Cognitive therapy or cognitive behavior therapy is a kind of psychotherapy used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other forms of mental disorder. It involves recognising distorted thinking and learning to replace it with more realistic substitute ideas. Its practitioners hold that much (though not all) clinical depression is associated with (although not necessarily caused by) irrational thoughts. Cognitive therapy is often used in conjunction with mood stabilizing medications to treat bipolar disorder. According to the U.S-based National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists:

"There are several approaches to cognitive-behavioral therapy, including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy."

Thoughts as the cause of emotions

With thoughts stipulated as being the cause of emotions rather than vice-versa, cognitive therapists reverse the causal order more generally used by psychotherapists. The therapy is essentially, therefore, to identify those irrational or maladaptive thoughts that lead to negative emotion and identify what it is about them that is irrational or just not helpful; this is done in an effort to reject the distorted thoughts and replace them with more realistic alternative thoughts.

Cognitive therapy is not an overnight process. Even after a patient has learned to recognise when and where his thought processes are going awry, it can take months of concerted effort to replace an invalid thought with a more suitable one. With patience and a good therapist, however, cognitive therapy can be a valuable tool in recovery.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

While similar views of emotion have existed for millennia, cognitive therapy was developed in its present form by Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck in the 1950s and 1960s. It rapidly became a favorite intervention to study in psychotherapy research in academic settings. In initial studies it was often contrasted with behavioral treatments to see which was most effective. However, in recent years, cognitive and behavioral techniques have often been combined into cognitive behavioral treatment. This is arguably the primary type of psychological treatment being studied in research today.

A sub-field of cognitive behavior therapy used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder makes use of classical conditioning through extinction and habituation. Such a procedure has been used successfully by Dr. Steven Phillipson to treat OCD. CBT has also been successfully applied to the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder.

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