Cognitive Therapy is founded on 3 scientifically proven propositions
The “Access Hypothesis”
The belief that with enough dedication, effort, and help we can become aware of the content of our thinking.
The “Meditation Hypothesis”
The belief that the way we see, think about, and interpret the events around us influences the way we feel and the way we act.
The “Change Hypothesis”
The belief that we can become more effective, functional, and better equipped to adapt to the challenges of life by changing the ways in which we think and interpret reality.
(The Beck, Aaron T.; Dozois, David J.A. (2012-12-13). Cognitive Therapy: Current Status and Future Directions (Annual Review of Medicine).
Hypothesis 1 proves that we don’t have to be a victim of the false and negative beliefs that we picked up during our lives. These toxic beliefs like: “I’m weak” “I’m unlovable”, or “I won’t amount to anything” produce negative feelings.
Hypothesis 2 confirms that our interpretation of events—not the events themselves—influence the way that we think, feel, and act. This is important: it is not saying that any of us are immune to the challenges, problems, and suffering of life. It is, however, saying that our reaction to these trying and painful events will depend on our interpretation of them. For example, when we face the death of a loved one—which we will all face—how will we respond? We can either grieve them with gratefulness that we had them, or we can grieve with anger, desperation, and depression over losing them. In both instances we will all grieve, but how we grieve will be determined by how we interpret the event of death.
But what if we were programmed to respond to life’s challenges in a negative way? What if we internalized these beliefs and ways of responding to events when we were so young that we don’t even remember? Hypothesis 3 gives us hope.
Hypothesis 3 verifies that we can make permanent changes to our understanding of the ways in which we view the world, people, and events. It confirms that reality-based and rational ways of interpreting reality lead to mental and emotional skills like adaptability, confidence, and resiliency. These things make us equipped to face the challenges of life without being overcome by them—to instead overcome our obstacles—and succeed.
The Process of Cognitive Therapy
The benefits of Cognitive Therapy are gained through the collaboration between a skilled therapist and the person seeking change and health. They first explore the beliefs that are at the surface of our consciousness, and then the beliefs that we picked up when we were younger and trying to learn what the world was like. In order to discover these deeper beliefs, we have to look at our automatic thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behaviors, such as when we find ourselves doing things over and over again, without understanding why.
The real progress is made when we discover the beliefs that trigger our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and put them to the test of reality and rationality. For example, If you were given the message—and have come to believe— that you are unlovable, how do you explain that some people seek your company sometimes? Like a team of scientist-philosopher-detectives, therapist and client uncover, test, and question irrational beliefs like these.
During Cognitive Therapy, irrational beliefs are discovered, challenged, and invalidated, and they are substituted by rational beliefs that can be tested in reality and proven by evidence. When the new beliefs substitute the old ones, everything changes; because real and rational beliefs produce real and rational thoughts, emotions, and actions. And the result of rational thoughts, emotions and actions is a balanced and realistic view of life and people that leads to hope in the middle of loss, new effort in response to failure, and perseverance as a response to discouragement. These capacities to respond to life’s challenges are proven to lead to contentment, joy, and success, regardless of hardship. So we no longer live as victims of circumstances, afraid of what life may bring. This is how Cognitive Therapy works.