Contrast and Compare Cbt and Existential Therapy

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Contrast and compare CBT and Existential therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT is representative of the integration of behavioural therapy and cognitive therapy. It encourages the empowerment of an individual to be able to change how they think (cognitive) and how awareness of particular problematic patterns may impact upon our consequent responses (behaviour) (R ch7). Pivotal to our understanding of such mental health problems from a CBT perspective is Beck’s ‘Cognitive theory of emotion’. It purposes that events and situations are not responsible for emotional responses. Instead it is the ‘meanings’ we attach which reflect the complex interaction between an individual’s history, mood and the context of experience. These interpretations will influence our actions either positively or negatively respectively due to different emotions being related to particular meanings. The cognitive theory of emotion suggests that our responses become disorders when an individual becomes ‘stuck’ or ‘trapped’ in both particular patterns of meanings and persistent maladaptive responses to those interpretations The role of therapist is to support an individual in making sense of their perceptions of their internal and external worlds. This is achieved through a ‘shared understanding’ or collaborative relationship of exploring ‘alternative ways’ of coping with negative situations.

Beck et al. (1979) further specify that feelings of sadness or even depression are associated with a perception that something has been lost, actually or conceptually R. In the case of anxiety, the cognitive theory of emotion suggests symptoms are the result of an individual anticipating physical or social threat. In CBT, careful questioning can even identify unconscious meanings or interpretations R. These thought processes can lead to preoccupation or distress preventing a person from doing as they wish R. Thus, CBT believes negative interpretations of threats or danger can potentially explain symptomatic behaviours such as safety seeking behaviour, physical reactions (i.e. heart racing, shortness of breath), increased levels of anxiety and fixation of potential sources of threat or danger. These reactions are often perpetuating to the disorder as they can have the effect of further increasing the negative perception of stimuli causing a vicious circle of severe and persistent anxiety

The cognitive theory of emotion aids the client to identify where (and how) they have become ‘stuck’ in their ways of thinking. Psychological treatments for anxiety and depression seek to understand how the world really works to challenge ‘locked’ in beliefs. Through ‘guided discovery’ cognitive therapy empowers an individual to broaden their choices concerning their response to stimuli. Within anxiety disorders, the maintaining factors are ‘transdiagnostic’ as they operate across a range of disorders. The use of diagnostic categories in CBT is to define characteristics of an individual who expresses high levels of specific psychological processes. The particular focus of concern impacts upon how an individual is helped to understand and change their problems. By using a guiding model and appropriately modifying it, both client and therapist are able to better identify negative interpretations.

The fundamental principles of existential counselling and psychotherapy are based on existential philosophy. It was developed in Europe in the 1930’s by disillusioned psychoanalysts Binwanger and Boss. Principally, existential psychotherapy is associated with the work of Heidegger but the ideas of the likes of Satre, de Beauvoir and Nietzsche are also incorporated. More recently it has been influenced by leading writers such as May, Yalom, Frankl and Laing. The leading contemporaries in this field currently are considered to be Deurzen and Spinelli. The principal method of existential counselling and psychotherapy is to implement a phenomenological approach in an effort to...
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