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What does a Cognitive Behavioral Psychologist do?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Cognitive behavioral psychology is a branch of psychological practice and research that focuses on how internal thoughts affect behavior and perception. Through research, clinical work, and education, a cognitive behavioral psychologist attempts to improve mental and psychological treatment by approaching issues with a hypothesis that individuals, by and large, create their own actions and reactions. A cognitive behavioral psychologist may have many different jobs, such as teaching others about the field, working directly with patients, or doing research on new techniques and publishing results in scholarly journals.

In clinical practice, a cognitive behavioral psychologist may work with individuals, families, or larger groups of patients struggling with similar issues. Much of cognitive behavioral therapy is handled at least partially in a one-on-one setting, because it is important for a therapist to establish a relationship with the patient and help him or her with individual thought and perception issues. Most of the techniques of this type of therapy are based on teaching the patients to provide self-guided help, often by teaching them to rationalize their perceptions. For instance, if a patient says “People think I'm stupid,” a cognitive behavioral therapist might try to get them to learn how to test that statement for rationality by asking questions, such as “How do I know that people think that?” or, “Why do I assume people think that?”

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Cognitive behavioral psychologist may choose to work with groups of patients suffering from mental-health related problems, such as eating disorders, depression, addiction, or anxiety issues. Proponents of the theory suggest that nearly any problem can be tackled with this form of therapy, since it focuses on changing the thought patterns and behaviors of the individual. A cognitive behavioral therapist might work with a support group for people with eating disorders, a drug rehabilitation center, or a mental health institution in order to help groups of patients learn self-assessment skills to help fight their problems.

Research is very important to the continued development of cognitive behavioral psychology. Some psychologists help evolve the field by conducting studies to see how the founding theories of cognitive behavioralism work with different types of disorders, or to test out the effectiveness of new techniques based on the psychological principles. Researchers may receive funding from a variety of sources to conduct continued analysis of therapeutic techniques, including government grants and private commercial funding.

A cognitive behavioral psychologist who has practiced for some time may find joy and a fresh career in teaching psychology to other psychologists. Some cognitive behavioralists are employed by universities and trade schools to offer classes and seminars on the tools, tactics, and philosophical underpinnings of the theory. This can be a great way to put career experience to work, and may allow a psychologist more time for research and scholastic pursuits than a private practice affords.

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