Cognitive therapy is a system of psychotherapy that (1) is based on a cognitive theory of personality and psychopathology with solid empirical foundations for its basic tenets, (2) sets out principles and strategies of practice that emerge from practice, theory and research and (3) has been subjected to outcome studies that attest to its efficacy and effectiveness with a broad range of disorders and populations (Figure 2.1). There are several main forms of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Those with an established pedigree include Aaron T. Beck's cognitive therapy (Beck et al., 1979), Albert Ellis' rational-emotive therapy (Ellis, 1962), Don Meichenbaum's cognitive-behavioural modification (Meichenbaum, 1977) and Arnold Lazarus's multi-modal therapy (Lazarus, 1989). These approaches tend to have more commonalities than differences and differences tend to be of emphasis rather than content. This chapter focusses on a form of cognitive therapy developed by Professor Aaron T. Beck in the 1970s.

We first describe the cognitive theory that underpins cognitive therapy. The practice of cognitive therapy is described and illustrated through a case example. We then outline the areas in which cognitive therapy has been applied and briefly summarise its evidence base. Finally, we set out future directions.

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