Cognitive therapy is based on the underlying rationale that the way in which individuals interpret and structure their experiences determine in large how they think, feel, and act. The therapy involves teaching individuals a blend of verbal, visual, and behavioural modification techniques designed to help them to identify, reality-test, and correct their own distorted cognitions and the maladaptive beliefs underlying them. When a person is able to think and act more realistically and adaptively to here-and-now issues, problems, and situations, an amelioration in mood and overall functioning generally ensues. Thus, the primary goals of cognitive therapy are to:
- alleviate the emotional distress of patients by identifying and modifying their cognitive distortions, misinterpretations, self-defeating behaviors, underlying dysfunctional beliefs and maladaptive schemas.
- have patients learn to incorporate the therapeutic techniques of the therapist so that they can, in effect, become their own cognitive therapist; that is, they learn to alleviate their own negative moods by becoming trained to logically examine and modify their dysfunctional cognitions themselves.