Merrie Pearl, LCSW
4902 Canal St, #205
New Orleans, LA 70119

What is Cognitive Therapy?

Cognitive Therapy is a state-of-the-art, highly effective approach to psychological treatment. This focused, problem-solving therapy was developed in the 1970s by Aaron T. Beck, M.D., the founder of cognitive therapy. Earlier in his career as a psychiatrist, Beck practiced from a psychoanalytic tradition and found himself frustrated by the painfully slow progress of his patients. He strove to develop a more direct and potent approach to therapy, which has become widely known as cognitive therapy (also known as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT).

Cognitive therapy is essentially a method that identifies and helps a person to correct specific errors in what he or she is thinking that produces negative or painful feelings. These erroneous or distorted thoughts also influence the person on a behavioral level, and result in maladaptive choices or reactions. In treating a person who is experiencing psychological difficulties, we find that the most effective point of intervention is at the level of the person's thoughts, and that if changes are made in thinking (automatic thoughts, assumptions and core beliefs), changes in emotions and behavior will follow. Furthermore, behavioral techniques and strategies are employed as needed to enhance the treatment outcome (i.e., anger management, relaxation training, graduated exposure to feared situations, assertiveness training). The course of treatment is typically brief, and people usually experience relatively rapid relief and enduring progress.

Cognitive therapy's elegantly simple model has proven to be the most powerful and successful type of psychological treatment in outcome studies conducted over the past several decades. Due to the availability of literature and training of professionals in CBT, cognitive therapy currently enjoys widespread popularity, and is practiced by many qualified professionals throughout the United States and internationally.