Compare and contrast the person-centered approach and cognitive-behavioural approaches to understanding and working with fear and sadness. Which of these two approaches do you feel more drawn to and why?

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Alison Sheridan                 A3923376                                                              D240   TMA 02      

Compare and contrast the person-centered approach and cognitive-behavioural approaches to understanding and working with fear and sadness. Which of these two approaches do you feel more drawn to and why?


In this essay I will look at the key features of the cognitive behavioural approach and the person centered approach, I will look at the differences and similarities of the two approaches and explain why I am drawn to the person centered approach. The overall purpose of cognitive behavioural therapy is to increase self awareness, introduce better understanding, and improve self control by developing more appropriate responses to negative feelings. The goals of the person-centered therapy are to increase ones self-esteem, to have a greater openness to experience and to find out where you belong in life and be content with it. Both therapies help individuals to experience and express feelings at the moment they occur, rather than dwell on them at a later date.

I will first look at the Cognitive behavioural therapy which was founded by Beck (1976), he believed that “the emotional and behavioural difficulties that people experience in their lives are not caused directly by events, but by the way they interpret and make sense of these events “as sited in Introduction to counselling p143.  It is based on the fact that thoughts cause behaviours and feelings, not events and people, therefore if the client can change the way he thinks and the way he responds to the negative feelings he is experiencing, then this will help to overcome his problems. 

The main components to this practical therapy are education, identification of negative automatic thoughts and challenging dysfunctional schemata.  The client and councillor spend the therapy sessions discussing and working together to achieve goals agreed by them both, they focus on the present and determine how to work on the problems, rather than the causes from the past.

A councillor can work with an individual, or group using this method to replace and intervene thoughts and to alter beliefs. This technique can be used to tackle many problems the most popular being fear and sadness. This therapy will work with the client on the feelings involved and the triggers attached to anxiety and depression, they will together go through the feelings and thoughts of when they are having panic attacks, homework will be set each week to enable the client to gradually understand the feelings thoughts and behaviours. An agenda will be drawn up for  each session and interventions will be discussed and tried together. This approach is very structured and limited usually to about 16 sessions. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy combines cognitive therapy (changing the way we think) and behavioural therapy (how we behave to these thoughts). The counsellor will work with the client to identify their behaviour pattern, the problems underlying thinking, develop new more realistic helpful beliefs, plan and execute specific behaviour change and help the client recognise changes in their mood.

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A key step in cognitive therapy is helping the individual to identify the negative automatic thoughts that are intimately connected with feelings of depression and anxiety, these may be identified in the clinical sessions themselves, for example, by asking the individual to role-play a difficult encounter, or they can be identified in between sessions by asking the individual to keep a diary of such thoughts in the situations in which they arise. Once identified, the individual is then encouraged to test their validity, to question them, and to check the evidence, for and against. The identification and challenging of negative ...

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The writer appears to understand the main differences between the two approaches. The essay could now be improved by being more specific and quoting research and studies carried out. There is plenty of research which explains why and how certain therapies are better than others for dealing with fear and sadness. Also, the essay brief was about comparing and contrasting approaches with relation to fear and sadness. The writer could spend more time covering anxiety, panic attacks and possibly mild depression to fulfill the brief. It is however clear that the writer has researched the different approaches and just needs more practice with regards referencing and structuring the work.