Cognitive Distortion

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Cognitive theories emphasize the impact of thoughts on emotions and behaviors. Albert Ellis’s rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) involves the identification of irrational thoughts, the subsequent emotions, and the resulting behaviors using the A-B-C model. Treatment extends this to the A-B-C-D-E model, as those thoughts are disputed and alternative, more rational effects are the results:

Steps in the Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Model
A Activating an event
B Belief about the event
C Emotional and behavioral consequences of the belief
D Dispute or debate the belief
E New rational effects or beliefs and new emotions and new behaviors

Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy (CT) is designed to identify dysfunctional thoughts as well; in his theory, they are referred to as “cognitive distortions.”

Types of Cognitive Distortions
All-or-nothing thinking “Should” and “must” statements
Overgeneralization Labeling and mislabeling
Mental filter and selective abstraction Personalization
Disqualifying the positive Catastrophizing
Jumping to conclusions and arbitrary inferences Mind reading
Magnification or minimization Tunnel vision
Emotional reasoning

Adapted from “Labeling the Distortion” by Seligman and Reichenberg (2014).

Tasks:

In a minimum of 200 words, post your responses to the following:

Read the case study of Aaron.

Click here to read the case study.

The Case of Aaron 

Aaron is a highly intelligent, 11-year-old son of an unemotional, overly intellectual, divorced woman who works as a mathematician at one of the Los Angeles missile and space laboratories. His father lives in another part of the country and has no contact with him. Aaron is often left home in the care of a neighbor while his mother works late or travels to professional conferences.

Although Aaron is pleasant in appearance, his behavior is extremely disruptive. He runs from game to game and toy to toy in the counselor’s office, never letting the counselor help him to enjoy any one activity. He actively avoids the counselor’s offers to play. He behaves aggressively in a haphazard, unpredictable way, crying for the counselor’s attention, but becoming angry and withdrawn when she gives him some warmth. He tends to criticize his mother, often describing her as hostile and rejecting. He also criticizes his previous counselors at the clinic regarding their treatment of him. He expresses dissatisfaction with the clinic’s toys, playrooms, and lack of electronic/video games.

He blames his failure to be happy on his mother, his missing father, school, or his previous counselors. He often tells the counselor that his mother does not like him. According to Aaron, his school is also bad, his teachers do not understand him, and the other kids pick on him. He reports that no one really cares about him and that he has no friends.

Vocally and physically aggressive at times, he might with equal suddenness become withdrawn and almost detached from reality. He will start a game, then destroy it if he suffers even one minor setback. He walks away from outdoor play with the counselor, then returns to beg her for candy. He runs away, hides, and tries to make the counselor look for him all over the clinic. Continually begging for ice cream or for money, he becomes detached when his requests are refused. If difficult topics come up in sessions, he stops suddenly and runs, screams, or talks gibberish.

Based on the case study:

  • Identify six of the cognitive distortions listed in the table above that apply to the case study of Aaron.
  • Cite evidence from the case for each type you identified.
  • For each type you identified, apply the A-B-C portion of Ellis’s theory and then create a D and an E.

Now, address the following questions:

  • Is the cognitive approach a good fit for Aaron? Why or why not?
  • What type of client is best suited for cognitive therapy (CT)?
  • Is it most suitable for particular cultures, ages, genders, or presenting problems? Why or why not?

Support your rationale and analyses by using at least two resources from professional literature in your response

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