. The patient is asked to imagine a difficult situation he or she has encountered in the past, and then works with the therapist to practice how to successfully cope with the problem. When the patient is confronted with a similar situation again, the rehearsed behavior will be drawn on to deal with it.
- Guided discovery. The therapist asks the patient a series of questions designed to guide the patient towards the discovery of his or her cognitive distortions.
- Journaling. Patients keep a detailed written diary of situations that arise in everyday life, the thoughts and emotions surrounding them, and the behavior that accompany them. The therapist and patient then review the journal together to discover maladaptive thought patterns and how these thoughts impact behavior.
- Homework. In order to encourage self-discovery and reinforce insights made in therapy, the therapist may ask the patient to do homework assignments. These may include note-taking during the session, journaling, review of an audiotape of the patient session, or reading books or articles appropriate to the therapy. They may also be more behaviorally focused, applying a newly learned strategy or coping mechanism to a situation, and then recording the results for the next therapy session.
- Modeling. Role-playing exercises allow the therapist to act out appropriate reactions to different situations. The patient can then model this behavior.