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European Association for Counselling

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy an Influential Model?

George Varvatsoulias*a
[a] West London Mental Health NHS (National Health Service) Trust, London, UK.

[Psychological Thought, 2013, Vol. 6(1), doi:10.5964/psyct.v6i1.61

*Corresponding author at: 15 Ludlow Road, London, UK, W5 1NX. E-mail:

CC-by LicenseThis is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.]

Introduction

Cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as one of the most influential models in psychotherapy today (Brewin, 2006). It combines philosophy, cognitive science and behavioural theories (Reisner, 2005). Cognitive behavioural therapy investigates how the mind’s cognitive abilities can aid one’s psychological state suffering from negative automatic thoughts and avoidant behaviours 1 (see DeRubeis, Webb, Tang, & Beck, 2010).

Century-old writings, such as Plato’s “Cave” (Broom, 1991)2 and Epictetus’s “Enchiridion” (Long, 2002)3 explain the human condition by discussing how the self is influenced in terms of situations and events (Montgomery, 1993); the way individuals interpret what takes place in their lives as to the irrational thinking and/or beliefs they hold about this; the emotional responses following such beliefs and/or negative appraisals; and what they do in order to come to terms with feelings and physical sensations (Beck, 1970).

In Cognitive behavioral therapy terms:

Irrational thinking refers to the negative appreciation of situations or events that took place in one’s life.

Negative appraisals can be transformed not through their outcomes, which are avoidant behaviours, but through the synthesis of meanings of the fruitful content deriving from the positive side of personal experiences (Lyddon, 1991).

On the other hand, religion constitutes a valuable expression of human experience, the age of which is as old as the human mind itself (Voland, 2009). Religions have been founded on events. The way these events are explained from the faithful gives rise to schemas4, both positive and negative. Human interrelationships can be based on schemas which can influence not only people but an entire culture as well. An example to understand the latter is that individuals belonging to a religious affiliation may regard others not belonging to their affiliation as an infidel, inferior, or even a threat. Irrational understanding of reality in those people’s minds is not concerned with the meaning of a different religion per se but with the meaning of belonging to a religion, one cannot accept as one’s own. Such religious appraisals are certainly negative for they refer to individuals’ consideration of reality in terms of how they experience it in the religious group they belong to; in the religious group they seek coalitions at; in the religious group, they receive an identity from (see Rajaei, 2010). Another example of negative religious appraisals could be the meaning of God as an imposing Father (see Freud, 1927).

Religious appraisals can have an irrational influence on individuals’ emotions and behavioural responses, too (see Pargament, 1997). At first, they can be demonstrated via ruminative thinking associated to schemas they spiritually adhere to, such as believing that by being members of a religious group, they – and not others – are the chosen ones. On the other hand, religious appraisals may have a negative lasting effect on the cognitive balance individuals need to keep between themselves and the meanings of faith, spirituality and religious life in general (Festinger, Riecken, & Schachter, 1956; Slater, 2005).

One of the aims of cognitive behavioral therapy is to tease out individuals’ conflictive tendencies that alter and dysfunction cognitions with regards to what has been so far experienced and how reality associates to it (see Festinger, 1957).

Psychology of religion as a discipline covers a wide range of psychological theories in the explanation of religious phenomena. Religious phenomena explain what human life is and what humans can do to transform it when in need for a spiritual change. A transformation from a religious point of view plays a crucial role in the life of individuals and individuals’ relations to others. If religious appraisals, in regard to the religious phenomenon, are faulty, such as the examples mentioned above, religious life becomes very uneasy and negative not only as to one’s reasoning in reference to one’s religion but also as to one’s reasoning in reference to one’s relation towards others.

In this paper, I introduce a new approach to the issue of transformation from a cognitive behavioral point of view. I discuss how cognitive behavioral theory can be applied therapeutically to the needs of a religious individual belonging to a particular religion both in terms of personal faith and interrelationships.

To read the full paper please click on cognitive behavioral therapy

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