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Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a brief psychological treatment that takes a practical, problem-solving approach to modifying thinking and behaviour patterns to improve everyday functioning. CBT-based interventions are compatible with the primary care setting, where practitioners tend to define problems in behavioural and functional terms (Prins et al., 2009; Robinson & Reiter, 2007). CBT is easily adaptable to the primary care setting because much of the therapeutic work is done by clients in between sessions; the interventions can be broken down into parts and administered over short periods of time; and the interventions can be useful without a complete CBT treatment package (France & Robson, 1997).


The Basis of CBT Interventions

CBT interventions target problematic thoughts and behaviours by challenging them and providing functional alternatives. CBT interventions build on Beck's (2005) cognitive model, which identifies early learning experiences as the origin of maladaptive thoughts and beliefs and points to these dysfunctional thought patterns as the cause of negative moods and behaviours.

According to the cognitive model, core and intermediate beliefs are at the root of dysfunctional thinking. Core beliefs are the deepest level of cognition and are often shaped by childhood learning experiences. Beginning in childhood, people try to make sense of their environment. Their understanding, whether accurate or not, influences how they think about themselves, other people and the world. Intermediate beliefs are the attitudes, rules and assumptions that directly influence people's thoughts about a situation. When verbalized, intermediate beliefs often take the form of "should" or "must" statements or conditional (i.e., "if … then") statements. 




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