The Rise of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has a rich history. It is considered one of the most effective methods of practice, and has wide acceptance among mental health professionals. It pairs nicely in the managed-care world of health insurance since CBT tends to last an average of 10-16 sessions. It is an approach that requires active client participation, and theorizes that behavior is modified through a range of empirical validated techniques.

Ray J. Thomlison and Barbara Thomlison discuss how CBT was built upon the three waves of behavioral theory. The early wave was characterized by the early behavior modification therapies, which included contingency management, stimulus control, exposure, and modeling approaches. The second wave heavily reflects the influences of Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis, and Donald Meichenbaum. Rational emotive therapy, cognitive therapy, problem solving, thought stopping, and stress inoculation were a part of this wave. Thomlison and Thomlision describe the third wave as still remaining “controversial and challenging to the roots of behavior therapy.” The third wave is characterized predominately by acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. These new approaches tend to focus less on painful thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Discomfort is accepted, and a commitment to living life based on important values and alternative ways of achieving life goals is developed.

It is interesting to see how behavior therapy has developed over the years to incorporate cognition and mindfulness. It reflects the importance of the mind and body connection.


Information for article was gathered from the following sources:

“Cognitive Behavior Theory and Social Work Treatment,” by Ray J. Thomlison and Barbara Thomlison in Social Work Treatment: Interlocking Theoretical Approaches, Fifth Edition edited by Francis J. Turner


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