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Beck's Cognitive Therapy


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Table of Contents

Introduction: From Kraepelin to Beck to us; Part I: THEORY; 1. Aaron. T. Beck: His life and the development of the principles of cognitive therapy; 2. Problem areas in psychological functioning are marked out by specific cognitive themes and processes; 3. Cognitive therapy addresses a variety of levels and types of cognition: We begin with Beck's discovery of 'automatic thoughts'; 4. Cognitive distortions play a key role in psychological problems; 5. Cognitive organisation is underpinned by deep modes, schemas, beliefs, and assumptions; 6: Cognitive therapy draws richly on evolutionary theory; 7. Images also reflect key elements of cognitive distortions; 8. Cognition, emotion, behaviour, and physiology interact with mutual and reciprocal influence on each other; 9. Safety behaviours, including avoidance, over-preparation, and reassurance-seeking, play a major role in maintaining anxiety; 10. Understanding the role of negative biases in attention strengthens cognitive therapy; 11. Metacognitive analysis strengthens our understanding of psychopathology; 12. Mindfulness has added power and subtlety to cognitive therapy; 13. Cognitive therapy is a formulation-driven and conceptualisation-driven form of psychological therapy; 14. Beckian epistemology has a clear research process for developing appropriate therapeutic knowledge; 15. Therapy protocols have played a role in the development of the cognitive approach; Part II: PRACTICE; 16. Cognitive therapy requires a collaborative therapeutic relationship; 17. Cognitive therapists, like other therapists, use conceptualisations to tackle interpersonal and alliance issues; 18. Cognitive therapy is, at least initially, a time-sensitive and relatively structured form of therapy; 19. Cognitive therapy is problem- and goal-oriented, and is focused, initially at least, on 'here and now' functioning; 20. Cognitive therapy has an educational focus and uses regular homework; 21. Cognitive therapy has a well-identified set of methods and skills; 22. Cognitive therapy builds on the identification of unhelpful automatic thoughts; 23. Cognitive therapists teach clients to evaluate and then respond to their negative thoughts; 24. Cognitive therapists have developed methods for identifying beliefs and schemas; 25. Cognitive therapy has methods for working on unhelpful beliefs and schemas; 26. Cognitive therapy has been strengthened by including interventions focused on emotions and imagery; 27. Cognitive therapists use a variety of methods to promote behaviour change; 28. Cognitive therapy has developed new ways of working with cognitive processes, especially via mindfulness; 29. Cognitive therapists are key participants in large systems delivering psychological therapy; 30. Cognitive therapy aspires to be a unifying model: Both in terms of using concepts and skills from other therapies, and of offering them its own methods; Concluding comments: Let's all raise a glass to Aaron 'Tim' Beck

About the Author

Frank Wills has been a cognitive therapist, author, and trainer over many years. He has been keen to promote a pluralistic model of practice that is grounded in emotional and interpersonal, as well as cognitive, skills.


In this important and highly accessible contribution to the Distinctive Features series, Dr Wills eruditely presents the history and core features of Beck's seminal theory. The book covers the central and inspiring components of Beck's model and therapy, referencing their wider context and impact.

Adrian Wells, Professor of Clinical and Experimental Psychopathology University of Manchester, UK Cognitive ideas and methods have the potential to make an invaluable contribution to the work of any counsellor or psychotherapist. In this engaging, accessible, and clearly-laid out book, Frank Wills introduces us to the essential ideas behind cognitive practice, and how these ideas can be applied effectively within a warm, collaborative, and empowering therapeutic relationship. Mick Cooper, Professor of Counselling Psychology, University of Roehampton Frank Wills is a well-known and highly regarded author and this book will benefit both trainee counsellors and psychotherapists and experienced practitioners. While focussing on Beck's model of CBT, the acknowledgement of the contributions of psychoanalysis and person-centred theories to CBT is refreshing and will significantly help practitioners who seek to integrate CBT into their practice to do so. Sue Wheeler, Professor, University of Leicester The book succeeds admirably in placing Beck's work in the wider therapeutic context, and addresses both the science and art of CBT. Frank Wills brings his own insights and personal touches to the writing, and the result is both wise and humane. Neil Frude, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Honorary Professor, Cardiff University and the University of South Wales.

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