The Importance of Thought Patterns in Therapy
By Jolene Van Nevel, MS Forensic Psychology, Ph.D. Forensic Psychology Candidate, Walden University
The differences between various psychotherapy types are mostly determined whether:
….negative thoughts and beliefs are challenged or accepted,
….the therapy focuses on the past or present,
….experiential avoidance is emphasized,
….emotion regulation focuses on triggers or responses,
….the primary goal is to change behavior or thinking, and
….the focus on is on the function of thoughts, feelings, and emotions rather than its content.
Negative thinking is linked to depression and anxiety
There are many different ways to think of this statement and because of this, I will go over this statement to explain its inner workings and meanings. It is necessary to understand several parts to fully appreciate the statement as a whole. As such, many individual differences in behavior can be defined by our environmental surroundings. With that said, the environment in which one grows up in can develop to becoming part of their personality. Dysfunctional cognitions can shape who we are and who we will become. Such negative thinking can be present in both children, adolescents, and adults. In children and teenagers, it often revolves around anxiety, awareness of self, and how competent they are in handling certain situations. They can worry about their self-esteem and or social phobias such as fitting in school. In adults, negative thinking can be expressed as depression, according to the Cognitive Model of Dr. Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. Therefore, depression can be caused when stressors activate the particular trait-like schema, also known as dysfunctional attitudes, which can result in unrealistic and harmful behavior. Such behavior and depressed feelings further produce negative expectancies about the self, and current and future conditions. For example, losing a job or a loved one could trigger negative beliefs such as “I deserve it,” “I am not worthy of happiness,” etc.
Moving onto challenging versus accepting these negative beliefs, where disputation is where one strongly disagree about a topic and want to argue about it. Otherwise, one might choose to accept a situation. Everyone needs to feel like they fit in somewhere and be accepted for who they are. This is particularly true for children and adolescents, who want to find a place to belong and fit in. This is mostly seen in what would be called cliques, ranging from the jocks, band geeks, nerds, rich kids to the loners (if you grew up in the 90s).
Negative thinking interferes with achieving goals
As we get older, these cliques tend to fade and don’t really matter anymore when we figure out who we are and what we want to do with our lives. This is where goal orientation comes into play, where we set goals that we want to accomplish wither it be in five, ten or even twenty years from now. As such, an individual both physically and mentally positions themselves toward something that they want. This could be from losing those few pounds to get back to the way they looked five or so years ago to finishing college to get their dream job. When we look back at why or why not goals have been achieved, we may notice that avoidance played a role. This could have been anything from not graduating high school to getting a new job in a field that was not their choosing, to starting a new family, experiencing the loss of a loved one to having experienced a traumatic event. All of these situations could have been reasons why goals were or were not met.
In conclusion, our beliefs and thinking patterns, both positive and negative, are a part of our personality, and they shape, mold and create who we are and who we become in the future. Therefore, it is the different approaches to unhelpful beliefs and thoughts, whether they are challenged or accepted, focus on the past or present, emphasize function or content, or target thinking or behavior for change that sets apart the different types of therapy.
Source: “A Comparison Between DBT, MDT, CBT, and ACT in the Treatment of Adolescents” by Christopher Bass, Jolene van Nevel, and Joan Swart published in the International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, Volume 9, Issue 2, 2014.