Cognitive behavioral therapy is a practice that incorporates thoughts, emotions and behaviors into the psychological healing process. While this conceptual framework takes a lot of different factors into account, therapy sessions are still structured with incremental and overall goals in mind. To help therapists and clients maintain this structure, CBT also adheres to a system known as the ABC model in order to identify where specific problems lie.
According to one of CBT’s pioneers, Albert Ellis, and his rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), the ABCs of therapy are as follows:
- “A” is for activating event or antecedent: This is essentially the stimulus that evokes a response from the individual. Although this is applicable to any experience in a person’s life, this event is typically perceived as negative when focused on during therapy. In fact, the immediate interpretations and feelings of this event will affect how the person evaluates it over time
- “B” is for beliefs: After a person has experienced the event and deemed it a negative one, the individual will form opinions or beliefs about the event, himself, herself or other people involved. Beliefs can either be rational or irrational. Depending on the type of thoughts a person establishes, there will be a set of unique consequences
- “C” is for consequences: When these formed beliefs are rational, a person will respond with similar emotions and behaviors that can help him or her rectify the situation or at least learn from it in a productive or beneficial manner. If the beliefs are irrational, he or she will behave in unhealthy ways. In addition to the emotions and behaviors that result, how a person reacts to the event will have consequences of its own
Some versions of this therapy include additional steps. Disputing irrationality or “D” is essentially the goal of most therapies, where an individual addresses the irrational or illogical beliefs that are the root of the issue and works to re-evaluate them in a healthier way. If he or she can successfully accomplish this process, the final stage is new effect or “E” where the person has established more effective emotions and behaviors regarding the event.
When this model is applied in therapy practices, the counselor or therapist can help a client break down a particular pathology into these stages and isolate where the problem is. For example, if a person is conducting unhealthy behaviors, it can be traced back to some form of irrational belief. Then the therapist and client can work together to pinpoint how that illogical train of thought came about.
If you, a friend or family member needs professional help for a wide range of possible conditions, the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline can connect that individual with an effective treatment program specialized to their exact needs. Call to speak with a representative and get referred to a form of rehabilitation or recovery in your area.