Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Model & its Brief Critical Analysis

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy which helps individuals to identify and then change their detrimental thought patterns that are negatively affecting their emotions and hence behavior.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on cognitive theory of clinical psychopathology. The cognitive model refers to how people’s perceptions of, or impulsive thoughts about situations impact their emotional, behavioral (and often physiological) reactions.

Individuals’ perceptions are often imbalance and dysfunctional when they are distressed. They can learn to recognize and assess their “automatic thoughts” (spontaneously occurring verbal or imaginal cognitions), and to correct their thinking so that it more closely resembles reality. When they do so, their distress usually decreases, they are able to behave more functionally (especially individuals suffering from anxiety and depression), and their physiological arousal terminates.

CBT aids individuals learn to recognize and assess their “automatic thoughts” and change their thinking to be healthier. The cognitive model is at the core of CBT, and it plays a critical role in guiding therapists use gentle Socratic questioning to develop treatments.

CBT is, in fact, a term that encompasses for many different therapies that share some common elements. Two of the earliest forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy were: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), developed by Albert Ellis in the 1950s, and Cognitive Therapy (CT), developed by Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s.

Albert Ellis suggested that each of us hold a unique set of assumptions about ourselves and our world that serve to direct us through life and define our reactions to the various situations we encounter.

Unfortunately, some people’s assumptions are largely irrational, controlling them to act and react in ways that are inappropriate and that bias their chances of happiness and success. Albert Ellis called these basic irrational assumptions. Ellis considers that people often compellingly hold on to this irrational and illogical way of thinking, and thus employs highly emotive techniques to help them vigorously and forcefully change this irrational thinking.

The ABC Model

A major service in cognitive therapy is what Albert Ellis (1957) called the ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs.

Theses three steps analyze the process by which a person has developed irrational beliefs and may be recorded in three-points.

  1. Activating Event
  2. Beliefs
  3. Consequences

ABC Model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The ABC Model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A- Activating Event or objective situation- The first point accounts for the objective situation, that is, an event that ultimately leads to some type of high emotional response or negative automatic thinking.

B- Beliefs- The second point, the client writes down the automatic thoughts that happened to them, the core beliefs he holds for his internal self.

C- Consequences- The third point accounts for the negative feelings and dysfunctional behaviors that follows. The negative thoughts of the second point B are seen as a connecting bridge between the situation and the stressful feelings. The third point C is next explained by describing emotions or negative thoughts that the patient thinks are caused by A. This could be anger, sorrow, anxiety, etc.

Basic Assumptions of Cognitive Model/Cognitivism

Following are the basic assumptions of Cognitive Model/Cognitivism

1. Human cognition can at least in principle be fully revealed by the scientific method, that is, individual components of mental processes can be identified and understood.

2. Internal mental processes can be explained in terms of laws or algorithms in information processing models.

3. Learning requires the development of mental demonstrations or memories that are not always reflected in our behaviors.

4. From behavior, one can predict about mental processes that cannot be observed.

5. Cognitive processes are the main focus in cognitive psychology.

6. Individuals are involved in the learning processes like processing, assimilating, accommodating the learned information in an active manner.

7. Information is structured and kept in scehma (concepts that are closely associated)/scripts.

8. Some learning operations like language are sole to individuals.

Where does Cognitive Model stand in today’s age?

There are many applications and implications of cognitive model in a wide range:

  1. Cognitive models are used by clinical psychologists to evaluate person to person differences in mental processes between normal people and clinical patients e.g., psychotics like schizophrenia patients and also neurotics like people with Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
  2. Cognitive models are also used by cognitive neuroscientists to grab the idea of how different brain regions perform “psychological” function(s).
  3. Cognitive models of decision making are used by decision researchers to predict which products are preferred by consumers and moreover for investment portfolios for businesses, medical options and military policies.
  4. Aging process and decline in activity and slowing-down process of cognitive functioning is defined by aging researchers with the use of cognitive model.
  5. Human to machine like interactions are explained by human factor researchers by using cognitive models.
  6. Cognitive models are also used to anticipate and detect dangerous targets, automated recognition of faces and handwriting; and controlling the movement and behavior of robots by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers.
  7. Social scientists such as sociologists and economists use cognitive models to design computerized agents in agent-based models for predicting behaviors in market and social-network working.

Critical Analysis of Cognitive Model

If we critically evaluate the cognitive model, it has both some major advantages and disadvantages as well. Followings are the Strengths and the Weaknesses of Cognitive Model:


  1. One advantage of cognitive model is that it has many practical implications e.g., Baron-Cohen and his colleagues’ study illustrates how theory of mind was an insufficiency of autism and rendered a new test for Theory of mind.This test could be used to evaluate if someone is suffering from autism or not, whilst the information that individuals with autism or Asperger’s syndrome lack theory of mind can lead to understand what is autism and how we can accommodate this into school and various work-related situations.
  2. Another advantage is that it consists of experiments as its basic research tool.
  3. Reductionism is a potential strength as it allows us to understand behavior in simple form and enable us to imply theories to wide variety of areas, as it is more psychological in nature than an holistic model.


  1. The main deficit of this approach is that it applies to cognitive processes that cannot be observable. It depends heavily on the anticipating. Critics of Loftus and Palmer’s directing questions experiments pointed out the validity of re-constructive memory hypothesis, as one cannot be sure that memory has changed as the scientists were not able to observe memory, but only those questions were answered which may have been the consequence of demanding characteristics, or might be the lack of judgment of speed.
  2. So cognitive model may be poor in defining its scientific nature. It is being assumed that findings are the consequences of processes that are not visible and is subjective in nature which could lead them to self-fulfilling prophecy and internal validity is another issue being out-stretched.
  3. Another disadvantage of cognitive model is that it does not take into account other factors regarding behavior that may affect behavior.
  4. This model is somewhat reductionist in nature as it explains just five mental processes such as thought, attention, memory, perception and language and discredit other factors.


The cognitivism or cognitive model has key strength of practical and fruitful implications, but the main disadvantage is that it does not observe the speculated causes of behavior. The scientific nature of this model is one of the worthy facet for discussion and this can be regarded as both its advantage and disadvantage, as is its reductionist nature.




Tabindah is a Clinical Psychologist. Being a mental health enthusiast, she has great zest for knowledge; reading, writing and thus sharing it with others.

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Tabindah Waheed

Tabindah Waheed

Tabindah is a Clinical Psychologist. Being a mental health enthusiast, she has great zest for knowledge; reading, writing and thus sharing it with others.

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