Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the theory that much of how we feel is determined by what we think. Disorders, such as depression, are believed to be the result of faulty thoughts and beliefs. In this method and theory of psychotherapy, it’s believed that by correcting these inaccurate beliefs, the person’s perception of events and emotional state improve.
It’s called “cognitive behavioral” therapy because the treatment is composed of two main components — changing your cognitions, or thoughts, and changing your behaviors. Changing your thoughts can help lead to behavioral changes, and vice-a-versa. Both components seem to be important in order to effect meaningful, lasting change in a person and help them cope with their mental health concerns.
Research on depression, for instance, has shown that people with depression often have inaccurate beliefs about themselves, their situation, and the world around them. A list of common cognitive errors and real life examples is listed below:
This refers to relating negative events to oneself when there is no basis.
Example — When walking down the hallway at work, John says hello to the company CEO. The CEO does not respond and keeps walking. John interprets this as the CEO’s lack of respect for him. He gets demoralized and feels rejected. However, the CEO’s behavior may have nothing to do with John. He may have been preoccupied about an upcoming meeting, or had a fight with his wife that morning. If John considered that the CEO’s behavior may not be related to him personally, he is likely to avoid this negative mood.
This refers to seeing things as black and white, all or none. This is usually detected when a person can generate only two choices in a situation.
Example — Mary is having a problem at work with one of her supervisors who she believes is treating her badly. She convinces herself that she has only two options: tell her boss off or quit. She is unable to consider a host of other possibilities such as talking to her boss in a constructive way, seeking guidance from a higher supervisor, contacting employee relations, etc.
This refers to focusing only on certain aspects of a situation, usually the most negative.