In asking questions about the five aspects of their life experiences: thoughts, moods, behaviors, physical reactions, and environment (past and present) (see Figure below), clients begin to develop insight and perspective in the way that they view the problem or issue that they have brought to the therapy session.
The connecting lines suggest that each different aspect of a person's life experience influences all the others. Understanding how these five parts of our lives interact can help us understand our problems. While I may assist in any or all of the five areas to help my clients, Cognitive Therapy places particular emphasis on identifying and evaluating thoughts and on creating (behavioural) change. The process of Cognitive Therapy allows all clients the ability to bring meaning and understanding to each aspect of their life experience.
In addition to understanding and applying the principles associated with the five aspects of their life experiences, clients learn how to create positive change in their life. In many cases, teaching clients to become conscious of their automatic thoughts enables them to change the way in which they think in any given moment. By having control over their thoughts, clients inevitably have greater control over how they feel and react.
In cases where clients are looking to make significant changes to the way they think and feel about their self, others, or the world, or if they want to change a long-standing but unhelpful behaviour pattern; it becomes necessary to examine the underlying schema or core beliefs.
Changing inaccurate core beliefs can help reduce the number of negative or irrational thoughts that clients have. Developing healthy new core beliefs means that clients can begin to change old behaviours in ways that are consistent with their new beliefs. In most cases, clients can (with my help), identify a primary core belief, as well as create a new alternative core belief within a single session. Together, we then collaboratively decide on specific behavioural interventions or homework, which allows clients an opportunity to "test out" and strengthen their new core belief.