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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Potential Sources Of Change In Psychotherapy With Older Adults, Cognitive-behavioral Interventions For Late-life Problems

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a combination of cognitive and behavior therapies that are directive, time-limited, structured, and place great emphasis on homework exercises. While cognitive therapy emphasizes the role of cognitive processes in the origin and maintenance of psychological disorders, behavior therapy focuses on principles of learning theory and the role of reduced reinforcement in the creation and maintenance of these disorders. In cognitive therapy, individuals learn to identify and monitor distorted, negative thinking, to become aware of the relationship between such thoughts and negative assumptions about oneself—and of the association between thoughts and feelings. Individuals also learn to apply techniques to challenge these thoughts. In behavior therapy, individuals are taught to track the frequency of targeted behaviors and to understand the relationship between these behaviors and their antecedents and consequences. Furthermore, individuals learn techniques to increase or decrease particular events, and are taught skills such as problem solving, relaxation, and assertiveness. Both cognitive therapy and behavior therapy assume that psychological problems can be alleviated by teaching individuals new skills to identify negative thoughts, form adaptive thoughts, and alter maladaptive behavior patterns.

CBT is effective in treating the psychological problems of older adults. In a review of empirically validated psychological treatments for older adults (Gatz et al., 1998) reported that behavioral and environmental interventions can help older adults with dementia, sleep disorders, and depression.

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