Finding different ways to help people deal with and cope with different psychological and behavioral issues is a constant in psychology. Throughout the relatively short history of this discipline, different people and schools of thought have succeeded in developing more or less effective techniques for dealing with these problems and disorders.
Some of the contributions that the greatest scientific evidence has shown in the successful treatment of these problems come from the cognitive-behavioral paradigm, which is predominant today. In this article we will see 10 cognitive-behavioral techniques with proven effectiveness.
The cognitive-behavioral paradigm
Born from the fusion between behavioral techniques and procedures that seek scientific knowledge based on what is observable and the knowledge that behind the behavior there are several psychological processes that explain why we act, think and feel as we do, the cognitive-behavioral model or approach relies on working on cognitive aspects in order to produce a significant and profound change in behavior.
We work on the legacy left by behaviorism, applying and adapting many techniques from this current so that behavior modification is not a mechanical thing and temporary but causes a change in the way reality is perceived and the existence of problems in patients. Aspects such as information processing, coping mechanisms, self-concept and self-esteem, or other variables such as skills, beliefs and attitudes towards the world are taken into account .
Through the methods resulting from this approach a wide variety of mental problems are treated from a point of view validated by science and focused on current issues, working from the symptoms present to obtain an improvement in the patient’s quality of life and relief from his discomfort.
About ten cognitive-behavioral techniques
In the cognitive behavioral paradigm, there are many treatments, therapies and techniques that can be used to produce improvement in the patient. Many of them are techniques from behaviorism to which cognitive elements have been added. Some of the techniques used are briefly explained below.
1. Exposure techniques
These types of techniques are used in particular for phobias and anxiety and impulse control disorders. They are based on confronting the patient with the feared stimulus or anxiety generator until it is reduced, so that he can learn to manage his behavior in front of him while at the cognitive level restructures the thought processes. that make him feel bad. in the face of this stimulus or situation.
In general, a hierarchy of feared stimuli is created between the patient and the therapist, so that he can gradually approach and expose himself to them little by little. The speed of approach can vary considerably depending on the patient feeling more or less able to cope with the feared.
Exposure techniques can be applied in very different ways, both vivid and imaginative, and it is even possible to take advantage of technological possibilities to apply exposure through virtual reality.
2. Systematic desensitization
Although the procedure applied in systematic desensitization is similar to that of exposure, since it also establishes a hierarchy of anxious stimuli to which the patient will be exposed, it differs from previous techniques in that the patient has been previously trained to perform incompatible answers. with anxiety.
like that, it seeks to reduce anxiety and avoid situations and stimuli by engaging in behaviors that prevent it from appearing, and over time causing counter-conditioning that eventually becomes widespread.
Different variations of this technique are emotional staging (applied especially with children and using a pleasant context in which stimuli are gradually introduced), emotional imagination (in which positive mental images are used to avoid to the extent of the possible anxiety) or contact desensitization (in which the therapist would act as a role model in learning to act).
3. Up arrow technique
This technique is fundamental in the treatment of most mental disorders and is part of almost all cognitive behavioral techniques. It is based on modification of the patient’s thought patterns through various methods, identify their own thought patterns and their influence on the patient’s life and generate more adaptive and functional cognitive alternatives alongside the patient.
This is done on a series of questions that seek to explore the why of each answer given to issues that are important or important to the person, and which have to do with the reason for the consultation. Thus, one wonders about the meaning of these ideas and thoughts, until one reaches a point where the person faces doubts such as, “why did I take it for granted that I am like this?” ? ”,“ Why did I do this? way? “,” Why do I attach so much importance to this experience? “.
It is a technique used as part of cognitive restructuring, a method widely used to modify thought patterns, and aims to enable patients to break away from irrational and limiting beliefs, to adopt others.
Thus, beliefs, attitudes and views are changed, all with the goal of making the person come to interpret things in a different way, on the one hand, and set goals for themselves. and different expectations, on the other hand.
These modifications have the power to reveal new habits and that those routines which are of little use or which generate discomfort disappear. In this way, it is conducive for the person himself to be involved in contexts, initiatives, tasks with therapeutic potential, and to which he would not have been exposed if he had kept the old system of belief.
4. Modeling techniques
Modeling is a type of technique in which an individual performs a behavior or interacts in a situation with the aim that the patient observe and learn a concrete way of acting in order to be able to imitate. The objective is for the observer to modify his behavior and / or his thinking and provide him with tools to cope with certain situations.
There are different variations depending on whether the observer has reproduced the behavior or not, the model dominates from the start to perform the desired behavior or has similar resources for the patient so that an approximation is made of the objective, of the number of people who act as a model or if the modeling is done live or by other means such as imagination or technology.
5. Stress inoculation
This technique is based on preparing the subject to face possible stressful situations. Its primary purpose is to help the patient understand how stress can affect you and how you can cope with it, To later teach different cognitive and behavioral techniques as the others reflect here and finally to practice them in controlled situations which allow their generalization to everyday life.
The goal is for the person to get used to dealing with stressful situations rationally, without being blocked by their emotions.
Thus, stress inoculation is a kind of psychological training that changes our predispositions to react to stressful situations, allowing us to adopt a more appropriate pattern of behavior and not to make us fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy ( in this case, stress by predicting stress).
6. Training self-learning
Created by Meichenbaum, the self-study training is based on their role in behavior. These are the instructions with which we guide our own behavior by indicating what and how we are going to do something, Which are tinged with expectations vis-à-vis the results to be obtained or the effectiveness itself.
Some issues such as low self-esteem or perceptions of self-efficacy can lead to altered behavior and cannot be performed successfully and even avoided. With this technique you he aims to help the individual to be able to generate correct and realistic internal self-verbalizations which allow him to carry out the actions he wishes to perform.
The process takes place so that in the first place the therapist performs a modeling of the action to achieve by performing the steps aloud. The patient will then perform this action instructions that the therapist will recite. The patient will then self-instruct aloud, then repeat the process aloud and finally by means of internalized subvocal speech.
This technique can be used alone, although it is often integrated within the framework of other therapies dedicated to the treatment of various disorders such as depression or anxiety.
7. Problem solving training
Problem-solving training is a type of cognitive-behavioral treatment that aims to help people cope with certain situations that they are not able to solve on their own.
This type of technique works on aspects such as orientation towards the problem in question, the formulation of the problem, the generation of possible alternatives to solve it, make a decision regarding the most appropriate and verification of their results. In short, it is about knowing how to cling to complicated situations in the most constructive way possible, without getting carried away by fears and anxiety.
8. Surgical techniques for behavior modification
Although of behavioral origin, these types of techniques are also part of the cognitive-behavioral repertoire. Through this type of technique, it is fundamentally a question of causing a modification of the behavior by the stimulation.
They both motivate and contribute to the learning of new behaviors and reduce or modify them by applying reinforcements or punishments. Within the operative techniques one can find molding and chaining to harness adaptive conduits, differential reinforcement to reduce conduits or change them by others and satiety, fur time or overcorrection as a means of modifying or changing them. ” switch off the lines.
9. Self-control techniques
The ability to self-manage is a fundamental element that allows us to be autonomous and adapt to the environment around us, to maintain our behavior and thoughts stable despite the circumstances and / or to be able to modify them if necessary. . However, many people find it difficult to adapt their behavior, expectations or way of thinking to reality in an adaptive way, so different disorders can arise.
Thus, self-control techniques are used to facilitate learning behavior patterns in which impulsiveness is quelled to take into account the future consequences that certain actions may have.
Perform a workout which strengthens self-control skillsAs is achieved with Rehm’s self-control therapy, it can be used to control problems of various types such as those produced in depressive and anxious processes.
10. Relaxation and breathing techniques
Physical and mental activation is a very important element in explaining problems such as anxiety and stress. The suffering caused by the presence of problems and difficulties can be partly alleviated by relaxation techniques, by learning to manage bodily sensations so that they can also help themselves to manage the mind.
In this group we find Jacobson’s progressive relaxation, Schultz autogenic training or breathing techniques.
Benefits of cognitive behavioral techniques
Cognitive-behavioral techniques they have shown a very high level of efficiency in the treatment of various mental problems and disorders. Thanks to them, it is possible to modify the patient’s behavior and contribute to the acquisition of more adaptive life and behavior habits, working and also modifying the cognitive base that induces the original behaviors.
With such techniques, the mind and behavior are stimulated, producing marked improvement in a large number of cases. Its level of efficiency is as it is considered today the therapy of choice for most mental disorders.
Another great advantage of this type of technique is its attribution to the scientific method, being the contrasting behavioral cognitive therapies, techniques and treatments at the experimental level.
Disadvantages and limitations
Despite the great effectiveness of these techniques in the treatment of symptoms of mental disorders and problems, cognitive-behavioral techniques they have a number of limitations which makes them not always effective.
First, it highlights the fact that while they take the past into account when asking for information to understand the current problem, cognitive-behavioral techniques focus on the here and now without placing too much emphasis on the level. therapeutic, which has already happened. that may have caused inappropriate behavior.
While these techniques are very helpful in treating the current symptom, most often behind a mental disorder is a deep suffering produced by blockages or events experienced for a long time and which can end up causing the disorder. If the source of this suffering is left untreated and the patient is unable to cope, the disorder could recur.
It also highlights the fact that these techniques are generally aimed at eradicating what is causing the discomfort, but during the process it is not uncommon for rigid behaviors to be generated which in turn can lead to others. adaptation problems.
In addition, some studies have shown that many patients feel that this type of therapy does not take into account their suffering, feel misunderstood and have cases of poor adherence to and discontinuation of treatment. For these reasons, other therapies have emerged such as the third generation and others other paradigms.
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