The theory of Cognitive behavior was chiefly propagated by B. F. Skinner who had profound impact on behaviorism. The approach is a largely deterministic and historical movement. However, it differs from the psychodynamic view of human behavior. The approach focuses on objective, measurable phenomena (Shedler, 2008).
View of Human Nature, Basic Assumptions and Characteristics
Cognitive behavior approach view on human nature can be equated to that of a fine-tuning machine. The individual complexity and mystery of an individual is traded for behavioral mechanisms that can strictly be controlled through the efficacy of environmental titillation. Human nature develops to insofar it can learn to survive and conform to the environment. In this approach, humans are examined as a passive agent in that the center of control is placed outside the individual, subjecting individuals’ destiny on external stimuli. Cognitive behavior theory is concerned with how people teach (Ferguson, 2007).
Cognitive behavior theory is dependent on two main assumptions on human learning: an individual is dependent on the environment for his or her functioning; and an individual must change the contextual forces in a relevant manner for change to be realized (Steger, 2005). Some of the central characteristics Cognitive behavior approach includes: reinforcement, where behavior is immediately followed by positive experience to increase the likelihood of occurrence that behavior; empirical dictates, where interventions are proven clinically to alter problematic thoughts that are applied during therapy; and outcome goals, where desired changes are defined clearly as the goals of therapy (Shedler, 2008).
Cognitive Behavior Therapeutic Process
Cognitive behavior therapy puts more emphasis on transforming the way family members behave. The approach is also concerned with the family’s dysfunctional beliefs or attitudes. The main goals of cognitive behavior theory are: facilitating the ability of families to examine patterns of behavior and understand the interaction among emotions, cognitions, and behavior; ending problem behavior and raising positive responses; and improving each client’s level of functioning to enhance the overall relationship (Ferguson, 2007).
Cognitive behavioral therapists emphasize on how problems have influence on family in the present situation, even if the causes of behavior are based on past experiences or events. The roles of cognitive behavior therapists include: working collaboratively with family members to define problems and determine therapeutic goals and strategies that will assist achievement of desired goals; focusing on how the family reinforces problem behavior instead of problematic behavior; educating the family as to the role that thoughts play in behavior and emotion. It also gives instructions on how thoughts are monitored and provides modification to believes or behavior; and offering communication skills of problem solving training as required (Shedler, 2008).
Applications of Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Major Techniques and Applicable Areas of the Approach
Cognitive behavioral approach utilizes the following techniques to assist families change their rigid attitudes and interactions: problematic thought patterns or behaviors are measured at first and throughout the therapeutic process to weigh success; through philosophical questioning, reframing, and reality testing, counselors challenge ideas, thoughts and behaviors that are distorted and encourage families to try on new perspectives and ideas; in behavioral parent training, techniques such as materials and social reinforcements, differential attention, modeling and others are used; challenging family members to take turns providing positive reinforcements to others’ efforts to change their behavior patterns; and allowing couple to negotiate specific behaviors that each will change (Steger, 2005). This approach is mainly applicable in group counseling in schools especially in areas of behavioral change.
Evaluation of Cognitive Behavior Approach
Limitations and Contributions
Cognitive behavior approach has made numerous contributions to family therapy and has its limitations as well. Cognitive and behavioral techniques have been found to function well for the treatment of many kinds of problems, including marital problems. In addition, cognitive behavior approach has provided elaborate assessment and evaluation techniques that are reliable and valid (Goodwin, 2005). On the other hand, cognitive behavioral approach has a number of limitations as well: one, it requires more research to determine whether or not irrational beliefs are the cause of emotional distress than a symptom of such feelings; two, there is always no guarantee that feelings and attitudes always change due to behavioral alteration, the goals of treatment may be arrived at without resolving the negative emotions; and three, the approach has faced criticism for not putting emphasis on insight or past experiences, thereby, addressing problems without understanding the contexts within which they are developed (Steger, 2005).