How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
How CBT tackles the root of thinking and behaviour
Guest articles > How CBT tackles the root of thinking and behaviour
by: Saj Devshi
Working as a probation worker in interventions, I deliver cognitive
behavioural therapy to change the minds of some of the most hardened of
The aim of CBT is to tackle the root cause of behaviour which the cognitive
approach sees as being faulty or irrational thinking processes and belief
The first step towards changing someone's thinking and belief is to raise
their awareness to the fact that it is their thinking which fuels their decision
making. Many people don't have the self-awareness required to tune into their
thinking processes, at least not until it's pointed out that its the thoughts
they have in that very moment which are guiding their decision making.
A good example I use to highlight this is how road rage occurs. I ask my
offender's "you're driving along and someone cuts you up - what do you think?.
Usually the response is something like "Oh that d****" directed at the person
who has just cut them up. So I ask them - if you think like that, how are you
then likely to behave? The answer is normally they react aggressively. This
highlights the link between thinking and behaviour; you think aggressively so
you react aggressively.
But the thing is you don't have to think aggressively, this isn't determined
in any way and a person can "choose" to think about the exact same situation
differently and thus behave differently too.
I demonstrate this by asking them my next version of this question; "You're
driving along now and you notice your own mother cut you up, how do you react
now?". An aggressive response is highly unlikely and when queried why, they
recognise their thoughts are completely different about this exact same
situation for them (being cut up) because now they choose to see it differently
as its their own mother. This raises their awareness as to how thinking is the
key determinant and is actually under their control.
The cognitive approach explains it using a simple model known as the ABC
A = Activating event
B = Belief (or thoughts)
C = Consequences
The activating event is what happens to you, in our example it's being cut up
by another driver. The B represents our belief systems or thoughts in that
moment. If we have aggressive thoughts then this ultimately leads to C which is
the consequences of that type of thinking which in this case would be aggression
displayed. In short; something happens, we think, we do. All behaviour is
governed by this rule according to cognitive psychology.
So who controls thinking? You do of course. You can choose to think about the
same situation in a number of different ways and this is where that famous
saying of "glass half empty or half full" comes from. Thoughts you experience in
the moment emanate from established "belief" systems we have. These belief
systems can be thought of as a set of rules we have created based on our
experiences of life. Some belief systems are helpful and some are not but often
we do not know or recognise the unhelpful ones choosing to see them as helpful
as this sits more comfortably with us.
Therefore one of the most powerful ways to convince someone to think
differently is to get them to question their own belief systems and thinking.
Cognitive psychology proposes the best way to do this is by asking them 3 types
Once people become open to questioning their own beliefs, they become open to accepting another viewpoint and this is what the cognitive approach argues is key to altering a persons state of mind.
Saj Devshi is a crime fighter by day and psychology teacher by night. You can catch him teaching students on his psychology revision blog here.
His homepage is here https://www.loopa.co.uk
Contributor: Saj Devshi
Published here on: 4-Dec-17