The 4 main characteristics of cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the very popular psychological intervention models known for being effective and versatile, applicable to a wide range of problems to be treated. of the predominant methodologies in current psychological intervention due to its effective results.

Here we will know the hallmarks of cognitive behavioral therapy, with a summary of the way in which you work from it to help people.

What do we understand by the cognitive-behavioral model in psychotherapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy comprises a series of useful techniques and strategies to help those who have psychological needs or problems (not necessarily psychopathological), based on the scientific method. These forms of intervention aim to achieve a profound change in the cognitive and behavioral processes of the person, making you have more resources to face certain situations.

This type of therapy is applied in a wide variety of psychological disorders and problems in the way of relating to other people. Historically, originated in the 1950s and 1960s as a response to the behavioral perspective on human behavior and emotions, understanding that the latter was too reductionist and limited; however, in a way it is heir to the forms of therapy proposed by behaviorists.

Characteristics of cognitive-behavioral therapy

Let’s see what are the main characteristics of the cognitive-behavioral model.

1. Put the focus on the present

Cognitive-behavioral therapy starts from a bio-psycho-social conception of the individual; In other words, it assumes that people’s way of thinking, feeling, and behaving is the product of a dynamic and ever-changing process in which the biological predispositions of the body participate as well as the social context in which they live. Therefore, it does not look so much for the causes of problems in the remote past (for example, the childhood years) as in the present, starting from an analysis of what happens in the person’s day to day in that phase of his life.

2. It takes into account what is known as cognitive schemas

One of the main functions of cognitive-behavioral therapy is achieve a better sustained change over time, from the modification of the so-called “cognitive schemes”. These are a system of recurring thoughts, beliefs and feelings that constitute the “circuit” of mental elements from which the person interprets what happens to him, and even his own identity as an individual. In other words, it is a kind of ideological filter through which we draw conclusions about what is happening in the world and in ourselves.

Sometimes, the psychological problem appears, among other things, because the cognitive scheme that we have developed is dysfunctional, that is, it leads us to fall again and again into a series of errors. For this reason, in cognitive-behavioral therapy these kinds of problems are detected and work is being done on modifying cognitive schemes, offering other alternative ways of interpreting things.

3. Take into account the power of habits

Cognitive behavioral therapy it is something like a training program, in the sense that it is not intended to achieve sudden and revolutionary changes in a single session, but the improvement appears gradually, through several sessions carried out periodically / in most cases, a weekly session).

This implies doing practical exercises that go beyond the theoretical, since reaching the goals of the therapy is not based simply on thinking, but on performing a series of mental exercises that, in turn, are linked to physical exercises : you have to interact with the environment in certain ways, participate in certain situations, etc.

In this way, it is easier for the person to transform their habits in order to self-train and consolidate the change for the better in their day to day, without the need for the professional to be present.

4. Work through both intervention channels at the same time

As from the cognitive-behavioral model understands that the human mind is not something isolated in the head of each person, but is linked to the actions of the day to day, the way in which it proposes to address problems is act in two ways: that of ideas and beliefs, on the one hand, and that of interaction with the world and with others.

This principle is reflected in the main techniques that are included in the cognitive-behavioral paradigm, which are explained below.

1. Exposure Techniques

The Exposure Techniques are the most used in cases of phobias, anxiety disorders or similar alterations, and consist of expose and confront the person to their source of fear and anxiety.

As anxiety decreases, the person learns to manage their emotions, while reconfiguring their thinking and cognitive processes, thus overcoming their fears.

2 Systematic Desensitization

Systematic Desensitization is another of the classic techniques in the cognitive-behavioral approach and it also consists of exposing the person to their anxiety or fear-generating stimulus but previously having incorporated and trained a series of adaptive response mechanisms that act in the opposite direction, inducing a state of relaxation.

In the same way, and thanks to the application of positive behaviors in the face of the stimulus, anxiety is progressively reduced and ends up disappearing, which causes a change at the cognitive and emotional level in the patient.

3. Rising Arrow Technique

It is one of the techniques present in most interventions with cognitive-behavioral therapy and consists of modify the patient’s thinking patterns, identifying their maladaptive patterns and the influence these have on their daily life.

The mechanism used in this technique is based on asking a series of questions about the thoughts, emotions or beliefs that the person has at the current moment, and on analyzing the usefulness and influence of each one of them on their reason for consultation.

This technique aims at cognitive restructuring, that is, the person can eliminate negative or maladaptive thoughts that are the source of their discomfort.

4. Modeling Technique

The Modeling Technique consists of that the patient observe the behavior, activity or interaction that he wants to learn in another person and take his model as an example of action.

This technique can be applied live, it can be dramatized or performed using virtual reality techniques.

5. Stress Inoculation

Stress Inoculation consists of help the patient understand how stress can affect them and in subsequently providing a series of cognitive and behavioral tools and strategies to cope with stressful situations and get used to what causes fear.

The objective of this technique is for the person to train each of the tools offered by the therapist and learn to overcome stressful situations without blocking themselves.

Are you interested in attending psychological therapy?

If you are thinking of starting a psychotherapy process, get in touch with us.

In Advance Psychologists We have more than two decades of experience serving people with all kinds of problems; we currently offer professional support to adults, children and adolescents, as well as family and couples therapy services, and neuropsychological and psychiatric assistance.

Bibliographic references:

  • Field, TA; Beeson, ET; Jones, LK (2015). The New ABCs: A Practitioner’s Guide to Neuroscience-Informed Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 37 (3): pp. 206-220.
  • Gratzer, D. & Khalid-Khan, F. (2016). Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of psychiatric illness. CMAJ, 188 (4): pp. 263-272.
  • Olivares, J. & Y Méndez, FX (2008). Behavior Modification Techniques. Madrid: New Library.
  • Seligman, LD & Ollendick, TH (2011). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders in youth. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 20 (2): pp. 217 – 38.


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