Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Document technical information

Format pdf
Size 2.8 MB
First found May 22, 2018

Document content analysis

Category Also themed
not defined
no text concepts found





Encyclopedia of
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Encyclopedia of
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Arthur Freeman, Editor-in-Chief
St. Francis University
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Stephanie H. Felgoise
Arthur M. Nezu
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Philadephia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Christine M. Nezu
Drexel University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mark A. Reinecke
Northwestern University
Chicago, Illinois
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Encyclopedia of cognitive behavior therapy / [edited by] Arthur Freeman.
p. ; cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-306-48580-X (alk. paper)
1. Cognitive therapy—Encyclopedias. I. Freeman, Arthur, 1942[DNLM: 1. Cognitive Therapy—Encyclopedias—English. WM 13 E553 2004]
RC489.C63E537 2004
ISBN-10: 0-306-48580-X
ISBN-13: 978-306-48581-0
Printed on acid-free paper.
© 2005 Springer Science⫹Business Media, Inc.
All rights reserved. This work may not be translated or copied in whole or in part without the written permission of
the publisher (Springer Science⫹Business Media, Inc., 233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013, USA), except for
brief excerpts in connection with reviews or scholarly analysis. Use in connection with any form of information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or
hereafter developed is forbidden.
The use in this publications of trade names, trademarks, service marks, and similar terms, even if they are not identified as such, is not to be taken as an expression of opinion as to whether or not they are subject to proprietary
Printed in the United States of America.
(NEW / EB)
I am honored and pleased to have been asked to write the
foreword for this encyclopedic (literally) compendium of
cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Being there at the beginning, I have had the great opportunity and pleasure to see
this broad-based field grow in many directions—both in
terms of breadth and depth—over the past several decades.
It becomes a difficult task to be able to be familiar, much
less knowledgeable, with every therapeutic strategy that can
be found under the umbrella of CBT. I believe that this team
of editors, led by Art Freeman, has done that admirably.
The Encyclopedia of Cognitive Behavior Therapy represents a culmination of a revolution that changed the face of
psychotherapy during the second half of the twentieth century. Starting with both the initial enthusiasm and excitement
and also resistance of the psychological and psychiatric community for therapies that directly helped people to improve
the way they behave and think, CBT has now emerged, at the
beginning of the twenty-first century, as an expansive and
diverse field. Had you asked me in 1979 what I would recommend as the goal of cognitive approaches to therapy,
I would have stayed with the existing data and told you that
we would treat depression. As our “appetite” grew, we experimented with the applications of cognitive therapy to anxiety
disorders and later personality disorders. I was fortunate to
have many of the authors represented in this encyclopedia as
students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, and colleagues, over the years. They have flourished, just as the field
has grown and flourished by their efforts.
As an overall approach that emphasizes the scientific
and clinical application of cognitive and behavioral sciences
to understanding the human condition, as well as developing
interventions that enhance life, CBT provides practical
solutions to the broadest range of problems that people
face everyday. Moreover, it embraces the responsibility to
replicate its success in measurable ways in order to move the
science forward. As a result, there are now empirically supported psychotherapy interventions for problems as diverse
as mood disorders, substance abuse, social skills, violence
and aggression, academic performance, sexual dysfunction,
cognitive rehabilitation, health-related problems (e.g., eating
disorders, coping with chronic illness), and stress management. As one looks over the Contents for this fine volume, it
becomes evident that there are few areas of human functioning (or few areas of psychotherapeutic treatment) that have
not been helped or enhanced with CBT interventions.
Due to the explosion in popularity and efficacy of interventions based on cognitive–behavioral principles, the field
has become rich with handbooks devoted to a range of these
specialized areas of assessment and treatment subsumed
under its rubric. Many populations of individuals have been
helped through these interventions, including children,
adolescents, adults, and older adults. CBT procedures have
been successfully applied to improve the lives of individuals,
couples, groups, families, classrooms, organizations, as well
as a variety of settings (e.g., homes, schools, clinics, hospitals,
workplaces, correctional facilities, and rehabilitation centers).
There are a few books, however, that cover the full and
broad scope of CBT. The present Encyclopedia of Cognitive
Behavior Therapy was conceived to occupy this important
place in the cognitive and behavioral literature. Tapping into
the expertise and innovation of almost 200 authors, this volume captures the breadth of CBT and encompasses the interests of cognitive and behavioral therapists around the world.
At the same time, streams of conceptual thought grounded in
learning theories, cognitive information-processing and decision-making models, the science of emotions, developmental,
biological, and evolutionary aspects of behavior are the principles that tie the extraordinary wealth of entries together.
This is the time to provide a collection of the rich contributions of CBT in one place and confront the challenge of how
to move the field forward. This volume faces that challenge by
providing clinicians with important sections that guide the
synthesis of the impressive array of CBT techniques available
into meaningful case formulations and treatment plans.
I am delighted to have been asked to contribute the
foreword for this handbook. A collection of this magnitude
can help to transform clinical practice and move CBT
forward well into the new century.
By definition, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an active,
directive, collaborative, structured, dynamic, problemoriented, solution-focused, and psychoeducational model of
treatment. From its earliest days, CBT has emphasized the
importance of operational definitions as an essential ingredient in the therapeutic endeavor. The definitions were
important to guide the therapy, enhance the collaboration,
and stay problem-focused. After all, if the therapist and
patient had not agreed on where they were going, had not
agreed on the direction and focus of therapy, then it mattered
little which road(s) they took. The working definitions of the
patient’s strengths, supports, and goals of therapy need to be
explicated to give the therapy the needed structure. The
Oxford English Dictionary defines an encyclopedia as a
work “that aims at embracing all branches of learning; universal in knowledge, very full of information, comprehensive … and alphabetical.” Following our own focus, we tried
to meet the dictionary definition of an encyclopedia, and
decided that we needed to meet several criteria.
First, it was to be comprehensive and inclusive. We
decided that we would try to cover as many of the major
ideas, structures, and constructs that fell under the broad
heading of CBT. We would scour the literature in an attempt
to find just about every possible application and idea that
had a relationship to CBT. When the relationship of the idea
or construct was tangential to stricter CBT focus we had to
then decide whether the omission of that topic would detract
from the comprehensiveness of the volume. We worked to
err more on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion.
Our second goal was to try to be representative. Given
that there are many people who are working with, researching, and writing about a particular issue, we tried to be as
even-handed as we could be and invite a broad range of individuals to participate in this project. We wanted to have a
broad-based representation of individuals covering various
theoretical and practice constituencies.
Third, we have endeavored to be as enlightened as we
could be. Again, we chose to err on the side of a broad-based
inclusion. Terms and issues that might be verboten to more
strict adherents of one or another branch of CBT were
included. We have chosen to not be parochially focused
thereby limiting the areas to be discussed. Rather than try to
limit CBT to the work of one theorist or one school, we have
included contributors to CBT who may not typically be seen
as “card-carrying” CBT persons.
Fourth, our collection of material was to be multidisciplinary. We do not see CBT as the province of any one
discipline, i.e., psychology, psychiatry, nursing, counseling, or
social work. Our goal was to have representations by as many
experts as we could gather without concern with their area of
professional practice. We invited some individuals who are
primarily therapists and others who are primarily clinical
researchers and some who comfortably wear both hats.
Fifth, we would try to be critical and selective/limiting
in our choice of contributors and contributions. There were
in some cases individuals whom we had solicited to author
a contribution but, for many reasons, were unable to participate. In other cases there were several persons who could
equally represent a perspective and we had to make the
incredibly difficult decision to have one person contribute
the article rather than another. This selection was perhaps
the most painful part of the process.
Our sixth goal was to make this encyclopedia an
educational text that could be used as a reference for students, professionals, clinicians, or the lay public. We see this
encyclopedia as a volume that will serve to share CBT with
the broadest possible audience. We wanted the encyclopedia
to be easily read, understandable, and available.
The seventh goal was one that was de facto in that the
encyclopedia is by its very nature an international volume.
We did not have to try to be international; it came about as
we compiled the list of contributors, many from the United
States, but many others from around the world.
Eighth, we determined that the volume would be scholarly. The contributors were asked to write at the highest level
and to provide the broadest discussion of their area. This was
viii Preface
perhaps the easiest part of the process. The contributing
authors were able to walk the fine line between scholarly
contributions and ease of reading and understandable text.
Our ninth focus was on CBT to be seen in its historical
context. The field did not spring whole from the work of a
particular person or group. Rather, CBT must be viewed in
its historical context as a model that has evolved over the
past fifty years and has strong roots in behavioral, psychodynamic, and person-centered approaches. Many of the contributions trace the historical and developmental experience
of CBT. As with all histories, there may be disagreement as
to who was there first and who were the upstarts merely
claiming to be first. We have not tried to define CBT in this
way. The historical references are to be read as the view of
that contributor.
Tenth was to attempt to make the encyclopedia as upto-date and cutting edge as editors can possibly make any
volume. We asked the contributors to include the historical
focus but also bring their area of concern into the twentyfirst century.
Eleventh, we asked each contributor to discuss his or her
view of the future of CBT in his or her area of interest and
practice. This volume is not the last word in CBT. It is, at best,
a summary of the progress of CBT over the last 50 years. We
do not expect the final word on CBT to be written soon.
Goal twelve was to be apologetic for all that we had to
leave out. Invariably there will be those who wonder why
a particular idea, person, context, treatment, or research was
not given as proper due and recognition by inclusion in this
compendium. We must draw a line and call a halt to our collection activities so that this volume could be in the hands of
you, the reader. We hope that you will let us know what we
have omitted so that we can possibly include it in the next
edition of this encyclopedia.
Finally, we know that we must be grateful. We are
especially grateful to all of the contributors for their contributions. We are grateful to the editorial staff at Kluwer
Academic Publishers who had the job of encouraging
and challenging us to take on a job that was, at times, like
herding cats. There were just so many things happening
at once. We are especially grateful to Mariclaire Cloutier
who initiated this volume. There are few editors with the
patience, skill, and clear thinking of Sharon Panulla. Joe
Zito helped to pull the diverse pieces together from the
publisher’s side. Herman Makler has been a joy to work
with in moving this volume through the production process.
We are immensely grateful for all of their work.
We are also grateful to all of the heroes, listed and
unlisted, known and unknown who have contributed so
much to the growth of CBT over the years as a treatment for
a broad range of disorders. We are grateful for their contributions to the empirical base for CBT, we are grateful for the
questions that they asked that then generated other ideas and
possible solutions, and we are grateful to the many front-line
therapists who have sought information about CBT so as to
enhance their practices.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Steven C. Hayes and Heather Pierson
Keywords: acceptance, cognitive defusion, values, commitment,
mindfulness, contextualism
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an
experiential therapy that is based in clinical behavior analysis. Philosophically, ACT (as with clinical behavior analysis
more generally) is based on the pragmatic world view of
functional contextualism. In all forms of pragmatism, truth
is measured by how well something works in the accomplishment of a particular goal. Functional contextualism
(as compared to social constructionism or other forms of
contextualistic thinking) seeks as its goal the prediction and
influence of psychological events with precision, scope
across phenomena, and depth across scientific domains
and levels of analysis. Psychological events are treated as
actions of the whole organism, interacting in and with a context. According to the contextual philosophy underlying
ACT, the environment, behavior, history, and outcome of the
behavior are all part of the context and need to be considered
while proceeding through the therapy. The underlying
philosophy especially can be seen in ACT’s focus on the
function of behavior, in its ontological approach to language
(both of clients and of scientists), and in its holistic
Relational frame theory (RFT), a behavioral theory of
language and cognition, is the theoretical foundation of
ACT. ACT views language as the primary root of human
suffering, particularly due to its creation of experiential
avoidance and cognitive fusion. RFT offers an explanation
of how this may happen and elucidates the processes by
which ACT techniques work. RFT has a growing amount of
empirical support, both its basic and applied aspects.
Framing events relationally has three features: mutual
entailment, combinatorial entailment, and the transformation of function. Mutual entailment refers to the derived
bidirectionality of stimulus relations. For example, if A is
specified to be the same as B, it can be derived that B is the
same as A. Combinatorial entailment refers to the ability to
derive relations among two or more relations of this kind.
For example, if A is smaller than B, and B is smaller than C,
it can be derived that A is smaller than C and C is larger
than A. Finally, functions can transform through relations of
this kind. If in the previous example shock is paired with B,
for example, a person may then respond more emotionally
to C than to A. Entailment and transformation of functions
are all regulated by context. A verbal event is any event that
participates in a relational frame.
Relational frames explain the cognitive source of a
great deal of human pain. For example, the bidirectionality
of language means that a person’s description of an aversive
event may have some of the functions of that event. Thus,
when a trauma survivor describes the traumatic event,
2 Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
through the transformation of function, the feelings that
were present during the trauma may again be present during
the description.
The root of several maladaptive behaviors according to
an ACT model can be expressed with the acronym FEAR
(fusion, evaluation, avoidance, reasons). Cognitive fusion
refers to the domination of verbally derived behavioral functions over other, more directly acquired functions. People
become fused with their verbal depictions, evaluations, and
reasons. They no longer see them as their behavior, but as
objective situations and thus, if they are aversive, as events
to be avoided. For example, if a person is fused with the
thought, “there is something deeply wrong with me,” he or
she will want to avoid situations that bring up that thought.
Unfortunately, such experiential avoidance often paradoxically strengthens the avoided events because they strengthen
the verbal/evaluative processes that give rise to such events.
For example, a person avoiding the thought “there is something deeply wrong with me” strengthens the apparent literal
truth of that thought since it confirms that something needs
to change before one is acceptable—the very essence of the
originating thought.
The source of cognitive fusion, and thus experiential
avoidance, is thought to be the bidirectionality of verbal
processes and their general utility in many domains.
Because this process is thought to be under contextual
control, the behavioral impact of thoughts and feelings is
dependent on context. Therefore, ACT holds that thoughts
and feelings are not mechanical causes of behavior, and that
the impact of thoughts and feelings can be most readily
influenced through a change in the context of verbal behavior. ACT has several techniques for doing so.
ACT uses metaphors, logical paradox, and experiential
exercises throughout its different components. The main reason for their use is that they are ways of undermining excessive literal language, basing action instead on experience.
The components in ACT are not a fixed or rigid set of
techniques that occur in a definite order. In accordance with
functional contextualism, they are a functional set of components that can be changed and rearranged to meet the
client’s needs. Nevertheless, what is present below is a
typical sequence.
An ACT therapist first gathers information about all the
different ways a client has tried to change his or her suffering and how these attempts have worked or not worked. The
domination and workability of experiential avoidance is a
primary focus. In this phase of treatment clients are asked to
examine directly how successful their efforts to avoid have
been, and if (as is most common) they have not been successful to consider the possibility that it is that agenda itself,
not the technique or method, that might be the source of
their difficulty.
What has not been working is gradually brought out:
the deliberate control of private events. Many people struggle with their unwanted thoughts and feelings by trying to
control them or get rid of them. In their experience, most
clients have found that this ultimately leads to more
unwanted thoughts and feelings. Conscious, deliberate control usually works when applied to the world outside the
skin. When applied to private experiences, however, control
usually works only temporarily. Exercises and metaphors
are used as examples of how control does not work long
term, of how language engrains unworkable control
Instead of avoidance, ACT clients are taught willingness and defusion as methods of coping with difficult psychological context. Willingness is the deliberate embrace of
difficult thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the like.
Exposure exercises are used to contact troublesome private
experiences. Cognitive defusion techniques are used to
reduce the dominance of the literal meaning of thoughts and
instead to experience them willingly as an ongoing process
occurring in the present. In this phase, clients may be taught
to watch their thoughts float by without trying to alter them;
they may be asked to repeat thoughts until they lose all
meaning; or they may be asked to think of thoughts as external objects and will be asked a variety of perceptual/sensory
questions about them (e.g., What color are they?). Cognitive
defusion undermines evaluation and teaches healthy distancing and nonjudgmental awareness. When this phase is
successful the client will seem to notice reactions from the
level of an observer and will take a more willing stance
toward unwanted thoughts.
Much of the time people identify themselves by psychological content. They are the content of their thoughts.
As cognitive content is defused, more emphasis is placed in
ACT on self as context. The self as context is the observing
self. It is the experience of an “I” that does not change or
judge, but just experiences. Meditation and mindfulness
exercises are used to help the client experience consciousness itself as the context for private experiences, not as the
content of those experiences. Self as context work provides
a safe psychological place from which acceptance, willingness, and defusion are possible.
When clients are no longer running from experience,
direction in life is supplied by the client’s values. Values are
desired qualities of ongoing behavioral events that can only
be instantiated, never obtained as an object. For example,
a person who values being loving toward others can work to
maintain those qualities in his or her human interactions, but
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
this process will never be finished or obtained, as one might
obtain a degree or buy a car. All ACT techniques are in the
service of helping the client live life in accordance with his
or her values. The exercises and metaphors in the values
phase are geared toward helping clients identify what they
want to stand for in their lives in a variety of domains
(relationships, health, citizenship, and so on). Once values
are identified, specific goals that fit with these values are
identified along with behaviors that might produce these
concrete goals. Finally the barriers to those actions are
identified and dealt with through other ACT methods (e.g.,
defusion, acceptance, and willingness).
The final phase of ACT, the commitment phase,
involves working with the client to apply what he or she has
received in therapy to living life in accord with one’s chosen
values even if it involves experiencing psychological pain.
This phase focuses on the client’s willingness to experience
whatever may come up and helps the client commit to acting in accordance with his or her values. Commitment is
presented as an ongoing, never-ending process of valuing
and recommitting. It assumes that the old change agenda has
been abandoned, that some willingness has been contacted,
and a valued life direction has been identified. The commitment stage looks the most like traditional behavior therapy,
as the client passes through cycles of values, goals, actions,
barriers, and dissolution of barriers. When this phase is completed, therapy is terminated. However, often with ACT,
clients will come in for “tune-up” sessions after termination.
There is a growing amount of research that supports
both ACT outcomes (see Hayes, Masuda, Bissett, Luoma, &
Guerrero, 2004, for a review) and ACT processes. For example, controlled trials have shown ACT to be effective in several different areas including stress reduction (Bond &
Bunce, 2000) and coping with psychotic symptoms (Bach &
Hayes, 2002) among others. In addition to the efficacy
research available, ACT has been shown to improve clinical
outcomes in an effectiveness study (Strosahl et al., 1998).
ACT is part of the behavioral tradition and is similar
in some ways to different forms of CBT. ACT shares the
focus on cognition, emotion, and behavior. It incorporates
traditional behavioral components like many forms of CBT.
Some elements of acceptance and defusion can be found
in mainstream CBT approaches, for example in Ellis’s
inclusion of acceptance of self or Beck’s idea of distancing.
ACT differs from traditional CBT approaches in several ways as well. Perhaps the central theme of traditional
CBT is the attempt to test and change the content of
thought—an effort that ACT assiduously avoids. ACT relies
on a functional contextual theory of cognition, and because of
that emphasizes context over content. Its antimechanistic
and explicitly contextualistic qualities differ from traditional
CBT. Also, although some elements of acceptance and defusion are found in mainstream CBT, ACT dramatically
increases the emphasis on these elements and disconnects
them from their possible use as indirect change methods
still focused on the content of private events. Finally, the
strong emphasis on values and self-as-context is unlike
traditional CBT.
At the present time there are 11 published randomized
controlled trials of ACT, but there are many more outcome
and process studies under way or under review which allow
us to assess the future direction of ACT research. ACT
seems to be a broadly applicable technology and future
research seems likely to broaden the range of application
even further. ACT is one of a family of new behavioral
and cognitive therapies that are focusing on contextual
change methods, including mindfulness, acceptance, and
the like, and ACT studies are increasingly focused on
the theoretical understanding of processes of this kind.
More ACT research will be done in combination with
other technologies, and more will be done to link ACT
to RFT.
ACT is a therapy that is based philosophically in
clinical behavior analysis. Functional contextualism is the
world view that underlies ACT. Theoretically ACT is based
on RFT, which offers an account of how language creates
pain and useless methods of dealing with it, and which suggests alternative contextual approaches to these domains.
ACT uses metaphors, experiential exercises, and logical
paradox to get around the literal content of language and to
produce more contact with the ongoing flow of experience
in the moment. The primary ACT components are challenging the control agenda, cognitive defusion, willingness,
self as context, values, and commitment. ACT is part of the
CBT tradition, although it has notable differences from
traditional CBT. The main purpose of ACT is to relieve
human suffering through helping clients live a vital,
valued life.
4 Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Bach, P., & Hayes, S. C. (2002). The use of acceptance and commitment
therapy to prevent the rehospitalization of psychotic patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 70, 1129–1139.
Bond, F. W., & Bunce, D. (2000). Mediators of change in emotion-focused
and problem-focused worksite stress management interventions.
Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5, 156–163.
Hayes, S. C., Masuda, A., Bissett, R., Luoma, J., & Guerrero, L. F.
(2004). DBT, FAP, and ACT: How empirically oriented are the new
behavior therapy technologies? Behavior Therapy, 35, 35–54.
Strosahl, K. D., Hayes, S. C., Bergan, J., & Romano, P. (1998). Assessing
the field effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:
An example of the manipulated training research method. Behavior
Therapy, 29, 35–64.
Experiential avoidance: Any behavior that functions to avoid or escape
from unwanted experiences despite psychological costs for doing so
Acceptance: An open and noncontrolling stance toward all experiences
Choice: A section among alternative that is not based on verbal formulations
of pros and cons
Cognitive defusion: Reductions in the behavioral regulatory functions
of verbal events, particularly thoughts, based on a reduction in the
dominance of the literal content of those events as compared to
the ongoing processes of formulating them
Values: Ways of living life that a person cares about deeply
Willingness: Openness to experiences that may be contacted in the process
of living a valued life
Self as context: Also called the observer self; a psychological context from
which thoughts, emotions, sensations, judgments, evaluations, and so
on are observed as what they are and not what they say they are
Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2001). Relational Frame
Theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition.
New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and
Commitment Therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change.
New York: Guilford Press.
Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. W., Gifford, E. V., Follette, V. M., & Strosahl, K.
(1996). Emotional avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional
dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1152–1168.
Addictive Behavior—Nonsubstance
Frederick Rotgers and Ray W. Christner
Keywords: addiction, process addiction, gambling, sexual addiction,
Internet addiction
When one thinks of addictive behavior, there is often
reference to the use and/or abuse of chemical substances.
However, in recent years theorists and clinicians have begun
to include other excessive behaviors including eating, gambling, exercise, and sex under the umbrella of “addictions”
(Greenfield, 1999; Koski-Jannes, 1999). Several researchers
have classified problematic Internet use as an “addiction”
(Bingham & Piotrowski, 1996; Young, Pistner, O’Mara, &
Buchanan, 1999). Common to all the aforementioned behaviors are characteristics of preoccupation, impaired control,
concealment of performing the behavior, and performance
of the act despite being adverse to daily functioning
(American Psychiatric Association, 2000; Greenfield, 1999;
Ladouceur, Sylvain, Letarte, Giroux, & Jacques, 1998;
Toneatto, 2002). The consequences of ongoing involvement
in these behaviors include family discord, financial debt,
employment loss, legal issues, and social difficulty.
Complicating the conceptualization and treatment of
addictive behaviors is the incongruence in the terms and definitions of addictive behaviors. While the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition—
Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) classifies pathological gambling as a disorder
of impulse control, some question whether it is best classified
in this manner or as an addiction or obsession (Moreyra,
Ibanez, Liebowitz, Saiz-Ruiz, & Blanco, 2002). This debate
also extends to Internet use (Greenfield, 1999) and sexual
behaviors (Harnell, 1995; Swisher, 1995). Further complicating the nosological picture is a failure among theorists to
agree on what specific factors must be present in order to
define an excessive behavior as “addiction” (e.g., cognitive
distortions, behavioral reinforcement, physiological factors).
Finally, there is great debate as to the appropriate treatments
for these excessive behaviors (e.g., cognitive–behavioral,
multimodal, self-help). We adopt the term “addictive behaviors” to summarize these nonsubstance use excessive
behaviors (sex, gambling, Internet use, eating, exercise). We
recognize that this is an arbitrary use of the term “addictive,”
and do so only for ease of communication.
To date, much of the understanding of addictive
behaviors stems from research on pathological gambling.
Addictive Behavior—Nonsubstance Abuse
Studies regarding other addictive behaviors are emerging,
yet there continues to be much that is unknown. Research on
cognitive and behavioral underpinnings and interventions
with addictive behaviors is relatively young compared to
other disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression).
Although the impact addictive behavior has on one’s
daily functioning (e.g., family problems, employment difficulties) is often clear, there is less knowledge of the underlying
processes contributing to the onset, maintenance, and relapse
of these behaviors. The basic tenets of CBT suggest a relationship exists between cognitive, behavioral, and emotional
factors in human functioning. The cognitive–behavioral conceptualization of addictive behaviors, therefore, focuses on
the specific interaction between cognitive and behavioral
processes resulting in maladaptive behavior. Subsequently,
changing maladaptive or dysfunctional thought patterns will
ultimately lead to behavioral change.
As mentioned earlier, much of the research with addictive behaviors concentrates on pathological gambling.
Ladouceur and colleagues (1998) noted the importance of
understanding the primary motivation to gamble—the
acquisition of wealth. What differentiates “professional”
from potentially addicted gamblers is the cognitive restriction that limits the amounts wagered. Nonprofessional
gamblers who become “addicted” often lack this
cognitive structure (among others). Thus, cognitive factors
may explain the unrelenting play in the face of the odds, as
the gamblers expect to win (e.g., “I will win this time”).
Langer (1975) described this as the “illusion of control,” in
which the gambler thinks his or her probability of winning a
“game of chance” is greater than that dictated by random
chance. This is consistent with findings of Ladouceur and
colleagues (Gaboury & Ladouceur, 1989; Ladouceur &
Walker, 1996) who demonstrated cognitive biases and erroneous beliefs about gambling among problem gamblers.
They found that problem gamblers engage in inaccurate verbalizations or thoughts (e.g., predicting outcomes, explaining losses, and attributing causal significance) during
episodes of gambling, and the gamblers believe their “skill”
or employment of various strategies and/or rituals improves
the odds of winning.
Many studies highlight the importance of cognitive
factors in the onset and maintenance of gambling behaviors.
The cognitive perspective of gambling suggests that distorted cognitive factors (e.g., automatic thoughts, schemata,
core beliefs) lead gamblers to maintain an inaccurate perception that they have a greater level of skill or control,
which influences the gambling outcome. Blaszczynski and
Silove (1995) indicated that gamblers also selectively recall
wins over losses, they anticipate a win following a “near
miss,” or they await the end of the losing streak.
In addition to gambling, cognitive factors play a role in
other addictive behaviors as well, although the research with
other addictive behaviors is scant. Neidigh (1991) applied
the relapse prevention model of Marlatt and Gordon (1985)
to the treatment of sexual offenders/addicts. Consistent with
the relapse prevention model, Neidigh (1991) noted that sex
offenders often engage in distorted cognitions that place
them in situations in which relapse is probable. Others have
described the sex addict as having an “illusion of self-control” (Harnell, 1995). This illusion of self-control leads sex
offenders/addicts to place themselves in high-risk situations.
For instance, an individual with sexual impulses toward
children may frequent a grocery store across from a school
or playground. Cognitive distortion used by sex
offenders/addicts may serve as a means to justify their sexual desires or behaviors (Neidigh, 1991). For instance, a
child offender may make erroneous statements such as “she
looked mature for her age” or “it’s okay to have sex with her
if she agrees.”
Internet use is another addictive behavior in which
cognitive explanations are useful. While there is still little
research in this very new area, there is some consensus
regarding the function of maladaptive cognitions in pathological Internet use (Davis, 2001; Hall & Parsons, 2001).
The maladaptive cognitions exhibited by those involved in
pathological Internet use can be broken down into thoughts
of self and thoughts of the world (Davis, 2001). Specifically,
these individuals hold cognitive distortions including selfdoubt, negative self-appraisal, and a lack of self-efficacy.
Thus, they may have the core belief that “I am a better
person on the Internet than I am in reality.” Thoughts about
the world may be generalized and have an all-or-nothing
quality. For example, one may believe, “I can only make
friends on the Internet.”
While researchers have categorized addictive behaviors
into distinctly different problems—gambling, sex, and
Internet—it is important to emphasize the complexity
and interrelationship that may exist between them. With the
increased amount of information available on the Internet,
these specific addictive behaviors can occur in the confines
of one’s home. Technological advances provide access to
gambling, shopping, pornography, and so on with a simple
“click of a button.” Because of this, Davis (2001) proposed
specific pathological Internet use in which the individual’s
overuse of the Internet serves a specific purpose (e.g.,
pornography, gambling) rather than general Internet use.
Some have suggested a possible evolution from online
sexual behavior toward actual sexual contact (Greenfield,
1999). While these interactions are only now becoming
6 Addictive Behavior—Nonsubstance Abuse
more apparent, common to all addictive behaviors appears
to be the vicious cycle of cognitive distortions or maladaptive thinking, which ultimately results in negative behaviors.
Individuals seeking treatment for addictive behaviors
may experience serious financial, social, and interpersonal
losses, as well as possible legal problems. There may be an
initial motivation for these individuals to avoid engaging in
the addictive behavior in order to prevent further psychosocial implications. Thus, the use of cognitive–behavioral
treatment for addictive behaviors may play a more vital role
in the long-term maintenance of behavioral change or in
relapse prevention (Neidigh, 1991; Toneatto, 2002).
For example, Toneatto (2002) noted that if gamblers
continue to believe in their abilities to predict outcomes or
to control the situation, then they are more likely to relapse
and reengage in excessive gambling once the difficulties
leading them to treatment subside. Similarly, when working
with sex offenders/addicts, it is necessary to become aware
of cognitive distortions leading to them placing themselves
in high-risk situations (Neidigh, 1991).
Strategies used for addictive behaviors vary depending
on the case conceptualization of the client and the specific
addiction presented. However, there are commonalities in
the use of CBT across the treatment of addictive behaviors.
Stress reduction techniques, social skills training, problem
solving skills, and cognitive restructuring have been useful
in the treatment of pathological Internet use (Bingham &
Piotrowski, 1996; Davis, 2001; Hall & Parsons, 2001),
sexual addictions (Neidigh, 1991), and pathological
gambling (Sharpe & Tarrier, 1992; Sylvain, Ladouceur, &
Boisvert, 1997).
While clinicians are presently using CBT interventions
for the treatment of addictive behaviors, few treatment programs exist and controlled studies are scarce. This is particularly true of sexual addictions and pathological Internet
use, as no controlled studies were available as of this writing. Despite the lack of literature on a number of addictive
behaviors, research on pathological gambling is emerging.
Sharpe and Tarrier (1992) offered a case study of a
23-year-old self-referred gambler. The treatment program
focused on increasing awareness of the cognitive errors
associated with gambling, teaching self-control, identifying
replacement behaviors, and changing the relationships
between cognitive distortions and physiological arousal and
gambling. The investigators used relaxation training, imaginal
and in vivo exposure, and cognitive restructuring as primary
modalities. Following treatment the client showed a significant decrease in frequency and intensity of gambling
impulses. With the exception of placing a single bet, the
client did not gamble for 10 months. Additionally, the client
reported a decrease in anxiety based on the Beck Anxiety
In an experimental design, Bujold, Ladouceur, Sylvain,
and Boisvert (1994) evaluated the effectiveness of a treatment program consisting of cognitive correction, problem
solving training, social skills training, and relapse prevention with three male pathological gamblers. Individual
intervention occurred once per week until the subjects maintained a high perception of control. Following treatment, the
subjects terminated gambling behaviors, increased their
perceptions of self-control, and reported ensuing problems
as less severe. The subjects sustained the results at the
9-month follow-up.
Sylvain et al. (1997) assessed a treatment program consisting of the four components described above by Bujold
et al. (1994)—cognitive correction, problem solving training, social skills training, and relapse prevention. The sample consisted of 29 individuals seeking help for gambling
problems. The results demonstrated that CBT interventions
significantly improve pathological gambling. Following
treatment, 86% of the subjects no longer met the criteria for
pathological gambling according to DSM-III-R. The investigators reported prolongation of the therapeutic gains at
both 6- and 12-month follow-up.
Ladouceur et al. (1998) conducted a study evaluating
the efficacy of cognitive interventions exclusively. The investigation involved the treatment of five pathological gamblers
and used a single case experimental design across subjects.
Cognitive intervention targeted the subjects’ inaccurate
perceptions of randomness and consisted of explaining the
concept of randomness, offering an understanding of the illusion of control, increasing awareness of inaccurate perceptions, and correcting maladaptive verbalization and beliefs.
Subsequent to the intervention, four of the participants lessened their urge to engage in gambling behavior and increased
their perception of control, thus no longer meeting the
DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling. The subjects
maintained these outcomes 6 months after treatment.
In a recent randomized controlled study, cognitive
interventions targeting the erroneous perceptions of randomness reported by gamblers were evaluated (Ladouceur
et al., 2001). The strategies involved cognitive correction
(as described above in Ladouceur et al., 1998) and relapse
prevention. Posttest outcomes indicated significant changes
Addictive Behavior—Nonsubstance Abuse
in the treatment group on measures of greater perception of
control and increased self-efficacy. Additionally, 86% of the
participants in the control group no longer met the criteria
for pathological gambling. Participants retained improvement 6 and 12 months after treatment.
The studies reviewed demonstrate the growing empirical basis for the use of CBT with addictive behaviors,
particularly gambling. While the use of CBT has been
reported with sex addictions (Neidigh, 1991) and pathological Internet use (Davis, 2001; Hall & Parsons, 2001; Young
et al., 1999), there is no empirical research demonstrating its
efficacy and effectiveness with these populations. The
nature of CBT lends itself well to the treatment of various
addictive behaviors; however, there is a need for controlled
studies to provide a firmer empirical base for its use with
these disorders.
standard assessment criteria, the determination of similarities between various addictive behaviors, and perpetuate a
consistent conceptualization to facilitate treatment. While
recent studies are beginning to develop a knowledge base for
gambling (e.g., Ladouceur et al., 1998; Toneatto, 2002) and
Internet use (Davis, 2001; Greenfield, 1999), literature
addressing the factors composing other addictive behaviors
remains sparse.
There is also a dearth of investigative efforts into
effective treatments for nonsubstance addictive behaviors.
The current literature consists of a few controlled studies for
gambling problems, but none addressing treatment of other
nonsubstance addictive behaviors. Studies are needed to
evaluate both the short- and long-term efficacy of treatments
for addictive behaviors. The use of CBT with nonsubstance
addictive behaviors is promising, though continued research
efforts and efficacy studies are needed.
See also: Addictive behaviour—substance abuse, Relapse prevention
The use of CBT in the treatment of addictive behaviors
is a recent phenomenon, and published critiques have not
yet appeared. While the research in this area remains minimal, the use of CBT is promising and research outcomes
largely favorable, especially with pathological gambling
(Lopez Viets & Miller, 1997). There has been minimal
research supporting the use of CBT with other addictive
behaviors (e.g., sex addiction, Internet addiction).
In addition to the necessity for empirical treatment,
there continues to be a need to better define and classify
nonsubstance addictive behaviors, though this is not unique
to CBT. The ongoing disagreement of whether these behaviors are best described as addictions, obsessive and compulsive behaviors, or impulse control disorder further clouds
the conceptual picture. In order to develop and investigate
effective and efficacious interventions for addictive behaviors,
a consistent conceptual framework is essential.
A priority in the addiction field is the development of a
conceptual structure in order to understand the processes of
nonsubstance addictive behaviors. To facilitate progress in
treatment and intervention, experts must reach consensus
as to what these excessive and detrimental behaviors
encompass. Current DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000) nosology
includes pathological gambling, although this and other
nonsubstance addictive behaviors are not included in the
same class of disorders (Substance-Related Disorders) as
are substance use-related addictions. Achieving agreement
on the description of addictive behaviors would allow for
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual
of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Bingham, J. E., & Piotrowski, C. (1996). On-line sexual addiction:
A contemporary enigma. Psychological Reports, 79, 257–258.
Blaszczynski, A., & Silove, D. (1995). Cognitive and behavioral therapies
for pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 11(2),
Bujold, A., Ladouceur, R., Sylvain, C., & Boisvert, J.M. (1994). Treatment
of pathological gamblers: An experimental study. Journal of
Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 25, 275–282.
Davis, R. A. (2001). A cognitive–behavioral model of pathological Internet
use. Computers in Human Behavior, 17, 187–195.
Gaboury, A., & Ladouceur, R. (1989). Erroneous perceptions and gambling. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 4, 411–420.
Greenfield, D. N. (1999). Psychological characteristics of compulsive
Internet use: A preliminary analysis. CyberPsychology and Behavior,
2(5), 403–412.
Hall, A. S., & Parsons, J. (2001). Internet addiction: College student case
study using best practices in cognitive behavior therapy. Journal of
Mental Health Counseling, 23(4), 312–327.
Harnell, W. (1995). Issues in the assessment and treatment of the sex
addict/offender. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 2(2), 89–95.
Koski-Jannes, A. (1999). Factors influencing recovery from different
addictions. Addictions Research, 7(6), 469–492.
Ladouceur, R., Sylvain, C., Boutin, C., Lachance, S., Doucet, C., Leblond, J.,
& Jacques, C. (2001). Cognitive treatment of pathological gambling.
The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 189(11), 774–780.
Ladouceur, R., Sylvain, C., Letarte, H., Giroux, I., & Jacques, C. (1998).
Cognitive treatment of pathological gamblers. Behaviour Research
and Therapy, 36, 1111–1119.
Ladouceur, R., & Walker, M. (1996). A cognitive perspective on gambling.
In P. M. Salkovskis (Ed.), Trends in cognitive and behavioral
therapies (pp. 89–120). New York: Wiley.
Langer, E. J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 32, 311–321.
8 Addictive Behavior—Nonsubstance Abuse
Lopez Viets, V. C., & Miller, W. R. (1997). Treatment approaches for pathological gamblers. Clinical Psychology Review, 17(7), 689–702.
Marlatt, G. A., & Gordon, J. R. (1985). Relapse prevention: Maintenance
strategies in the treatment of addictive behaviors. New York: Guilford
Moreya, P., Ibanez, A., Liebowitz, M. R., Saiz-Ruiz, J., & Blanco, C.
(2002). Pathological gambling: Addiction or obsession? Psychiatric
Annals, 32(3), 161–167.
Neidigh, L. (1991). Implications of a relapse prevention model for the
treatment of sexual offenders. Journal of Addictions and Offender
Counseling, 11(2), 42–50.
Sharpe, L., & Tarrier, N. (1992). A cognitive–behavioral treatment
approach for problem gambling. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy,
6(3), 193–203.
Swisher, S. H. (1995). Therapeutic interventions recommended for treatment of sexual addiction/compulsivity. Sexual Addiction and
Compulsivity, 2(1), 31–39.
Sylvain, C., Ladouceur, R., & Boisvert, J. M. (1997). Cognitive and behavioral treatment of pathological gambling: A controlled study. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 727–732.
Toneatto, T. (2002). Cognitive therapy for problem gambling. Cognitive
Therapy for Problem Gambling, 9, 191–199.
Young, K., Pistner, M., O’Mara, J., & Buchanan, J. (1999). Cyber disorders: The mental health concern for the new millennium. Cyber
Psychology and Behavior, 2(5), 475–479.
Addictive Behavior—Substance Abuse
Frederick Rotgers and Beth Arburn Davis
Keywords: alcoholism, drug abuse, drug addiction
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) in the treatment of
substance abuse disorders (SUDs) has its roots in social
learning theory and cognitive therapy and includes the
groundbreaking work of Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis, and
Albert Bandura. The work of these researchers is based on
the notion that individuals’ thoughts and feelings have a
strong and directive impact on their behavior, and that much
behavior is learned and can therefore be unlearned.
Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are amenable to adaptive
modification via a collaborative alliance between patient
and therapist, and the utilization of empirically supported
techniques that developed from learning theory, behaviorism,
and cognitive therapy.
CBT in the treatment of SUDs has drawn primarily
from social learning theory and behaviorism, both of which
provided complementary adjunctive theory to the later cognitive therapy (Carroll, 1999). For a comprehensive review
of this topic, see Rotgers (1996). Early behaviorism in SUD
treatment used classical conditioning to explain some of the
reinforcing experiences of drug users such as cue exposure,
but required the addition of the work of B. F. Skinner and
operant conditioning to further the understanding. Later,
social learning theory added to the awareness that substance
users could be affected by the modeling of others both in
maladaptive ways prior to treatment, and in treatment itself.
It became clear that behavioral approaches and cognitive approaches to the treatment of these disorders were
As treatment has become more empirically based and
sophisticated, it is understood that just as one does not
expect a single antibiotic to be effective for every infection
in every patient, it is unrealistic to think that only one type
of treatment will be effective for everyone who suffers
from SUDs. More and more, cognitive behavior therapies,
the 12-step programs, and, more recently, pharmacological
treatments are being used jointly to better meet the needs of
the individual (Beck, Wright, Newman, & Liese, 1993).
While widely used in the treatment of other disorders (most
notably depression, but also numerous other Axis I disorders), CBT is not yet widely used for substance disorders—
except in relapse prevention—although this is changing.
The goal of CBT in the treatment of SUDs is to help
patients identify maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that maintain or exacerbate their substance use, and to
increase coping skills with regard to substance use and
life problems in general. The method has several basics:
collaboration between patient and therapist throughout treatment, agenda setting, homework assignments, and Socratic
questioning. The latter is often referred to as “guided
discovery” and
is a powerful technique to use while discussing the various
agenda items. [The] therapist asks questions in such a way
as to help patients to examine their thinking, to reflect on
erroneous conclusions, and, at times, to come up with better
solutions to problems. This often leads to the patient’s questioning, and thereby gaining greater objectivity from, their
own thoughts, motives, and behaviors. Also, Socratic questioning establishes a nonjudgmental atmosphere and thus
facilitates collaboration between patients and therapists.
This can help patients come to their own conclusions about
the seriousness of their drug abuse problem. (Beck et al.,
In a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) treatment manual on the use of CBT in the treatment of cocaine
addiction, Carroll (1998) states that there are two main components of CBT in the treatment of substance use: functional
analysis and skills training. Functional analysis identifies
“the patient’s feelings, and circumstances before and after
the cocaine use. Early in treatment, the functional analysis
Addictive Behavior—Substance Abuse
plays a critical role in helping the therapist assess the determinants, or high-risk situations, that are likely to lead to
cocaine use and provides insights into some reasons why the
individual may be using cocaine.” Skills training “can be
thought of as a highly individualized training program that
helps cocaine abusers unlearn old habits … and learn or
relearn healthier skills and habits.”
CBT, whether for SUDs or other disorders, is usually
short-term (8 to 20 sessions, though it may be longer) and
structured. Given that therapy time is limited, structure is
critical to make certain that important topics are covered,
and to model the idea that for patients who are suffering
from disorders that often produce chaos, structure is positive, reassuring, and can help them meet their goals. Beck
et al. (1993) state that structure is important for four reasons:
(1) There is usually a large amount of material to cover and
limited time to do so; (2) structuring helps maintain focus on
what topics are most important to cover; (3) structure sets
a “working atmosphere”; and (4) structure helps limit
“therapy drift,” in which continuity from session to session
can be lost.
The structure of a session may differ somewhat from
therapist to therapist, but generally, there are seven elements
(Beck et al., 1993): setting the agenda, doing a check on the
patient’s current mood state, recalling what was covered in
the last session (“session bridging”), discussing the day’s
agenda items (which probably will include reviewing the
homework assignment from the previous session), periodic
summaries by the therapist of what has been discussed
(which fosters the therapeutic alliance), assigning new
homework, and feedback about the therapy session.
Underscoring all parts of the session is the use of Socratic
Carroll (1998) identified five critical tasks in CBT for
cocaine addiction which can be generalized to treatment of
other SUDs as well: fostering the motivation for abstinence,
teaching coping skills, changing reinforcement contingencies, fostering the management of painful feelings,
and improving the social support system and social skills.
Specific interventions include functional analyses, recognizing and coping with cravings, understanding and managing
thoughts about the substance use, problem solving, identifying and modifying maladaptive thoughts with regard to
substance use, identifying high-risk situations and developing ways to avoid or cope with them, encouragement,
reviewing newly learned skills and practicing them in the
These interventions are similar to those in the treatment
of alcohol dependence (Longabaugh & Morgenstern, 1999).
Identified as “cognitive behavioral coping skills training”
(CBST), the treatment is “aimed at improving the patients’
cognitive and behavioral skills for changing their drinking
behavior. This type of treatment is considered to be broad
spectrum in that it focuses not only on the patient’s problem
drinking, but “addressed other life areas that often are functioning related to drinking and relapse. For example, if anger
can provoke a patient to drink, the focus of CBST will be
on those circumstances that arouse anger in the patient,
the thought and behavioral processes that occur between the
onset of the anger and the patient’s drinking, and on the
events occurring after the patient drinks.”
There are also several CBT manuals available that
detail the delivery of CBT treatment in group format.
Most prominent among these are the coping skills manual
developed by Monti and colleagues (Monti, Kadden,
Rohsenow, Cooney, & Abrams, 2002), and a manual based
on Prochaska and DiClemente’s (Prochaska, DiClemente, &
Norcross, 1992) stages of change (Velasquez, Maurer,
Crouch, & DiClemente, 2001).
Though one of the most widely researched treatments
for numerous Axis II and other Axis I disorders, CBT is not
currently the most widely used in the treatment of SUDs,
particularly alcohol. Fuller and Hiller-Sturmhofel (1999)
reported that the 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics
Anonymous, are most commonly used to treat alcoholism,
with CBT a distant second, and pharmacological treatments
such as disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and
naltrexone (Revia) an even more distant third. In the field
of substance abuse treatment, CBT is more commonly used
in relapse prevention, and in academic and VA hospitals
(Longabaugh & Morgenstern, 1999).
Cognitive behavior therapies are among the most empirically supported of psychotherapies. Research is ongoing
in the use of CBT in numerous disorders including substance
use (Carroll, 1999). In a review of research into cognitive
behavior therapies as stand-alone treatments for alcohol
abuse, Longabaugh and Morgenstern (1999) found that
CBST “delivered as a stand-alone treatment does not differ in
effectiveness from these other treatment approaches.” This
also was true when CBST was used for aftercare; however,
patients who received CBST as part of a comprehensive program were “likely to have better drinking-related outcomes
than patients” who did not receive CBST. They conclude that
10 Addictive Behavior—Substance Abuse
“CBST is but one theoretically coherent treatment that can
improve the outcome of alcohol-dependent patients” and
may still be “possibly superior to other approaches under
certain circumstances” such as certain treatment phases, in
high-risk situations, or with certain patients.
In another extensive meta-analytic review of effective
treatments for alcohol problems, Miller and colleagues
(Miller, Wilbourne, & Hettema, 2003) found that 2 of the
10 treatment approaches with the greatest research support
for their efficacy were ones that are part of CBT: behavioral
self-control training and behavioral contracting. Cognitive
therapy as a stand-alone treatment was 13th in the strength
of evidence for its efficacy on their list of 48 well-researched
treatment approaches.
In the treatment of cocaine use disorders, “behavioral
and cognitive behavioral approaches have received the most
empirical validation” and have been useful in relapse prevention (Van Horn & Frank, 1998). Studies of the use of
cognitive behavior treatments for other SUDs such as marijuana are few, though encouraging. Copeland et al. (2001)
reported that cognitive behavioral interventions “were
clearly effective” for cannabis use disorders.
Among the more common general criticisms of CBT
are that it is formulaic and manualized, and that it “overemphasizes conscious controlled processing” (Clark, 1995).
Criticisms specific to the field of SUD treatment
include the difficulty identifying what factors in CBT are
useful in the treatment of SUDs, whether CBT must be modified for use in the treatment of specific SUDs, and what
type(s) of individuals seeking substance abuse treatment
may benefit from CBT versus other treatments (Fuller &
Hiller-Sturmhofel, 1999).
The best estimates available at this writing suggest that
in 1998 the combined cost to the U.S. economy of alcohol and
drug abuse totals more than $325 billion. This includes the
costs of substance abuse treatment and prevention, as well as
lost job productivity, unemployment, crime, and social welfare costs. This represents an increase of nearly 50% from the
total in 1992 (Harwood, 2000; Office of National Drug
Control Policy, 2001). Given this trend, it is clear that SUD
treatment will become even more important, making it imperative to identify critical factors in treatment and in patients.
Future directions for CBT include increasing the number
of efficacy studies in the field of SUD treatment, broadening
its focus, and examining how CBT can be used to potentiate or
complement other treatments (Longabaugh & Morgenstern,
1999). Van Horn and Frank (1998) suggest that, at least in the
area of cocaine addiction treatment, there should be greater
efforts to “bridge the gap” between clinicians and researchers
“both to evaluate existing programs and to disseminate new
approaches.” Carroll (1999) concluded that cognitive behavioral therapies are “well-defined approaches [that] should be a
part of any clinician’s repertoire.”
See also: Addictive behavior—nonsubstance abuse, Couples
therapy—substance abuse, Motivational interviewing, Relapse
Beck, A. T., Wright, F. D., Newman, C. F., & Liese, B. S. (1993). Cognitive
therapy of substance abuse. New York: Guilford Press.
Carroll, K. M. (1998). Therapy manuals for drug addiction manual 1:
A cognitive–behavioral approach: treating cocaine addiction
(NIH Publication No. 98-4308). Rockville, MD: National Institute on
Drug Abuse.
Carroll, K. M. (1999). Behavioral and cognitive behavioral treatments.
In B. McCrady & E. Epstein (Eds.), Addictions, a comprehensive
guidebook (pp. 250–257). New York: Oxford University Press.
Clark, D. A. (1995). Perceived limitations of standard cognitive therapy:
A consideration of efforts to revise Beck’s theory and therapy. Journal
of Cognitive Psychology: An International Quarterly, 9(3), 153–172.
Copeland, J., Swift, W., Roffman, R., & Stephens, R. (2001). A randomized
controlled trial of brief cognitive–behavioral interventions for cannabis
use disorder. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 21(2), 55–64.
Fuller, R. K., & Hiller-Sturmhofel, S. (1999). Alcoholism treatment in the
United States: An overview. Alcohol Research and Health, 23(2),
Harwood, H. (2000). Updating estimates of the economic costs of alcohol
abuse in the United States: Estimates, update methods, and data.
(Report prepared by The Lewin Group for the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Rockville, MD: National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Longabaugh, R., & Morgenstern, J. (1999). Cognitive–behavioral copingskills therapy for alcohol dependence: Current status and future
directions. Alcohol Research and Health, 23(2), 78–85.
Monti, P. M., Kadden, R. M., Rohsenow, D. J., Cooney, N. L., &
Abrams, D. B. (2002). Treating alcohol dependence: A coping skills
training guide (2nd ed.) New York: Guilford Press.
Office of National Drug Control Policy (2001). The economic costs of drug
abuse in the United States, 1992–1998 (Publication No. NCJ-190636).
Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.
Prochaska, J. O., DiClemente, C. C., & Norcross, J. C. (1992). In search of
how people change: Applications to addictive behavior. American
Psychologist, 47, 1102–1114.
Rotgers, F. (1996). Behavioral theory of substance abuse treatment:
Bringing science to bear on practice. In F. Rotgers, D. Keller, &
J. Morgenstern (Eds.), Treating substance abusers: Theory and
technique (pp. 174–201). New York: Guilford Press.
Van Horn, D. H. A., & Frank, A. F. (1998). Psychotherapy for cocaine
addiction. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 12(1), 47–61.
Velasquez, M. M., Maurer, G. G., Crouch, C., & DiClemente, C. C. (2001).
Group treatment for substance abuse: A stages-of-change therapy
manual. New York: Guilford Press.
Adolescent Aggression and Anger Management
Adolescent Aggression and Anger
Eva L. Feindler
Keywords: anger, anger management, adolescents
In response to the oft-presented problems of angry outbursts
and aggressive behavior in children and adolescents, anger
management interventions have been developed over the
past 15 years by clinicians and educators. Unhappy with traditional behavior modification approaches, which handle
these problems via contingency management and punishment strategies, some looked toward the cognitive behavioral self-control approach and developed a skills training
program to help youth manage their anger experience and
use more effective conflict resolution skills.
Across a variety of treatment settings, youth presenting
with conduct and oppositional defiant disorders have patterns of irritability, anger outbursts, and aggressive behavior
that result in poor conflict resolution, poor interpersonal
skills, and a host of compliance problems. Although behavior modification strategies have been successfully implemented to provide contingencies that reduce occurrences of
aggressive behavior especially in a controlled setting, these
approaches were somewhat limited. Often when the youth
returned to the natural environment or was beyond the control of these contingencies, aggressive behavior and conflict
escalation would return. These behaviors would occur outside of the purview of adults, making it difficult to implement either punishment or response cost strategies, usually
part of a more comprehensive behavior management program.
Problems with maintenance and generalization of behavior
change indicated that self-control skills of aggression management were not being learned, nor were youth gaining
skills in appropriate conflict resolution.
Struggling with both clinical and safety issues for those
who work with aggressive youth, Feindler and her colleagues
developed an approach to treatment that would focus on the
emotional arousal often preceding an aggressive outburst.
Based on Novaco’s (1979) early work with adults, anger management technology focuses on teaching skills of arousal
reduction with direct emphasis on the physiological and cognitive components of anger. Hypothetically, aggressive
behavior is elicited by an aversive “trigger” stimulus which is
followed by both physiological arousal and distorted cognitive responses that result in the emotional experience of anger.
Children and adolescents who have impulsive, aggressive
behaviors in their repertoire often react toward the trigger and
fail to solve the interpersonal conflict in an appropriate
fashion. Much of the research by both Dodge (Crick &
Dodge, 1994) and Lochman (Lochman & Dodge, 1994), who
have studied the cognitive reactions of aggressive children,
concludes that aggressive cognitions, in particular hostile
attributions and negative outcome expectancies, influence the
occurrence of behavioral responses to interpersonal situations. Aggressive youth seem to lack a prosocial reasoning
process and instead engage in distorted thinking that intensifies their perceptions of injustice, fuels their rage, and justifies
their use of aggression.
Further, these same youth, perhaps due to early family
experiences or to an innate physiological dyssynchrony, suffer from emotion dysregulation (Keenan, 2000) and poor
understanding of emotional states. They seem unable to
cope with even mild levels of the affective experience of
anger in a constructive way. The irritability or annoyance
that results from goal blocking or mild interpersonal conflict
often gives way to intensified anger and explosive rage.
Before the work of Novaco (1979), little was understood
about the components of the anger reaction that may be the
precursor to the acting out behavior of children and adolescents without the capacity to either verbalize their experience or manage their internal arousal so as to prevent an
aggressive episode.
In order to prevent an aggressive reaction to a triggering
stimulus, it is necessary for youths to manage their anger
arousal and process the interpersonal exchange such that a
more prosocial response is exhibited. The anger management
treatment protocols focus on the three hypothesized components of the anger experience: physiological responses,
cognitive processes, and behavioral responses (Novaco,
1979). If anger reactions are comprised of heightened physiological arousal, cognitive distortions, impulsive thoughts,
and aggressive responding, then the intervention must focus
on helping young people develop self-control skills in each
of these areas.
For the physiological aspect, anger management first
directs the client to identify the experience of anger, to label
the various intensities of the emotion, and to recognize the
early warning signs such as a flushed feeling or quickened
heart rate. The experience of anger is validated as a normal and
frequently occurring emotion that has an intensity range under
the youth’s control. Further, clients are asked to identify
and track common triggers of their anger by using a selfmonitoring assessment called the Hassle Log (Feindler &
Ecton, 1986). Charting daily occurrences of anger (whether
handled well or not) helps the youth to recognize idiosyncratic
12 Adolescent Aggression and Anger Management
patterns of anger loss and control, and to increase awareness
of external triggers and internal physiological and cognitive
reactions. Finally, several arousal management skills such as
deep breathing, imagery, and relaxation are taught to help
youths reduce the accumulated physical tension and to
increase the probability that they will think through the
interpersonal event in a more rational fashion.
The cognitive component of anger management targets
both cognitive deficiencies and distortions that are characteristic of those with an aggressive and impulsive response
to perceived provocation. Specific cognitive problemsolving skills seem to be missing for aggressive youth. They
generate few possible solutions to interpersonal problems
and seem unable to generate future consequences for their
aggressive behavior. Further, their assumptions, expectancies, beliefs, and attributions are distorted in distinct ways
that actually increase their anger experience. In particular,
aggressive youth perceive triggering stimuli to be intentional and unjust acts on the part of others which are direct
insults and are meant to be hostile. Their belief is that an
aggressive counteraction is the best in terms of outcome, of
ego protection, and of power in the eyes of others. They
expect themselves and believe that others expect them to
behave aggressively, but then they do not take responsibility
for their actions. In fact, they blame others for their own
misbehavior. These cognitive distortions combine to confirm that aggression is the only way to resolve a conflict and
is therefore completely justified.
Cognitive restructuring strategies are used to help
youth identify their distorted thinking styles and to encourage them to substitute a series of self-instructions that will
guide them through effective problem solving. Strategies
that assist in examining the irrationality and narrow focus
of their cognitions help them to develop alternative causal
attributions and a nonaggressive perspective. Youth are
encouraged to engage in self-coaching of attributions that
protect their sense of self, but also lead them to deescalate
conflict and create “mental distances” from the trigger. This
type of cognitive work seems to be the most difficult for
aggressive and impulsive youth, but it is probably the most
critical element of the anger management intervention.
Altering those internal processes will help the youth to better manage their anger experience, rethink their optional
responses to provocation, and select a more prosocial
behavioral response.
The final component of the anger reaction is the behavioral one. Both verbal and nonverbal aggression as well
as withdrawal patterns are the most typical responses to
interpersonal conflicts and perceived provocation. However,
once the youth have achieved competence at managing both
their physiological arousal and their cognitive process, they
will still need to respond to the situation and achieve some
level of social competence. What is needed then is training
in problem solving, assertiveness, and communication skills
related to effective conflict resolution. Certainly, the probability that these skills will be implemented is enhanced
when the accompanying emotional arousal is managed
effectively. Otherwise, the intense anger often experienced
by those with patterns of aggressive responding will disrupt
or perhaps prevent the execution of more prosocial skills.
In sum, an effective anger management intervention
targets each of the hypothesized anger reaction components
(physiological, cognitive, and behavioral) and remediates
the most characteristic skills deficiencies and cognitive distortions. Although research has yet to evaluate the “best”
sequence, it seems that the arousal management and cognitive restructuring aspects should precede the behavioral
skills training. But taken all together, the youth will have
increased self-control skills as well as more effective interpersonal problem-solving skills.
The anger control program originally described in
Feindler and Ecton (1986) used a variety of training methods to reach the content objectives described above. The
majority of anger management skills were modeled and
rehearsed during extensive role-playing using scenarios generated from completed Hassle Logs. The role-plays should
be arranged for the youth in such a fashion that graduated
exposure to greater levels of provocation and conflict can be
matched to better skill attainment. Each treatment session
included a variety of graded homework assignments
designed to have the clients practice newly acquired skills
and to foster generalization to the natural environment.
Many of the cognitive restructuring strategies have been
transformed into games that participants in group treatment
seem quite receptive to. Clients are able to learn aspects of
problem solving, to develop alternative perspectives, and to
generate nonhostile attributions in response to hypothetical
conflict situations. Role-play with coaching then helps the
youth to practice these improved cognitive responses to
problem situations in which they themselves are provoked.
Repeated practice once the “package” of skills has been
taught seems necessary not only to reinforce the newly
acquired responses but also to help the clients make the
social judgments required to match their response to the
perceived trigger to maximize positive outcome.
Although a number of anger management programs
have been published in a curriculum format (Feindler &
Ecton, 1986; Feindler & Scalley, 1998), there are several
variables to consider which may require individualization of
Adolescent Aggression and Anger Management
the program. Chronological age as well as cognitive level of
the client group may determine the emphasis and the content
of the cognitive interventions. Younger children and perhaps
clients with developmental delays may struggle with the
cognitive restructuring strategies and may need greater
emphasis on the behavioral skills training. The setting for
the anger management program will determine whether
group or individual treatment is implemented as well as
determine the length of sessions, the number of sessions,
and the composition of the group. Clinicians in mental
health settings have different choices and different constraints than those working in residential or educational
settings. Personnel who will implement the program will
also differ depending on the setting, thus bringing differing
expertise and orientations to the intervention. Finally, in
some settings, anger management may serve as an adjunct
clinical intervention to other therapies received by clients,
while for some, it serves as the sole training program for the
learning of anger management and aggression control. In
some settings, family members may be involved, but for
most youth, the treatment is deemed solely for them.
Although consideration of all of these program variables
as well as the variety of treatment strategies may seem confusing, it certainly highlights the tremendous flexibility found
in the anger management technology. Developed in response
to critical clinical needs and sustained across 15 years, anger
management interventions have evolved and extended to
a variety of populations of youth in a variety of settings.
A review of published studies in the area of anger management underscores not just the utility of the approach but also
the effectiveness in terms of aggression reduction in youth
typically resistant to more traditional forms of therapy
(Feindler & Baker, 2001). A recent meta-analysis of cognitive–behavioral interventions for child and adult anger (Beck
& Fernandez, 1998) resulted in moderate treatment gains
compared to control groups in 50 nomothetic studies.
There is a general consensus that angry youth have
parents who lack effective parenting skills and who evidence
similar patterns of impulsive and aggressive responses to
perceived provocations. Often there is an early use of extensive physical punishment and many aggressive youth have
been victims of their parents’ rage reactions. These youth
develop in a home environment void of models of prosocial
coping and with limited understanding of and communication about emotional expression. Their parents fail to use
consistent and contingent reinforcement and the functional
nature of escalating aggression sets in motion a process of
coercive interaction between family members. Both parents
and youth clearly need to learn more prosocial conflict
negotiation responses as well as better emotional control.
Integration of anger management skills either with traditional parent training approaches or with strategic family
therapy intervention seems a necessary extension and a way
to prevent the occurrence of family violence.
Future clinical research might focus on component
analyses to determine which of the treatment components
included in anger management are most effective for which
children and which adolescents. Since the primary treatment
component appears to be the cognitive strategies designed to
reconfigure the biased information processing, developmental levels must be considered. For youth who have not yet
reached the meta-cognitive level, perhaps anger management should emphasize problem-solving skills and alternative behavioral responses to triggering events. Perhaps youth
who are more cognitively sophisticated need a greater
emphasis on reattribution training and the identification of
anger-engendering cognitive schemas. Matching the anger
management skills to the cognitive level of the youth would
certainly enhance the treatment outcome. Additional
research might also focus on group versus individual versus
family treatment approaches to the dissemination of an
anger management program.
Lastly, there are many youth who approach anger management treatment with a good deal of resistance. Patterns of
aggressive outbursts often result in a mandate for anger treatment, yet cognitive schemas characteristic of angry youth
seem antagonistic to treatment. Youth may believe that anger
is appropriate and quite justified. They feel low personal
responsibility, blame others, and feel self-righteous in their
expression of anger. These beliefs may in fact impede their
readiness or responsivity to treatment. Future research may
need to look at methods for increasing treatment responsivity
and building a working alliance between the angry youth and
the treatment provider. Few youth with anger problems will
seek treatment voluntarily. But for the anger management
approach described in this article to be effective, youth have
to be willing to learn and apply a more reasonable and prosocial way to processing interpersonal conflict.
See also: Anger control problems, Anger management therapy
with adolescents, Anger—adult
Beck, R., & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive–behavioral therapy in the
treatment of anger. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 63–74.
Crick, N. R., & Dodge, D. A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social
information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustment.
Psychological Bulletin, 115, 74–101.
14 Adolescent Aggression and Anger Management
Feindler, E. L., & Ecton, R. (1986). Adolescent anger control:
Cognitive–behavioral techniques. New York: Pergamon Press.
Feindler, E. L., & Scalley, M. (1998). Adolescent anger-management
groups for violence reduction. In T. Ollendick & K. Storber (Eds.),
Group interventions in the school and community (pp. 100–118).
Needham Heights, UK: Allyn & Bacon.
Kassinove, H. (Ed.). (1995). Anger disorders: Definition, diagnosis, and
treatment. London: Taylor & Francis.
Keenan, K. (2000). Emotion dysregulation as a risk factor for child psychopathology. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 7, 418–434.
Lochman, J. E., & Dodge, K. A. (1994). Social–cognitive processes of
severely violent, moderately aggressive, and non-aggressive boys.
Journal of Child Clinical Psychology, 62, 366–374.
Novaco, R. W. (1979). The cognitive regulation of anger and stress. In
P. Kendall & S. Hollon (Eds.), Cognitive–behavioral interventions:
Theory, research and procedures. New York: Academic Press.
Deffenbacher, J. L. (1999). Cognitive–behavioral conceptualization and
treatment of anger. JCLP/In Session: Psychotherapy in Practice,
55(3), 295–309.
Dodge, K. A. (1993). Social–cognitive mechanism in the development of
conduct disorder and aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 44,
Feindler, E. L. (1995). An ideal treatment package for children and adolescents with anger disorders. In H. Kassinove (Ed.), Anger disorders:
Definition, diagnosis, and treatment. London: Taylor & Francis.
Feindler, E. L., & Baker, K. (2001). Current issues in anger management
interventions with youth. In A. P. Goldstein, R. Nensen, B. Daleflod,
& M. Kalt (Eds.), New perspectives on aggression replacement training: Practice, research and application. London: Wiley.
Aggressive and Antisocial Behavior
in Youth
Pier J. M. Prins and Teun G. van Manen
Keywords: cognition, aggression, conduct problems, children, youth
Aggressive and antisocial behaviors in children and adolescents represent a major public health problem. Prevalence
rates range from 2 to 16%. Children with high levels of
aggressive behavior comprise a heterogeneous group covering a variety of rule violations and hostile acts, ranging in
intensity from swearing to criminal assault. Moreover, they
experience psychopathology and impairment in multiple
areas. Various terms have been used to describe this group of
youths. The DSM-IV, for example, distinguishes between
the diagnostic categories of Conduct Disorder (CD) and
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), the former referring
to a pattern of behaviors that violate the rights of others,
while the latter refers to a pattern of negativistic, hostile,
defiant behaviors toward authority figures. Other distinctions are made based on the topography of the aggressive
behavior, such as overt and covert aggression, or based on
the age of onset such as childhood onset and adolescent
onset conduct disorder. Another important distinction is
made between an instrumental, proactive form of aggression
and a hostile, reactive form of aggression (Dodge, Lochman,
Harnish, Bates, & Pettit, 1997). The terms aggressive
behavior and conduct problems will be used interchangeably throughout this article.
The cognitive–behavioral framework assumes that
aggression is not merely triggered by environmental events,
but rather through the way in which these events are perceived and processed by the individual. This processing
refers to the child’s appraisal of the situation, anticipated
reactions of others, and self-statements in response to
particular events. A variety of cognitive and attributional
processes have been found in aggressive youths. Deficits
and distortions in cognitive problem-solving skills, attributions of hostile intent to others, and resentment and suspiciousness illustrate a few cognitive features associated with
conduct problems. Individuals who engage in aggressive
behaviors show distortions and deficiencies in various
cognitive processes. These deficiencies are not merely
reflections of intellectual functioning. A variety of cognitive
processes have been studied such as generating alternative
solutions to interpersonal problems (e.g., different ways of
handling social situations); identifying the means to obtain
particular ends (e.g., making friends) or consequences of
one’s actions (e.g., what could happen after a particular
behavior); making attributions to others of the motivation of
their actions; perceiving how others feel; and expectations
of the effects of one’s own actions and others. Deficits and
distortions among these processes relate to teacher ratings of
disruptive behavior, peer evaluations, and direct assessment
of overt behavior (Kazdin, 1997).
Attribution of intent to others represents a salient cognitive disposition critically important to understanding aggressive behavior. Aggressive youths tend to attribute hostile
intent to others, especially in social situations where the cues
Aggressive and Antisocial Behavior in Youth
of actual intent are ambiguous. Some researchers relate the
attributional bias to particular physiological processes, while
others assume that the hostile attributional bias may be
caused by the intense anger experienced by some aggressive
individuals (see Lochman, Whidby, & Fitzgerald, 2000).
Next to this attributional bias, aggressive children are characterized by cognitive deficits such as heightened sensitivity
to hostile cues and by positive expectancies for aggressive
behavior. Further, they have been found to value dominance
and revenge over cooperation and affiliation, prefer aggressive
solutions, have a restrictive repertoire of problem-solving
strategies, and prefer action over thought and reflection
(Durlak, Rubin, & Kahng, 2001).
A major model emphasizing the cognitive problems
demonstrated by children with aggressive problems is the
social information processing model developed by Crick and
Dodge (1994). Briefly, this model identifies problems that
aggressive children have in accurately judging social situations, selecting a strategy to deal with potential conflicts or
challenges and then implementing and evaluating that strategy.
The model postulates that socially competent behavior is
dependent on (a) accurate encoding of social cues and interpretation of others’ intent, (b) generation and selection of
appropriate responses, and (c) skillful enactment of the chosen
course of behavior.
Problems at one or more points in the information
processing model may characterize aggressive youths. For
example, reactively aggressive and proactively aggressive
types of antisocial youth not only differ in developmental
histories but also in social information processing patterns.
Reactively aggressive youth tend to display poorer scores on
measures of social cognition at early stages of cue-oriented
processing (e.g., encoding and interpretation of social situations), whereas the proactively aggressive youth tend to
demonstrate deficits at later stages of outcome-oriented processing (e.g., evaluation of selected response strategy)
(Dodge et al., 1997).
Child-based CBT interventions have been increasingly
used to try to decrease children’s aggressive, antisocial
behavior and assume that children engage in aggressive
behavior as a result of (a) learned cognitive distortions, such
as biased attention to aggressive cues and the attribution of
hostile intent to the action of others; (b) cognitive deficiencies, such as poor problem-solving and verbal mediation
skills; and (c) a related tendency to respond impulsively to
both external and internal stimuli, which has also been
described as an inability to regulate emotion and behavior
(Lochman et al., 2000). Accordingly, the child-focused CBT
approach to treating child conduct problems targets the disturbed cognitive processes and behavioral deficits thought to
produce aggressive and disruptive behaviors. They help the
child identify stimuli that typically precede aggressive and
antisocial behaviors and perceive ambiguous social situations in a nonhostile manner, challenge cognitive distortions, generate more assertive (versus aggressive) responses
to possible social problems and develop more effective
problem-solving skills, and tolerate feelings of anger and
frustration without responding impulsively or aggressively
(Nock, 2003).
Several CBT approaches have been developed to address
these goals, such as problem-solving skills training, angercoping training, assertiveness training, and rational–emotive
therapy (Brestan & Eyberg, 1998). These CBT procedures
use techniques such as cognitive restructuring and social
skills training to remediate the cognitive and behavioral
deficits of the aggressive youths. Several of these programs
also place a great deal of emphasis on teaching youths how to
solve problems rationally and respond nonaggressively when
youths are actually aroused and angry.
Most of the treatment approaches occur within a shortterm model of 10–15 weekly, hour-long sessions. No systematic reports on continued care studies are yet available. The
format in which treatment is delivered is individual or group.
Group format has been favored over individual treatments
because of time and cost advantages. There are several advantages to the use of group therapy. Peer and group reinforcement are frequently more effective with children than
reinforcement provided in a dyadic context, or by adults. This
may be especially true for children with disruptive behavior
disorders, who are relatively resistant to social reinforcement.
Additionally, the group context provides in vivo opportunities
for interpersonal learning and development of social skills
(Lochman et al., 2000).
Two Examples
Problem Solving Skills Training (PSST) consists of
developing interpersonal cognitive problem-solving skills.
Although many variations of PSST have been applied to
conduct-problem children, several characteristics are usually
shared. First, the emphasis is on how children approach situations, i.e., the thought processes in which the child
engages to guide responses to interpersonal situations. The
children are taught to engage in a step-by-step approach
to solve interpersonal problems. They make statements to
themselves that direct attention to certain aspects of the
problem or tasks that lead to effective solutions. Second,
behaviors that are selected (solutions) to the interpersonal
situations are important as well. Prosocial behaviors are
fostered (through modeling and direct reinforcement) as part
16 Aggressive and Antisocial Behavior in Youth
of the problem-solving process. Third, treatment utilizes
structured tasks involving games, academic activities, and
stories. Over the course of treatment, the cognitive problemsolving skills are increasingly applied to real-life situations.
Fourth, therapists usually play an active role in treatment.
They model the cognitive processes by making verbal selfstatements, apply the sequence of statements to particular
problems, and provide cues to prompt use of the skills.
Finally, treatment usually combines several different procedures, including modeling and practice, role-playing, and
reinforcement and mild punishment (loss of points or
tokens). These are deployed in systematic ways to develop
increasingly complex response repertoires of the child
(Kazdin, 1997).
The Anger Coping Program addresses both cognitive
and affective processes and is designed to remediate skills
deficits in conflictual situations involving affective arousal.
Specific goals are to increase children’s awareness of internal
cognitive, affective, and physiological phenomena related to
anger arousal; enhance self-reflection and self-management
skills; facilitate alternative, consequential, and means-end
thinking in approaching social problems; and increase children’s behavioral repertoire when faced with social conflict.
To do so, sessions are organized around teaching specific
social–cognitive skills. The major components of the program
consist of self-management/monitoring skills, perspectivetaking skills, and social problem-solving skills (Lochman
et al., 2000).
Meta-analytic reviews have yielded medium to large
effect sizes (ESs ⫽ 0.47 to 0.90) for this treatment approach
for child conduct problems. Five child-centered CBT treatments have been identified that met the criteria for probably
efficacious status including anger-control training, angercoping training, assertiveness training, problem-solving
skills training, and rational–emotive therapy. These treatments await systematic replication by a second research
team before advancing to well-established status (Bennett &
Gibbons, 2000; Brestan & Eyberg, 1998).
CBT treatment packages have proven more efficacious
than credible comparison groups, and children receiving
CBT are more likely to be in the normal range of functioning after treatment than children in comparison conditions,
but, it is notable that many children receiving CBT fail to
reach such levels of improved functioning. Furthermore,
most studies have relied exclusively on parent and teacher
report of child functioning and have not employed observational or performance-based measures in the laboratory, or
more socially valid measures of functioning, such as records
of actual offending from school or police sources. Thus, the
actual impact of such interventions on subsequent child
functioning has not been sufficiently established (Kazdin,
1997; Nock, 2003). Further, it is unknown at this point in
time which of the many components involved in CBT treatment packages for child conduct problems is necessary and
sufficient for therapeutic change (Nock, 2003).
Several studies have demonstrated the improved efficacy
associated with combining CBT with parent management
training (PMT) approaches. Children who participated in
child-based CBT and whose parents participated in PMT had
greater decreases in antisocial behavior than children
assigned to a problem-solving-only or to a parent-trainingonly condition (Bennett & Gibbons, 2000).
The efficacy of CBT interventions may vary depending
on factors such as the specific components addressed (presence or absence of self-monitoring), number of therapy sessions, and child age. Children of older age (11–13 years), for
example, and with greater cognitive ability have been shown
to benefit more from CBT than younger (5–7 years), less
cognitively developed children. In addition, a greater degree
of dysfunction present in the child (e.g., higher number of
conduct disorder symptoms), in the parent (higher parenting
stress and depression scores, or adverse child rearing practices), and in the family (more dysfunctional family environment) have all been associated with a poorer response to
treatment (Nock, 2003).
In the meta-analyses of Bennett & Gibbons, none of the
studies included examined the subtype of children’s aggressive behavior. Given the greater peer problems, inadequate
attention to relevant social cues, and more aggressive
problemsolving of children who exhibit reactive (versus
proactive) aggression, it is possible that child-based CBT
interventions such as social problemsolving and anger control training may be most effective for children who exhibit
high rates of reactive aggression.
In summary, cognitive–behavioral interventions for antisocial youth represent a promising approach by effectively
addressing the youth’s cognitive and social problems and by
reducing conduct problem behaviors and building prosocial
skills (Burke, Loeber, & Birmaher, 2002). However, the
evidence has not been entirely supportive. Although childfocused CBT appears to foster some change in the problems
of these youth, such short-term, child-focused interventions
do not appear to be the ideal solution. Only parent-focused
interventions have thus far met criteria for well-established
status. By only focusing on the child, CBT may lack sufficient
attention to the familial variables that have been implicated
in the development and maintenance of antisocial behavior
in children. Adopting a broader-based treatment strategy—
integrating social–cognitive training interventions within
Aging and Dementia
a family or societal framework—may result in greater
generalization or maintenance of treatment effects.
It thus appears that child-based CBT interventions can
be an effective part of a multimodal treatment for children,
particularly older children, who exhibit high levels of
aggressive behavior. Future research will be concerned with
the following four issues. First, although many studies have
shown that conduct-disordered youths experience various
cognitive distortions and deficiencies, the specificity of
these cognitive deficits among diagnostic groups and youths
of different ages (do cognitive distortions characterize
youths with conduct problems rather than adjustment problems more generally?) needs to be established, as well as
whether some of the cognitive processes are more central
than others, and how these processes unfold developmentally (Kazdin, 1997). Second, intervention studies will have
to be conducted with samples that are more similar to clinically referred subjects, that is, with high levels of comorbidity and living in disturbed families. Treatment trials will
have to be extended to the clinical setting (real-world tests).
Third, further work is needed to evaluate factors (child, family, and parent characteristics) that contribute to responsiveness to treatment, such as age, comorbidity, families with
high levels of impairment, and lower reading achievement.
Finally, more research will target the question of mechanisms of change in CBT for aggressive youths. Several studies have demonstrated that CBT affects the proposed
mechanisms of change in the hypothesized directions (e.g.,
increases in problem-solving skills and self-control, and
decreases in cognitive distortions and hostile attributions)
and that changes in these proposed mediators are correlated
with child behavior change at posttreatment. However, no
studies have demonstrated that changes in the proposed
mechanisms temporally precede the changes in therapeutic
outcome and that changes in the proposed mechanisms
account for the effect of treatment condition on therapeutic
outcome. Until these criteria are met, researchers cannot
be sure the therapeutic change associated with CBT
for child conduct problem is the result of cognitive and
behavioral changes in the child, rather than some other,
related factor. Knowledge about why and how CBT with
aggressive youths works eventually will serve as a basis for
maximizing its efficacy in clinical practice (Weersing &
Weisz, 2002).
See also: Anger management therapy with adolescents, Disruptive
anger, Treatment of children
Bennett, D. S., & Gibbons, T. A. (2000). Efficacy of child cognitive–
behavioral interventions for antisocial behavior: A meta-analysis.
Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 22, 1–27.
Brestan, E. V., & Eyberg, S. M. (1998). Effective psychosocial treatments
of conduct-disordered children and adolescents: 29 years, 82 studies,
and 5,272 kids. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 180–189.
Burke, J. D., Loeber, R., & Birmaher, B. (2002). Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: A review of the past 10 years, part II.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
41, 1275–1293.
Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social
information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustment.
Psychological Bulletin, 115, 74–101.
Dodge, K. A., Lochman, J. E., Harnish, J. D., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S.
(1997). Reactive and proactive aggression in school children and
psychiatrically impaired chronically assaultive youth. Journal of
Abnormal Psychology, 106, 37–51.
Durlak, J. A., Rubin, L. A., & Kahng, R. D. (2001). Cognitive behavioural
therapy for children and adolescents with externalising problems. Journal
of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 15, 183–194.
Kazdin, A. E. (1997). Practitioner review: Psychosocial treatments for conduct disorder in children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,
38, 161–178.
Lochman, J. E., Whidby, J. M., & Fitzgerald, D. P. (2000). Cognitive–
behavioral assessment and treatment with aggressive children.
In P.C. Kendall (Ed.), Child & adolescent therapy: Cognitive–
behavioral procedures (2nd ed., pp. 31–88). New York: Guilford Press.
Nock, M. K. (2003). Progress review of the psychosocial treatment of child
conduct problems. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 1–28.
Weersing, V. R., & Weisz, J. R. (2002). Mechanisms of action in youth psychotherapy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 3–29.
Aging and Dementia
Steven H. Zarit
Keywords: dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving, stress, family
There is no more feared or devastating disorder in late life
than dementia. The dementia syndrome involves progressive
deterioration of cognitive and functional abilities, leaving
people unable to care for themselves and needing aroundthe-clock supervision and care. Alzheimer’s disease is the
most prevalent cause, accounting for between 50 and 70%
cases (Mendez & Cummings, 2003).
Given the extensive cognitive deficits associated with
dementia, opportunities for psychological and medical intervention with people suffering from the disorder are limited.
A more usual and effective strategy is working with family
18 Aging and Dementia
and other caregivers to assist them in managing patients
with dementia and help them deal with the associated stress.
We will examine both direct patient interventions as well as
strategies for treating caregivers.
Medications are now available for Alzheimer’s disease
and other dementias that sometimes slow the progression of
symptoms, but do not reverse the overall course of the
disorder (Mendez & Cummings, 2003). Psychological interventions have focused on the early stages of the illness when
people still have an awareness of their problems, and can
actively participate in treatment. Early stage support groups
for patients and their families have been very popular and
can now be found in many communities (e.g., Yale, 1989,
1999). Examples of counseling with the person with dementia or with the person and his/her caregiver have also been
reported (Zarit & Zarit, 1998). Many different treatment
strategies have been described, including improving communication between the person with the illness and his/her
spouse or other family caregiver, learning strategies for
managing memory loss, exploring how to talk about the
disease with family and friends, finding ways for the person
with dementia to continue to feel useful, experiencing grief
and loss, learning about the disease and treatment options,
and planning for the care that will be needed in the future
(Clare, 2002; Feinberg & Whitlatch, 2001; Kuhn, 1998;
Moniz-Cook, Agar, Gibson, Win, & Wang, 1998; Whitlatch,
2001; Yale, 1989, 1999). Clare observes that interventions
need to strike a balance between encouraging the person and
family to fight the disease and finding ways to come to terms
with it and the limitations it imposes. Preliminary findings
from an evaluation of a structured 10-week group program
suggest that people with the disease and their accompanying
family member report a high level of satisfaction and experienced some benefit (Zarit, Femia, Watson, Rice-Oschger,
& Kakos, 2004).
As dementia progresses, patients lose awareness of
their situation and usually cannot participate actively in
treatment or decisions about their care. There is some
evidence that behavioral management strategies as well as
environmental modifications are effective in reducing problem behaviors and improving well-being (e.g., Whall &
Kolanowski, in press; Zimmerman & Sloane, 1999). Teri
and colleagues (Teri, Lodsgon, Uomoto, & McCurry, 1997)
found that training family caregivers to implement pleasant
activities led to reductions in depressive symptoms among
patients as well as the caregivers.
A variety of interventions with family caregivers have
been developed to relieve stress and improve management of
dementia-related problems. From a theoretical perspective,
negative outcomes of caregiving such as depression and poor
health are the result of primary stressors that are associated
with primary care, secondary stressors that represent the
spillover of care tasks into other areas of the person’s life, as
well as resources that limit or buffer the effects of stressors
(Aneshensel, Pearlin, Mullan, Zarit, & Whitlatch, 1995).
Among the resources that affect the impact of stressors on outcomes are how caregivers appraise stressors, how they cope
with or manage stressors, and how much help or support they
receive. In varying degrees, many different treatments have
been developed that target these resources. Protocols involving
6 to 10 sessions with the primary caregiver and one or more
meetings with other family members have been found to be
particularly effective in relieving care-related stress (Marriott,
Donaldson, Terrier, & Burns, 2000; Mittelman et al., 1995;
Whitlatch, Zarit, & von Eye, 1991). Use of supportive services
such as adult day care may also lessen caregiver burden and
depression (Zarit, Stephens, Townsend, & Greene, 1998).
Treatment builds resources through the use of three
strategies: helping caregivers examine the attributions they
make about why patients behave the way they do, training
caregivers to use behavioral management approaches, and
helping caregivers identify sources of assistance and support
(Zarit & Zarit, 1998). CBT is a critical component of these
The starting point in treatment often involves examination of caregivers’ beliefs and knowledge about their relative’s illness and the attributions they make about causes of
behavior problems. Many caregivers believe that dementiarelated behaviors such as asking the same question over and
over again or claiming that personal items have been stolen
are under the patient’s control. They confront patients with
the “facts” of the situation and expect that patients should be
able to correct their cognitive errors, for example, recognizing that they had already asked the same question. The
clinician identifies what types of these cognitive errors are
troubling to caregivers and the beliefs associated with them.
Providing information about the effects of dementia on the
brain or on memory and discussing why patients might
engage in these behaviors can help caregivers to change
their attributions. Once caregivers view these problems as
part of the disease, rather than as intentional or under the
patient’s control, they become open to responding in a
different way. Responses that can be helpful for these kinds
of problems include distraction or developing an intervention based on identifying the patient’s underlying feelings.
Aging and Dementia
For example, a person who asks to see her deceased mother
might be feeling lonely or in need of reassurance. Providing
comfort or talking with her about her mother will be more
effective than telling her that her mother is dead, which will
only increase her anxiety. The patient’s cognitive errors are
part of the disease and cannot usually be corrected, but the
feelings that are associated with their beliefs can be addressed.
Other types of behavior problems that are common in
dementia require a more focused approach. Problems such as
restless or disruptive behavior or wandering off can be very
troubling to caregivers. Use of a systematic behavioral problem-solving approach has proven effective with these kinds
of problems (Teri et al., 1997; Zarit & Zarit, 1998). Problem
solving begins with assessment. Caregiver and clinician first
decide which problems are the most troubling or stressful.
Caregivers may appraise behaviors in very different ways, so
that a problem that is very stressful for one caregiver might
be perceived as only a minor irritant by another. Once one or
more specific behaviors are targeted, the caregiver will monitor their occurrence for several days, identifying the
frequency with which the problems occur, when they occur
during the course of the day, and antecedents and consequences of specific episodes. Working with the counselor or
therapist, they then brainstorm to identify possible solutions.
Solutions frequently involve preventing the antecedent event.
As an example, a period of inactivity or napping may be the
trigger for restlessness in the afternoon. Increasing the
patient’s activity during that period of the day could head off
restlessness. Once caregivers identify possible solutions, they
select one, rehearse carrying it out, and then implement and
evaluate its use. Cognitive issues may arise at every step of
this process. Caregivers may believe that nothing will make
a difference, or that they will only make things worse
by making a change in how they are handling a problem.
They also may not be able to choose between alternative
approaches. The therapist can engage them in examining
their beliefs and developing alternatives that can lead to their
taking new steps to manage problem behaviors.
The third strategy, increasing support, involves identifying assistance or emotional support the caregiver could
potentially receive from family and friends, as well as from
formal services. Often, support is available, but caregivers
hold beliefs that block them from utilizing it. Many caregivers believe they ought to be able to do everything themselves, or that their relative will not accept help. Therapists
can work with caregivers to identify their need to have an
occasional break from providing care, and what types of
potential sources of care might be available from their informal and formal network. They can also help caregivers to
identify and generate alternatives to beliefs that prevent
them from seeking out care. For example, caregivers often
believe that a formal service such as adult day care will not
be able to manage their relative, or that their relative will be
unwilling to stay at the program. One alternative perspective
is to suggest that the day care program is experienced in and
able to manage these sorts of problems.
Besides these basic strategies, therapists will often
explore a variety of other issues related to the caregiving
situation. Foremost among these are questions about if and
when to place the person with dementia in an institution.
Caregivers have often received all kinds of advice on placement from family, friends, and their doctors. We stress that
it is important for caregivers to decide about placement in
a way that is consistent with their own values, and to make
the decision to place when they are ready, not when other
people think it is time. If they want to continue providing
care at home, we will work with them to make it more
manageable. If they want to place, we will help them in the
search for a good setting for their relative. It is critical,
however, to give caregivers the opportunity to talk about
placement in a nonjudgmental way.
The decision is very difficult for many people and may
require considerable discussion. A frequent issue is that
caregivers had made a promise in the past never to place their
relative. We will encourage them to consider an alternative
perspective, that when their relative asked them to make that
promise, he/she did not envision needing this type of intensive care. Often that approach helps caregivers to move on.
Physicians and mental health professionals often
believe that they must rush caregivers to make the decision to
place a relative, so that the stress on them does not become
overwhelming. Placement, however, only shifts, but does not
alleviate the burdens caregivers are experiencing (Zarit &
Whitlatch, 1992). Although home care is often very stressful,
caregivers will experience a different set of problems after
placement, such as trying to get nursing home staff to provide more personalized care for their relative. Caregivers
who are more prepared to make the decision may do better
than someone who is rushed into placement. It is also important to continue to provide support for caregivers after placement, since they may now be feeling guilty, depressed, or, in
the case of spouse caregivers, uncertain of their role with
respect to the patient and to friends and family.
Dementia is characterized by progressive deterioration
of cognitive and functional abilities, leaving people unable
to care for themselves. The burden of care typically falls on
family members, who may experience high levels of stress
trying to meet the demands of care that are placed on them.
Interventions made directly with patients in the early stages
20 Aging and Dementia
of the illness appear promising. As the disease progresses,
the goal of treatment is relieving stress on family caregivers.
Cognitive–behavioral strategies play an important part in
helping caregivers manage stressors more effectively, and
in examining their role and involvement in providing care.
See also: Depression and personality disorders—older adults,
Family caregivers
Christine Bowman Edmondson and Daniel
Joseph Cahill
Keywords: anger disorders, anger attacks, irritable depression, intermittent explosive disorder
Clare, L. (2002). We’ll fight it as long as we can: Coping with the onset of
Alzheimer’s disease. Aging and Mental Health, 6, 139–148.
Feinberg, L. F., & Whitlatch, C. J. (2001). Are cognitively impaired adults
able to state consistent choices? The Gerontologist, 41, 374–382.
Kuhn, D. R. (1998). Caring for relatives with early stage Alzheimer’s disease: An exploratory study. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,
13, 189–196.
Marriott, A., Donaldson, C., Terrier, N., & Burns, A. (2000). Effectiveness
of cognitive–behavioural family intervention in reducing the burden of
care in carers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. British Journal of
Psychiatry, 176, 557–562.
Mendez, M. F., & Cummings, J. L. (2003). Dementia: A clinical approach
(3rd ed.). Woburn, MA: Butterworth–Heinemann.
Mittelman, M. S., Ferris, S. H., Shulman, E., Steinberg, G., Ambinder, A.,
Mackel, J., & Cohen, J. (1995). A comprehensive support program:
Effect on depression in spouse-caregivers of AD patients.
The Gerontologist, 35, 792–802.
Moniz-Cook, E., Agar, S., Gibson, G., Win, T., & Wang, M. (1998). A preliminary study of the effects of early intervention with people with
dementia and their families in a memory clinic. Aging and Mental
Health, 2, 199–211.
Teri, L., Logsdon, R. G., Uomoto, J., & McCurry, S. M. (1997). Behavioral
treatment of depression in dementia patients: A controlled clinical
trial. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and
Social Sciences, 52B, P159–P166.
Whall, A. L., & Kolanowski, A. M. (2004). The need-driven dementiacompromised behavior (NDB) model: A framework for understanding
the behavioural symptoms of dementia. Aging and Mental Health,
8(2), 106–108.
Whitlatch, C. J. (2001). Including the person with dementia in family
caregiving research and practice. Aging and Mental Health, 5,
Supplement, 72–74.
Yale, R. (1989). Support groups for newly-diagnosed Alzheimer’s clients.
Clinical Gerontologist, 8, 86–89.
Yale, R. (1999). Support groups and other services for individuals with
early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Generations, 23(Fall), 57–61.
Zarit, S. H., Stephens, M. A. P., Townsend, A., & Greene, R. (1998). Stress
reduction for family caregivers: Effects of day care use. Journal of
Gerontology: Social Sciences, 53B, S267–S277.
Zarit, S. H., Femia, E. F., Watson, J., Rice-Oeschger, L. & Kakos, B. (2004).
Memory club: A group intervention for people with early-stage dementia and their care partners. The Gerontologist, 44(2), 262–270.
Zarit, S. H., & Whitlatch, C. (1992). Institutional placement: Phases of the
transition. The Gerontologist, 32, 665–672.
Zarit, S. H., & Zarit, J. M. (1998). Mental disorders in older adults:
Fundamentals of assessment and treatment. New York: Guilford Press.
Zimmerman, S. I., & Sloane, P. D. (1999). Optimum residential care for
people with dementia. Generations, 23(3), 62–68.
This article describes cognitive–behavioral therapy
interventions for anger in adult outpatient populations. Thus,
it will not address interventions for reducing anger identified
as being for children or adolescents. Readers interested in
cognitive–behavioral interventions for oppositional defiant
disorder, conduct disorder, or personality disorders are
referred to the relevant articles in the present volume.
This article may have some relevance for populations
that include individuals with personality disorders, perpetrators of domestic violence, and prisoners insofar as individuals from these populations have difficulties with anger.
However, it should not be assumed that all individuals in
these populations have difficulties with anger. Therefore,
this article mainly focuses on populations in which the cognitive, behavioral, physiological, and experiential aspects of
anger are problematic rather than on populations in which
there are anger outbursts that are the manifestation of more
generalized difficulties with cognitive and behavioral functioning. To facilitate the identification of individuals for
which these interventions are appropriate, there is a section
describing various types of anger disorders prior to the
description of cognitive–behavioral interventions for anger.
Anger is a common focus of treatment in a variety of
health and mental health treatment settings. An “anger disorder” can be described as a symptom pattern consisting of
the presence of anger attacks and/or irritability without the
presence of another mood or anxiety disorder. An “anger
attack” has been described by researchers (Fava &
Rosenbaum, 1999) as sudden episodes of anger characterized by intense physiological reactions that are inappropriate to the situation and uncharacteristic of the person
undergoing the attack. “Irritable depression” is a syndrome
characterized by the presence of an irritable mood for 5 days
or longer in conjunction with a decreased interest in regular
activities and a number of the cognitive and vegetative
symptoms of depression (WHO, 2002).
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is often cited as
a possible Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM; American Psychiatric Association, 1994)
diagnostic category for individuals with anger problems.
However, IED criteria are delineated on the basis of its being
an impulse control disorder rather than an emotional disorder. The WorlOverview, analysis, and evaluationcollect epidemiological data on IED and another anger-related
disorder referred to as “irritable depression.” This research
is an important step in operationally defining anger disorders in the DSM.
Other anger disorders have been proposed by Eckhardt
and Deffenbacher (1995): General Anger Disorder
(GAngD) and Specific Anger Disorder–Driving Situations.
GAngD is characterized by experiencing anger daily or
being in a chronically angry mood. In addition, people with
GAngD are likely to be verbally aggressive and/or destroy
objects. Eckhardt and Deffenbacher (1995) proposed that
GangD has two subtypes: with physical aggression and without physical aggression. They emphasized that while people
with GAngD without aggression may engage in aggression
on occasion, it does not have the severity (i.e., sarcasm, loud
arguments, and/or physical aggression) or frequency to meet
the criteria of GAngD with aggression.
Eckhardt and Deffenbacher (1995) also suggested that
there were “Specific Anger Disorders,” in which anger is
confined to a circumscribed set of situations. Deffenbacher,
Filetti, Lynch, Dahlen, and Oetting (2002) described
the characteristics of high-anger drivers, which could be
described as having “Specific Anger Disorder–Driving
Situations.” Their research suggested that high-anger drivers
are at risk of injury and death resulting from aggressive
behavior associated with anger while driving. They also
provide data on the efficacy of relaxation interventions for
high-anger drivers.
Currently, there are no published studies that investigate the efficacy of cognitive–behavioral treatment for IED
or irritable depression. Instead, studies of treatment for syndromes associated with these disorders (i.e., anger attacks)
use primarily psychopharmacological interventions (Fava &
Rosenbaum, 1999). It is likely that cognitive–behavioral
therapy in combination with psychopharmacological interventions would maximize treatment efficacy for these disorders. Thus, cognitive–behavioral therapies that are
developed for these disorders should include components
that explore the use of medication and enhance compliance
with medication regimens. There is a body of literature that
provides empirical support for cognitive and behavioral
therapies for anger defined in a manner that is similar to
GAngD (Deffenbacher, Oetting, & DiGiuseppe, 2002).
Although IED, irritable depression, GAngD, and specific anger disorder–driving anger disorders are promising
operational definitions of anger disorders, anger problems,
such as irritable mood (i.e., frequent and intense anger) and
anger outbursts, can still be identified as targets of change
in cognitive and behavioral therapy. Irritable mood and/or
anger outbursts co-occur with important psychiatric syndromes such as depression (Haaga, 1999), posttraumatic
stress disorder (Novaco & Chemtob, 1998), and substance
abuse (Awalt, Reilly, & Shopshire, 1997). The type of anger
problem that is the focus of treatment (i.e., an anger disorder
versus irritable mood versus anger outbursts) and the comorbidity of anger problems and other psychiatric syndromes all
need to be considered when using cognitive–behavioral therapy interventions to address anger problems.
Cognitive–behavioral interventions for anger are generally effective across different populations; however, research
is lacking that addresses issues of relative efficacy, causal
mechanisms of treatment, and the specificity of treatment for
different types of populations (Deffenbacher, Oetting, &
DiGiuseppe, 2002). It is likely that more advances in the
cognitive–behavioral treatment of anger will occur when
commonly accepted definitions of anger disorders are used to
identify participants for treatment outcome studies. Also, the
definition and delineation of anger disorders would facilitate
the understanding of the cognitive and behavioral processes
that contribute to irritable mood and/or anger outbursts that
are associated with clinically significant distress and interference with social and occupational functioning.
Deffenbacher (1999) suggests that the first goal of
treatment should be to establish good rapport. Good rapport
provides a foundation of trust that is essential for the success
of treatment. In addition, Deffenbacher describes why it is
important to build a common understanding of the presenting problem and to reach agreement as to what the goals of
therapy should be for angry clients. Basic counseling skills
such as empathy and positive regard are important for building this rapport. In addition, self-monitoring can be useful in
negotiating shared expectations for the therapy process
and goals. Self-monitoring can also be a part of
a “safety plan” or no-violence contract. Self-monitoring
encourages clients to take an active role in their change
process. It enhances self-awareness of the intensity of irritable moods and anger, which is important in avoiding aggressive behavior. It also provides the therapist with relevant
examples to use when highlighting important issues that
form the basis of negotiating a shared understanding of the
22 Anger—Adult
problem and an agreement for treatment procedures and
goals. Self-monitoring is often used in conjunction with techniques such as relaxation training, cognitive restructuring,
problem solving, and social skills training in order to track
progress in using new skills outside of therapy sessions.
Relaxation training teaches clients to monitor levels
of arousal and to use a variety of methods for lowering
arousal in order to increase their ability to cope physiologically or emotionally during anger-provoking situations
(Deffenbacher, 1999). Two useful interventions are autogenic relaxation training and progressive muscle relaxation.
Autogenic relaxation training is useful when a quick and
easy method for achieving relaxation is needed. However,
progressive muscle relation may be more helpful when
clients are not aware of their general level of physiological
arousal and cues for anger outbursts. Relaxation training is
a basic component of the stress inoculation protocols that
have demonstrated therapeutic efficacy for anger problems.
Cognitive restructuring is a method of identifying maladaptive thoughts, beliefs, or attributions that lead to anger
outbursts and learning appropriate responses. It is important
to help angry clients accept the rationale for changing their
thoughts (i.e., that thoughts influence feelings and the problematic behaviors associated with them) and to convince
angry clients that they have a choice in how they decide to
interpret anger-provoking situations. Once the client accepts
this rationale, techniques of rational emotive behavior therapy or cognitive therapy can be used to restructure problematic thinking. The inductive nature of cognitive therapy
techniques may be more acceptable to some types of angry
clients and may be a better technique if an angry individual
is struggling with the rationale for cognitive restructuring.
Some angry clients may benefit from imaginal methods
for cognitive restructuring more so than the verbal methods
that comprise cognitive therapy and rational emotive behavior therapy. Deffenbacher (1999) describes how imagining
a visual image of an anger-provoking agent literally as a
“jackass” could be effective in humorously restructuring an
angry person’s beliefs about another person who may be the
source of ongoing anger provocations.
Although self-instructions and affirmations of coping
skills are not techniques of cognitive restructuring, they are
important aspects of self-talk that should be increased as
problematic cognitions are decreased as a result of cognitive
restructuring. They are also important components of stress
inoculation and problem-solving interventions for anger.
The efficacy of problem solving training has also been
evaluated in angry individuals. The structured nature of this
intervention is helpful in encouraging angry clients to stop
and think about their response options before responding to
anger provocation. Angry clients could particularly benefit
from systematically determining whether it is best to respond
to their emotional reaction to a provocation versus the situation that caused the provocation to occur. Then, the discipline
of systematically brainstorming response options and evaluating them will be most likely to encourage the selection of
the most effective and appropriate response.
Social skills training has also received empirical support for the treatment of anger problems. In these studies,
the social skills training tends to focus on global social skills
such as listening, assertive self-expression, and negotiating
resolutions to conflicts. However, angry individuals may
also benefit from modifying microbehavioral aspects of
their social interactions such as facial expressions, vocal
intonation, voice volume, body postures, and gestures. Other
interventions designed to enhance social functioning may
also be needed for angry clients to repair the damage their
anger has done to their social functioning.
Exposure Techniques for Anger Problems
Exposure techniques have been applied to the reduction
of anger. Imaginal exposure techniques may be more
amenable to practice settings than in vivo exposure techniques. Imaginal exposure involves the construction of
anger-inducing scenarios in order to inoculate against reallife situations. Grodnitzky and Tafrate (2000) provide a
description of clinical procedures utilizing imaginal exposure to reduce anger in adults.
Research on Cognitive and Behavioral Processes in
Irritable Mood and Anger Attacks
It is important to conduct research designed to identify
the differential cognitive and behavioral deficits associated
with irritable moods and anger attacks. Research on cognitive– behavioral therapeutic efficacy has outpaced efforts in
this realm. The benefits of identifying cognitive and behavioral processes unique to different anxiety disorders have
resulted in significant advances in their treatment of these
disorders. Similar advances could be experienced in the
realm of anger disorders.
Innovations in Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy
of Anger Disorders
Practitioners and researchers interested in treatment
innovations could contribute to advances in
cognitive–behavioral therapy for anger disorders by further
developing exposure techniques for anger problems. In
addition, cognitive restructuring for anger problems would
be enhanced by innovations that use symbolic methods such
Anger Control Problems
as visual imagery and metaphors to assist with the restructuring of irrational beliefs or dysfunctional schemas associated
with anger. Social skills interventions would benefit from the
development of more systematic approaches to modulating
nonverbal and paralinguistic behaviors in individuals with
anger problems.
Finally, advances in cognitive neuroscience are contributing to the development of a better understanding of the
role of biological factors in a variety of behavioral disorders,
including anger problems. These advances neither mandate
the use of pharmacological interventions nor preclude the
use of cognitive–behavioral therapy. However, they do indicate that some people with anger problems may benefit from
pharmacological interventions. Cognitive–behavioral therapists have developed treatment protocols that are designed
to facilitate compliance with pharmacological intervention
and/or the termination of pharmacological intervention in
mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Cognitive–behavioral
therapists interested in anger disorders would do well to also
innovate in this area.
See also: Adolescent aggression and anger management, Anger
control problems, Anger management therapy with adolescents,
Disruptive anger
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Awalt, R. M., Reilly, P. M., & Shopshire, M. S. (1997). The angry patient:
An intervention for managing anger in substance abuse treatment.
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 29, 353–358.
Deffenbacher, J. L. (1999). Cognitive–behavioral conceptualization and
treatment of anger. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, 295–309.
Deffenbacher, J. L., Filetti, L. B., Lynch, R. S., Dahlen, E. R., & Oetting, E.
R. (2002). Cognitive–behavioral treatment of high anger drivers.
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 895–910.
Deffenbacher, J. L., Oetting, E. R., & DiGiuseppe, R. A. (2002). Principles
of empirically supported interventions applied to anger management.
Counseling Psychologist, 30, 262–280.
Eckhardt, C. I., & Deffenbacher, J. L. (1995). Diagnosis of anger disorders.
In H. Kassinove (Ed.), Anger disorders (pp. 27–47). Bristol, PA:
Taylor & Francis.
Fava, M., & Rosenbaum, J. F. (1999). Anger attacks in patients with
depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60, 21–24.
Grodnitzky, G. R., & Tafrate, R. C. (2000). Imaginal exposure for anger
reduction in adult outpatients: A pilot study. Journal of Behaviour
Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 31, 259–279.
Haaga, D. A. (1999). Treating options for depression and anger. Cognitive
and Behavioral Practice, 6, 289–292.
Novaco, R. W., & Chemtob, C. M. (1998). Anger and trauma:
Conceptualization, assessment and treatment. In V. M. Follette &
J. I. Ruzek (Eds.), Cognitive–behavioral therapies for trauma.
New York: Guilford Press.
World Health Organization. (2002). Composite International Diagnostic
Interview reference and training manual. Geneva: Author.
Cognitive Behavioral Case Conference section of Cognitive and Behavioral
Practice, 6, 271–292.
Deffenbacher, J. L. (1999). Cognitive–behavioral conceptualization and
treatment of anger. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, 295–309.
Anger Control Problems
Donald Meichenbaum
Keywords: anger, exposure-based therapies, self-instructional training, self-monitoring procedures, stress inoculation training
Anger-control problems are an often-overlooked disorder
and they have received limited attention in the treatment
literature. An examination of the American Psychiatric
Association DSM-IV reveals nine diagnostic categories for
Anxiety Disorders and ten diagnostic categories of
Depressive Disorders, but only three diagnostic categories
for anger-related problems, namely, Intermittent Explosive
Disorders, and two Adjustment Disorders with ConductDisorder features. The dearth of research on anger is further
highlighted by DiGiuseppe and Tafrate (2001) who noted
that for every article on anger over the past 15 years, there
are ten articles in the area of depression and seven articles in
the area of anxiety. The absence of research activity on
anger is somewhat surprising given that anger-related
behaviors are one of the most common psychiatric symptoms that cut across some 19 different psychiatric conditions. Anger, hostility, and accompanying violence are often
comorbid with other disorders. For example, veterans with
PTSD have been found to be at increased risk for domestic
abuse with as many as one-third of combat veterans with
PTSD having assaulted their partners in the past year.
Vietnam veterans with PTSD are six times more likely to
abuse drugs compared to Vietnam veterans without PTSD,
with anger being a significant relapse cue for substance
abuse. PTSD, substance abuse, mood disorders, anger, and
accompanying hostility and aggression go hand in hand and
provide clinicians with major challenges.
Besides the challenge of comorbidity, Novaco (1996)
has highlighted several additional challenges to the treatment of patients with anger and aggressive behaviors. These
challenges include:
1. Angry patients may become angry during therapy
and direct their aggression toward their therapist.
24 Anger Control Problems
2. Angry patients need to be continually reassessed for
the risk of violence toward themselves and toward
others (according to the Tarasoff decision).
3. Angry patients are often resistant to treatment,
highly impatient, easily frustrated, and unrealistic
in their treatment goals and, moreover, are often
noncompliant with treatment.
As DiGiuseppe and Tafrate (2001) observe, “angry
clients do not come for therapy; they come for supervision” on
how to fix people in their lives (bosses, co-workers, partners,
children) whom they have failed to change or they come to
vent on how unfairly and disrespectfully they have been
Finally, the need for effective treatment approaches for
aggressive behavior has been underscored by Slep and
O’Leary (2001) who reported that in the United States each
year 1.6 million women are severely assaulted by their partners and over 900,000 children are maltreated. In 6% of all
U.S. households, partner and child physical abuse co-occur
in families. The need is urgent and the question is: what do
therapists have to offer to effectively treat individuals with
angry and aggressive behaviors?
Meichenbaum (2001) has reviewed the intervention literature on spouse abusers and provides a cautionary note that
25% to 50% of men who batter who attend treatment
programs repeat their violence during the period from
6 months to 2 years following treatment. While a review of
the literature on intimate partner violence is beyond the
scope of this brief article, there is increasing evidence that
further development of effective treatments for aggressive
behavior is required. The research by Holtzworth-Munroe
(2000) is most promising, as she has identified different patterns of aggressive behavior (family-only versus generalized
aggression versus aggression that accompanies comorbid
disorders). Given the complexity and altered developmental
patterns of aggressive behaviors (childhood onset versus
adolescent onset) and the important role of gender differences, differential treatments of angry and aggressive
behaviors are indicated (Reid, Patterson, & Snyder, 2002).
Even with these caveats in mind, the initial results of cognitive–behavioral interventions with angry and aggressive
individuals are encouraging.
Five meta-analytic reviews of anger treatment have
appeared that have examined the relative efficacy of CBT
with adults, adolescents, and children (Beck & Fernandez,
1998; Bowman-Edmondson & Cohen-Conger, 1996;
DiGiuseppe & Tafrate, 2001; Sukhodolsky & Kassinove,
1997). The populations treated included college students
selected for high anger, aggressive drivers, angry outpatients, batterers, prison inmates, students with learning disabilities, individuals with developmental delays, and people
with medical problems such as hypertension and Type A
personalities. The results of the meta-analyses indicate that
“the anger treatments seem to work equally for all age
groups and all types of populations and are equally effective
for men and women. … The average effect sizes across all
outcome measures ranged from .67 to .99, with a mean of
.70” (DiGiuseppe & Tafrate, 2001, p. 263).
The results of these meta-analyses revealed that CBT
for anger reduction was moderately successful. Patients in
CBT were better off than 76% of control untreated patients,
and 83% of the CBT patients improved in comparison to
their pretest scores. This level of improvement was maintained at a follow-up period that ranged from 2 to 64 weeks.
While these initial results are encouraging, the effect
sizes for CBT of anxiety disorders have been found to be
around 1.00 and for depression it has reached 2.00.
A number of varied interventions have been employed
with individuals with anger-control problems including
relaxation-based interventions, systematic desensitization,
behavioral skills training, adjudicated psychoeducational
counseling programs, rational–emotive behavioral therapy,
and cognitive–behavioral programs, such as self-instructional
training, stress inoculation training, problem-solving interventions, and exposure-based procedures. The CBT interventions are usually short-term (8 to 22 sessions) and may
be conducted on an individual and/or group basis. The
average length of treatment in various outcome studies was
12 sessions. The research indicates that on average individual treatment is more effective than group treatment. But
this conclusion should be treated as preliminary given the
limited number of such comparative outcome studies.
A major finding of the meta-analyses was that programs that
used standardized treatment manuals and that conducted
treatment fidelity checks were the most effective. To quote
DiGiuseppe and Tafrate (2001),
Practitioners working with aggressive clients should choose
structured interventions, delivered in an individualized
format and employ safeguards to ensure that the treatment is
delivered in a manner consistent with the manuals. (p. 264)
With this proviso in mind, the remainder of this article
provides an outline of the content of the multicomponent
cognitive–behavioral interventions with patients with
Anger Control Problems
anger-control problems. For more detailed accounts see
Meichenbaum (2001) and the Recommended Readings.
Stress inoculation training (SIT) (Meichenbaum, 1985,
2001; Novaco, 1975) has provided the major conceptual and
procedural framework for the cognitive–behavioral interventions of anger control. SIT is a broad-based multicomponent training that is arranged in flexible interlocking
phases. The three phases are
A conceptual educational phase
A skills acquisition and consolidation phase
An application (graduated exposure and practice)
SIT provides a set of procedural guidelines to be individually tailored to the needs of each patient. The treatment
goal of SIT is to bolster the patients’ coping repertoires and
their confidence in being able to apply their coping skills in
a flexible effective fashion. A central concept underlying
SIT is that of “inoculation” and like the medical metaphor,
the treatment involves exposing the patient to graduated
doses of stressors that challenge, but do not overwhelm
coping resources. The patient is taught a variety of cognitive
modification, arousal reduction, acceptance, and behavior
skills which are then applied to perceived provocations
(stressor exposure) in a graduated hierarchical fashion. Such
provocations may be simulated in the therapy settings
by means of imagination and role-playing. The patients and
therapist collaborate in establishing treatment goals and
in formulating a hierarchy of anger incidents that can be
used for training purposes. Table 1 provides an outline of the
content of the respective treatment phases.
One goal of SIT is to teach patients with anger control
to learn to ask themselves:
“How can I not get angry in the first place?”
“If I do get angry, how can I keep the anger at moderate
levels of intensity?”
“What did I want that I was not getting?”
“What was I getting that I did not want?”
“Was there some way I could have gotten what I wanted, or
avoided what I did not want, without becoming angry?”
Table 1. Stress Inoculation Training for Individuals with Anger-Control Problems and Aggressive Behaviors
Phase I—Conceptual education phase
● Establish a therapeutic alliance with the patient.
● Conduct assessment and provide feedback.
● Educate the patient about the components and functions of anger and their relationships to stress, substance use, and aggression. Include a
consideration of both the negative and positive aspects of anger and how to identify and differentiate various emotions.
● Teach patients to self-monitor—use Anger Logs to identify triggers, early warning signs, and develop a hierarchy of anger scenes based on
● Engage the patient in collaborative goals-setting and enhance the patient’s motivation to engage in treatment. (May involve significant others in
Phase II—Skills acquisition and consolidation phase
● Collaborate with the patient to develop an action plan.
● Teach the patient self-control procedures such as emotion regulation, relaxation procedures, guided imagery, acceptance skills.
● Teach the patient cognitive modification and cognitive restructuring procedures such as self-instructional training and problem-solving skills (e.g.,
attentional refocusing skills, modifying expectations and appraisals).
● Teach the patients and have them practice conflict resolution and assertiveness skills.
● Have the patient consider anger and aggression in family of origin and developmentally with peers. Adopt a life-span perspective and have the
patient consider what “lingers” from those experiences that impacts on present behavior. Consider what are the pros and cons of using angry and
aggressive behaviors.
● Teach the patient how to engineer (select, create, and change) a social environment so that it supports nonaggressive behaviors.
Phase III—Application phase
● Have the patient practice coping skills while in the therapy session (imaginal and behavioral rehearsal).
● Have the patient perform graduated in vivo experiments to practice skills, namely,
How to experience anger without reflexively acting out
How to tolerate anger without immediate retaliation
How to learn not to be afraid of angry feelings
● Ensure that the patient “takes credit” for change. The therapist should engage the patient in self-attribution activities.
● Include relapse prevention activities in the treatment process.
● Build-in the involvement of significant others and booster sessions.
● Do not “train and hope” for improvement; build into therapy the technology of generalization (as described by Meichenbaum, 2001).
26 Anger Control Problems
In this manner, patients can learn how to:
1. “Deautomatize” the usual manner in which they
respond to perceived provocations by developing
cognitive, emotion-regulation, and behavioral skills.
2. Control anger by developing more appropriate interpersonal coping techniques.
3. Select, change, and create social environments that
support assertive, but not aggressive, interpersonal
There is much promise that effective interventions can be
developed to prevent such violence. To learn more about
empirically based treatment approaches that have been applied
effectively along the entire life span, the interested reader
can go to the following websites:
blueprints and
See also: Adolescent aggression and anger management, Aggressive
and antisocial behavior in youth, Anger—adult, Anger management
therapy with adolescents, Disruptive anger
Sukhodolsky, D. G., & Kassinove, H. (1997). Cognitive behavioral therapies for anger and aggression in youth: A meta-analytic review. Poster
presented at the 105th annual convention of the American
Psychological Association, Chicago.
Deffenbacher, J. L., & McKay, M. (2000). Overcoming situational and
general anger: Therapist protocol. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
Kassinove, H., & Tafrate, R. (2003). Practitioner’s guidebook to anger
management. Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers.
Meichenbaum, D. (2001). Treatment of individuals with anger-control
problems and aggressive behaviors: A clinical handbook. Clearwater,
FL: Institute Press.
Anger Management Therapy with
Beck, R., & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive–behavioral therapy in the
treatment of anger: A meta-analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research,
22, 63–75.
Bowman-Edmondson, C. B., & Cohen-Conger, J. C. (1996). A review of
treatment efficacy for individuals with anger problems: Conceptual,
assessment and methodological issues. Clinical Psychological Review,
16, 251–275.
Chemtob, C. M., Novaco, R. W., Hamada, R. S., & Gross, D. M. (1997).
Cognitive–behavioral treatment for severe anger in post-traumatic
stress disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65,
DiGiuseppe, R., & Tafrate, R. C. (2001). A comprehensive treatment model
of anger disorders. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice and
Training, 36, 262–271.
Gerlock, A. S. (1996). An anger management intervention model for veterans with PTSD. NC-PTSD Clinical Quarterly, 6, 61–64.
Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2000). A typology of men who are violent toward
their female partners: Making sense of the heterogeneity of husband
violence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 160–170.
Meichenbaum, D. (1985). Stress inoculation training: A practitioner’s
guidebook. New York: Pergamon Press.
Meichenbaum, D. (2001). Treatment of individuals with anger-control
problems and aggressive behaviors: A clinical handbook. Clearwater,
FL: Institute Press.
Novaco, R. W. (1975). Anger control: The development and evaluation of
experimental treatment. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath.
Novaco, R. W. (1996). Anger treatment and its special challenges. NCPTSD Clinical Quarterly, 6, 56–60
Reid, J. B., Patterson, G. R., & Snyder, J. (2002). Antisocial behavior in
children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Slep, A. M., & O’Leary, S. G. (2001). Examining partner and child abuse:
Are we ready for a more integrated approach to family violence?
Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 4, 87–107.
W. Rodney Hammond and
Jennifer M. Wyatt
Keywords: anger management, anger control, adolescence, aggression,
Anger-control problems in adolescence are characterized by
intense emotional reactions that, combined with cognitive
distortions, high impulsivity, poor social skills, and a history
of experience with aggression, often culminate in verbally or
physically aggressive outbursts (Nelson & Finch, 2000). Poor
anger management not only contributes to the likelihood of
aggressive behavior, but also puts adolescents at increased risk
for problems in school (e.g., failing classes, being expelled, or
dropping out) and in the community (e.g., contact with juvenile or adult courts, and incarceration). In and of itself, anger
generally does not necessitate treatment. The acting-out
episodes are usually what draw the attention of parents and
teachers, prompting a referral for some form of anger
management therapy.
Characteristics of some adolescents and their environments make them more likely to experience intense anger,
more likely to attend to anger feelings and cognitions, and
more likely to act out as a result of anger (Feindler &
Scalley, 1998). External risk factors include a history of witnessing or being victimized by aggression and a social environment that reinforces aggression, both of which imbue the
adolescent with a schema of aggression as a viable and
Anger Management Therapy with Adolescents
effective problem-solving technique. Internal risk factors
include increased physiological reactivity, hostile attributional biases (the tendency to assume that others’ behavior is
driven by hostile intent), poor impulse control, and a lack of
prosocial skills.
In order to be effective, treatment for anger-control
problems needs to address all of these components in a manner palatable to adolescents. Feindler and Ecton (1986) published the first cognitive–behavioral approach to anger
management with this population, which was an extension
of Novaco’s (1975) stress inoculation approach to anger
management with adults. They argued that, given the normal
developmental changes that occur during adolescence
(including rejection of authoritarian rules and desire for
increased autonomy), behavior modification programs that
rely on external reinforcement would likely be met with
resistance. A cognitive–behavioral approach to anger management, with a focus on reasoned decision-making over
one’s own behavior, would therefore be better suited to
adolescents. In addition, the increased capacity for analytical thought and improved perspective-taking ability of adolescents would enable them to benefit from the cognitive
skills acquisition components. As is common among
cognitive–behavioral therapies, CBT for anger management
with adolescents is composed of four modules: an educational phase, two skills acquisition phases, and a skills
generalization phase. The educational phase includes
instruction in identifying and understanding one’s own
anger patterns, with particular attention to how they follow
an antecedent–behavior–consequence progression. For
example, if an adolescent with anger management difficulties is falsely accused of stealing a classmate’s lunch money
(the antecedent), he may react with verbal and/or physical
aggression (the behavior), and then be suspended for the
aggression (the consequence). In such a situation, this adolescent is likely to blame the accuser for his suspension. By
understanding these patterns, however, the emphasis can be
shifted to how the adolescent’s behavior is responsible for
the consequence he received. During this phase, the therapist also focuses on fostering a therapeutic relationship with
the client (by conveying the message that the therapist and
client are united against the adolescent’s maladaptive anger)
and on providing the knowledge base necessary for the next
component, which targets the cognitive aspects of anger.
The cognitive skills acquisition phase concentrates on
teaching adolescents how to recognize and neutralize angerescalating thoughts. Adolescents first learn how to identify
their own anger “triggers” and how to change their cognitive
appraisal of such situations, so that their emotional
responses are less intense. Significant group time is devoted
to the cognitive distortions frequently engaged in by adolescents with anger-control problems. Common distortions
include feelings of being unfairly judged, a perceived lack of
respect, and ignoring or misinterpreting social cues
(Feindler, 1990; Yung & Hammond, 1998). For example,
adolescents who have anger-control and aggression problems tend to assume that others’ behavior is not only
purposeful, but also malevolent, which further increases the
likelihood that the adolescent will respond aggressively.
Specific attention is paid to helping adolescents understand how their interpretation of others’ intent fuels their
own anger responses. Within this phase, adolescents are
instructed on how to consider alternative nonhostile
explanations for others’ behavior, and shown how those
alternative explanations help defuse their own anger. This
phase also includes instruction on how the adolescents can
use self-talk to reframe a situation to inhibit an aggressive
impulse and to reinforce themselves for choosing not to act
The third phase provides adolescents with behavioral
skills to avert the progression from anger to aggression. One
goal of this phase is to encourage adolescents to counteract
the physiological symptoms of anger by teaching relaxation
techniques that decrease the adolescent’s general tendency
to become angry (e.g., deep muscle relaxation, meditation)
and techniques that decrease the level of situation-specific
anger (e.g., deep breathing, backward counting). The physiological symptoms generally take the form of signals from
the cardiovascular, endocrine, and/or neuromuscular systems, and often serve to facilitate aggressive actions
(Feindler, 1990). By reducing or removing the potency of
the autonomic response, the adolescent is able to make more
reasoned decisions in difficult situations. The previously
learned aggressive reactions to anger-provoking situations
can then be replaced with more appropriate problem-solving
responses, which are modeled for and practiced by the
adolescents during treatment. The final component of this
phase teaches prosocial skills that can be used to avert
anger-produced aggressive situations. Some of the skills
include those focused on proactively avoiding becoming
enmeshed in a power struggle, such as how to make requests
and state opinions assertively, but not aggressively. Other
skills target behavioral responses that can deescalate a tense
situation once it has begun, such as humor.
The ultimate goal of anger management therapy is to
provide adolescents with the tools and capabilities to control
their anger outside the therapeutic environment, the final
phase programs for the generalization of learned techniques.
Activities include behavioral rehearsal and role-play situations, and opportunities for adolescents to practice the new
skills in their usual environment via homework assignments.
These activities are a vital part of the program, for while
adolescents’ behavior may change during treatment,
the adolescents’ social environments may not (Nelson &
28 Anger Management Therapy with Adolescents
Finch, 2000). Providing them with the skills to manage
naturally occurring situations also increases the likelihood
that treatment gains will be maintained over time.
The early evaluations of adolescent anger management
programs were reviewed by Feindler (1990), who concluded
that group CBT had shown evidence of positive effects
on problem-solving abilities, self-reported anger, behavior
in role-playing situations, and external consequences for
aggression. A later review (Feindler & Scalley, 1998) summarized the results of a dozen group treatment violence
reduction programs that included anger management components. Significant effects were documented with youth in
psychiatric facilities, detention centers, and residential treatment centers, as well as with at-risk youth in school settings.
Beck and Fernandez (1998) conducted a meta-analysis of
evaluations of CBT for anger management in adults, adolescents, and children. Effect sizes were computed for outcome
measures of self-reported anger and behavioral ratings of
anger or aggression, and an overall weighted mean effect size
of .70 emerged. Of the 50 evaluations synthesized in their
meta-analysis, 15 were specific to adolescents (including
study samples of at-risk, clinical, and incarcerated youth).
Reanalysis of their tabular data for those studies targeting
only adolescents resulted in a weighted mean effect size of
.65 (with a range of .22 to 1.20), providing further evidence
for the effectiveness of this type of therapy with adolescents.
Recent developments in the use of CBT for anger management with adolescents have examined the generalizability
of such programs beyond the samples and program formats
with which they were originally tested. For example, Stern
(1999) found that enhancing a family conflict-resolution
treatment with a cognitive–behavioral anger management
treatment resulted in more positive outcomes for adolescents
and for their parents. Other researchers have investigated the
utility of anger management techniques with nonclinical
populations. The Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways
(RIPP) program incorporated cognitive–behavioral techniques for anger management into a broader school-based
violence prevention program, and has shown positive effects
on school disciplinary actions (Farrell, Meyer, & White,
2001). The Positive Adolescent Choices Training (PACT)
program, designed to be a culturally sensitive approach to
violence prevention with African American youth, has shown
significant effects on a variety of variables related to physical aggression in school and violent and nonviolent criminal
activity in the community (Yung & Hammond, 1998).
Bosworth and colleagues (Bosworth, Espelage, DuBay,
Daytner, & Karageorge, 2000) investigated an innovative
delivery method of a standardized curriculum of violence
prevention that included anger management components. A
preliminary evaluation of their program, which is administered to individual students via computer, revealed signifi-
cant effects on mediating variables such as attitudes and
behavioral intentions. Although the original intent of CBT
for anger management was for treatment of adolescents with
diagnosed disorders, the results from these three programs
suggest that anger management programs can be successfully integrated into primary and secondary prevention programs as well.
Cognitive–behavioral programs for adolescent anger
management have been evaluated with different populations
and by different investigators; however, some limitations still
exist in the literature. The majority of the programs with published evaluations were conducted in a group format, so less is
known about the effectiveness of these methods in individual
therapy. In addition, little is known about which components
or combination of components are necessary to produce
reliable behavioral change. Existing programs have varied
in their specific activities, but until controlled dismantling
studies have been conducted, CBT for anger management
with adolescents should still be used as a treatment package.
Aside from the limitations of the research, there is still
ample evidence to support the use of cognitive–behavioral
anger management programs. Future researchers should shift
the field’s focus to fine-tuning the model in order to promote
optimal effectiveness. Investigations into the characteristics
of adolescents who are most likely to benefit from anger
management programs could provide clinicians with better
information on which to base treatment and referral decisions, and could provide researchers with better information
about variables that mediate and moderate the relation
between anger and aggression. Greater attention to the generalization of learned skills would increase the likelihood
that behavioral improvements would be sustained. Future
research should also continue to explore the neurological
causes and correlates of anger in adolescents, and if that
knowledge can be used to improve CBT programs. Finally,
evaluations should begin to include cost analyses, to determine how treatment dollars and hours can best be spent.
In summary, the cognitive–behavioral model posits that
anger is activated, protracted, and intensified by the adolescents’ thoughts and interpretations of others’ behavior,
which can lead to an aggressive outburst (Novaco, 1975).
Aggressive behavior strengthens this link by inhibiting cognitive controls over behavior, maintaining heightened physiological arousal, and inviting aggressive responses from
others. Cognitive–behavioral therapy for anger management
with adolescents, therefore, focuses first on the cognitive
distortions in order to break the cycle. Next, treatment
includes behavioral skills such as relaxation, assertiveness,
and problem solving, to help the adolescent prevent or
diminish the experience of anger and subsequent aggressive
responses. Treatment must also include activities to prepare
adolescents for anger-provoking situations in their everyday
Anorexia Nervosa
environment. Research with group treatment models has provided evidence for positive effects on cognitive, affective, and
behavioral measures. In addition, anger management components have been successfully integrated into other treatment
and prevention programs. Future research can advance
science and practice by seeking ways to improve the effectiveness of CBT for anger management with adolescents.
See also: Adolescent aggression and anger management, Anger—
adult, Anger control problems
Beck, R., & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive–behavioral therapy in the
treatment of anger: A meta-analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research,
22, 63–74.
Bosworth, K., Espelage, D., DuBay, T., Daytner, G., & Karageorge, K. (2000).
Preliminary evaluation of a multimedia violence prevention program for
adolescents. American Journal of Health Behavior, 24, 268–280.
Farrell, A. D., Meyer, A. L., & White, K. S. (2001). Evaluation of
Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP): A school-based
prevention program for reducing violence among urban adolescents.
Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 451–463.
Feindler, E. L. (1990). Adolescent anger control: Review and critique. In
M. Hersen, R. M. Eisler, & P. M. Miller (Eds.), Progress in behavior
modification, Vol. 26 (pp. 11–59). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Feindler, E. L., & Ecton, R. B. (1986). Adolescent anger control:
Cognitive–behavioral techniques. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.
Feindler, E. L., & Scalley, M. (1998). Adolescent anger-management
groups for violence reduction. In K. C. Stoiber & T. R. Kratochwill
(Eds.), Handbook of group interventions for children and families
(pp. 100–119). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Nelson, W. M., III, & Finch, A. J., Jr. (2000). Managing anger in youth:
A cognitive–behavioral approach. In P. C. Kendall (Ed.), Child
and adolescent therapy: Cognitive–behavioral procedures (2nd ed.,
pp. 129–170). New York: Guilford Press.
Novaco, R. W. (1975). Anger control: The development and evaluation of
an experimental treatment. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Stern, S. B. (1999). Anger management in parent–adolescent conflict.
American Journal of Family Therapy, 27, 181–193.
Yung, B. R., & Hammond, W. R. (1998). Breaking the cycle: A culturally
sensitive violence prevention program for African-American children
and adolescents. In J. R. Lutzker (Ed.), Handbook of child abuse
research and treatment (pp. 319–340). New York: Plenum Press.
Dodge, K. A., & Schwartz, D. (1997). Social information processing
mechanisms in aggressive behavior. In D. M. Stoff, J. Breiling, &
J. D. Maser (Eds.), Handbook of antisocial behavior (pp. 171–180).
New York: Wiley.
Furlong, M. J., & Smith, D. C. (Eds.). (1994). Anger, hostility, and aggression: Assessment, prevention, and intervention strategies for youth.
Brandon, VT: Clinical Psychology Publishing.
Goldstein, A. P., & Glick, B. (1987). Aggression Replacement Training:
A comprehensive intervention for aggressive youth. Champaign, IL:
Research Press.
Anorexia Nervosa
Diane L. Spangler and Heather D. Hoyal
Keywords: anorexia nervosa, cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) for anorexia nervosa
(AN) is similar to that for bulimia nervosa, but, much less has
been written regarding the cognitive–behavioral approach to
AN. Treatment development and evaluation for AN has been
slower than that for other eating disorders likely due to the
ego-syntonic and intractable nature of AN. Current CBT
treatments for AN draw on a cognitive–behavioral model of
the precipitation and maintenance of the disorder, and are
practiced with particular emphasis on the motivation and
physical health of the client.
Vitousek and Ewald (1993) proposed a cognitive–
behavioral model that highlights common pathways in the
precipitation and maintenance of AN. According to the
theory, a confluence of individual variables (e.g., perfectionism, low self-esteem, compliance, preference for simplicity), sociocultural variables (i.e., an environment that
equates thinness with beauty and worth), and personal stressors (e.g., loss, failure, onset of puberty or young adulthood)
combine to create dysfunctional beliefs regarding weight
and shape that center around the theme that thinness and
weight control are key to solving life’s problems and achieving success. Consequent to such beliefs, behaviors designed
to control weight and shape ensue, such as dieting, excessive
exercise, or purging. Restrictive eating is maintained
through both positive reinforcement resulting from attention
from others and a personal sense of achievement, superiority, or self-mastery, and through negative reinforcement
resulting from the avoidance of intense anxiety associated
with real or potential weight gain. In addition, schema-confirming processes such as selective attention and confirmatory bias along with the cognitive deficits resulting from
starvation itself maintain the disorder.
Recently, Fairburn, Shafran, and Cooper (1999)
suggested additional ways in which AN is maintained that
highlight the issue of control. They propose that the need for
and perceived attainment of control across three feedbackdriven domains may be sufficient to maintain AN. These
feedback domains are: (1) control over eating which
30 Anorexia Nervosa
becomes a convenient and tangible index of self-control and
thus self-worth, (2) hunger due to dietary restriction, which is
viewed as a threat to self-control thus increasing attempts to
control, and (3) weight loss, which becomes a separate index
of self-control and self-worth especially in cultures where
thinness is highly valued and equated with self-control.
Vitousek (formerly Bemis) has been the most prominent
theorist with respect to cognitive–behavioral treatment
for AN. In her treatment model, motivation becomes a
focal point in therapy as most AN clients do not seek help
voluntarily. Motivational and empathetic interventions are
interwoven throughout treatment, which is designed to eliminate self-starvation, reduce dysfunctional attitudes regarding
weight, shape, and worth, increase personal efficacy,
and prevent relapse. Because of the significant resistance to
change in persons with AN and the intermittent need for hospitalization, CBT for AN usually lasts from 1 to 2 years and
is divided into four stages (Garner, Vitousek, & Pike, 1997).
Stage 1
The foci of Stage 1 include the establishment of a strong
alliance and the enhancement of client motivation for change.
This stage is considered foundational since AN clients often
enter therapy only under duress. Therapists attempt to establish an alliance and motivation through thought and feeling
empathy, collaboration, respect for the client’s individuality,
and appreciation of the ego-syntonic nature of thinness and
self-control (Vitousek, Watson, & Wilson, 1998). This
includes (but is not limited to) cataloging how weight control
strategies fulfill important functions for clients as well as hinder others, and the consideration of thinness as a life goal relative to other life goals. Client attempts to manipulate or resist
treatment are viewed as attempts to maintain their preexisting
thinness- and control-related values and schemata.
In concert with appreciation of the client’s ego-syntonic
view of AN, motivation is enhanced through psychoeducation
regarding metabolism, nutrition, body weight, and the effects
of dietary restriction. This information is used to illustrate
how the symptoms of AN may be responsible for more of the
client’s distress than she had previously thought, to highlight
the dangers of AN, or to depathologize some client behaviors
by reframing them as natural responses to starvation.
relationship and adequate motivation have been established,
the therapist educates the client about a healthy body mass
index and instructs the client to record her weight weekly. In
addition, the client is instructed in self-monitoring and is
given daily food records on which to log everything eaten or
purged, laxatives taken, as well as thoughts and feelings
elicited by these behaviors. Steady increases in the type,
amount, and frequency of food eaten are then undertaken.
Daily calorie intake guidelines (no lower than 1500 calories/day) and weekly weight gain goals (typically 1–2
pounds/week) are set and worked toward until the client
reaches a weight at which menses resumes and dieting is
not needed to maintain the weight. Some methods used for
eating pattern modification include well-planned exposure
to forbidden food types and amounts, delaying purging
behaviors, distraction from disturbing thoughts while eating,
and engagement in pleasant activities following eating.
Treatment proceeds on an outpatient basis as long as a minimal weight threshold is maintained, and regular medical
checkups are attended. When hospitalization is considered,
a client may be given the opportunity to obtain a specific
weight-gain goal in order to avoid hospitalization, but if she
persists at a dangerously low weight, she is referred for
inpatient treatment.
Stage 3
The focus of Stage 3 is the identification, evaluation,
and modification of beliefs about weight, food, and self.
Many of these beliefs emerge during the weight change
interventions in Stage 2. The therapist’s position is one of
curiosity about the client’s assumptions and predictions
about weight gain and idiosyncratic “rule violations.”
New behaviors are presented as experiments, the purpose
of which is to test the client’s negative predictions. Other
methods for modifying beliefs are cost–benefit analysis,
decatastrophizing, decentering, and Socratic questioning of
the client’s assumptions. Through the use of a downward
arrow, the client’s core beliefs about the self can be more
fully explicated. Particular attention is paid to the client’s
personal values. Clients often view their AN symptoms
as the embodiment of these values. However, inconsistencies usually exist between personal values and the consequences and outcomes of AN. These inconsistencies
between client values, life goals, and AN consequences are
underscored while alternative more functional strategies for
life goal attainment are explored (Vitousek et al., 1998).
Stage 2
Stage 4
The primary goal of Stage 2 is the normalization of
eating pattern and body weight. Once a collaborative
The primary goals of Stage 4 are preparing the client
for termination and preventing relapse. During Stage 4, the
Anorexia Nervosa
course of therapy is summarized and clients are encouraged
to review improvement in functioning as well as areas of
continued vulnerability and to discuss the methods that have
been most personally helpful. In addition, a plan is generated for combating returning symptoms. This plan is tailored
to target specific trouble spots the client may have encountered during treatment. Clients are encouraged to reframe
a relapse as a “slip” and to immediately renew commitment
to recovery and return to regular eating (Vitousek, 1996). In
addition, critical points at which a return to treatment would
be indicated are discussed.
With regard to these stages of treatment, it is important
to note that recovery from AN has been described as occurring in a spiral pattern with recurrent gains and setbacks.
Therefore, the four stages are often not discrete across
time. Motivational issues, in particular, must often be revisited. For these reasons, persistence, patience, and imperturbability (mostly on the part of the therapist) are
considered key to successful outcomes.
Empirical investigations of the efficacy of CBT for AN
are just beginning to appear in the literature. Currently, only
two controlled trials of CBT for AN have been published.
Serfaty, Turkington, Heap, Ledsham, and Jolley (1999) randomized 35 persons with AN to either CBT or nutritional
counseling. After 6 months of treatment, dropout rates were
8% for CBT and 100% for nutritional counseling. Those
receiving CBT showed significant increases in body mass
index, and significant decreases in eating disorder symptomatology and depression. Of those who completed CBT,
70% no longer met diagnostic criteria for AN. Adding to
these findings, Vitousek (2002) described an unpublished
study comparing CBT to nutritional counseling with medical management in the treatment of AN. Similar to Serfaty
et al. (1999), fewer patients in the CBT condition dropped
out (27% versus 53%) and more met criteria for “good”
outcome at the end of treatment (44% versus 6%).
In contrast, Channon, De Silva, Hemsely, and Perkins
(1989) reported no overall advantage of CBT over behavior
therapy or treatment as usual. However, the Channon et al.
study suffered from a low sample size of only eight patients
per treatment condition resulting in very low power to
detect treatment differences as well as problems with randomization and CBT treatment fidelity (see Vitousek, 1996).
Despite the low number of subjects in the Channon et al.
study, some isolated and somewhat inconsistent group differences emerged at various follow-up assessments. Overall,
those in the CBT condition attended a greater number
of sessions and were less likely to drop out of treatment.
Those in the CBT condition also showed significantly
higher gains in psychosexual and interpersonal functioning
at the 6-month follow-up although all treatments showed
similar gains in body weight.
Across all three of these studies of individual,
outpatient CBT for AN, CBT produced significantly greater
retention of patients as well as significant advantages on
some outcome variables. The finding of higher retention
rates for CBT compared to other forms of treatment is
noteworthy given the low motivation for and resistance to
any form of treatment that is typical of persons with AN.
Although preliminary, these studies support the potential
and continued investigation of CBT for AN.
One recent study examined the efficacy of CBT delivered in a 10-week group format using a pre–post design
(Leung, Waller, & Thomas, 1999). No significant changes in
eating disorder symptoms were observed during the 10-week
group treatment. However, the exclusive use of group
approaches to the treatment of AN has been specifically
discouraged by those who have developed CBT protocols for
AN, as have short-term treatment protocols (e.g., Vitousek,
2002). Thus, the finding of limited symptom change over
10 weeks of group treatment is not particularly surprising.
Furthermore, given the specific recommendation against
group-delivered CBT for persons with AN, it may be the case
that findings from studies of group CBT for AN do not generalize well to outcome for CBT delivered in a one-on-one,
individualized format.
Treatment Evaluation
Evaluation of the efficacy of CBT for AN is in the
beginning stages. As noted above, few comparative trials of
CBT for AN have been conducted. Evaluating short- and
long-term response rates via additional controlled studies is
the first priority for future CBT studies of AN. The execution of such studies will be hampered by several methodological challenges. The reluctance of persons with AN to
engage in treatment at all, let alone in research protocols, is
a formidable challenge. Indeed, all existing studies of CBT
for AN suffer from low numbers of subjects and hence low
power, with some studies being more extreme than others.
Obtaining large enough sample sizes to ensure adequate
power to detect treatment effects is paramount. Based on the
recovery rate found in their study, Serfaty et al. (1999)
estimated that a minimum of 136 persons with AN would be
required if equally divided into two treatment comparison
groups. The development of adequate and safe control
conditions presents another challenge. Use of wait-list
32 Anorexia Nervosa
controls has been criticized as unsafe due to the physical
health risks of AN. The few existing controlled studies of
CBT efficacy had large dropout rates in the control conditions attesting to the difficulty of establishing a credible control condition. At present, there are few outcome studies
examining any type of treatment for AN, and no recognized
treatment of choice. In addition, AN patients frequently
require full or partial hospitalization while undergoing psychotherapy, which can confound findings of potential
psychotherapy effects.
If, despite these methodological challenges, significant
therapeutic outcome for CBT for AN is demonstrated and
replicated, then greater attention to the mechanisms of
action would be warranted. Initial studies suggest that CBT
has greater retention rates than other forms of treatment;
thus, one avenue for mechanism research would be to investigate how CBT increases motivation for treatment and
treatment compliance. Those techniques used to purportedly
establish and enhance AN client motivation and engagement
in CBT would arguably be one of the most important mechanisms to study given the reluctance for treatment typical
of AN. Other mechanisms of interest include examining
the extent to which behavioral interventions increase food
consumption and body mass index, and the extent to which
cognitive interventions decrease dysfunctional beliefs and
desire for control.
Handbook of treatment for eating disorders (2nd ed., pp. 94–144).
New York: Guilford Press.
Leung, N., Waller, G., & Thomas, G. (1999). Group cognitive–behavioural
therapy for anorexia nervosa: A case for treatment? European Eating
Disorders Review, 7, 351–361.
Serfaty, M., Turkington, D., Heap, M., Ledsham, L., & Jolley, E. (1999).
Cognitive therapy versus dietary counselling in the outpatient treatment of anorexia nervosa: Effects of the treatment phase. European
Eating Disorders Review, 7, 334–350.
Vitousek, K. (1996). The current status of cognitive–behavioral models of
anorexia and bulimia nervosa. In P. M. Salkovskis (Ed.), Frontiers
of cognitive therapy (pp. 383–418). New York: Guilford Press.
Vitousek, K. (2002). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for anorexia nervosa. In
C. G. Fairburn & K. D. Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity
(pp. 308–313). New York: Guilford Press.
Vitousek, K., & Ewald, L. S. (1993). Self-representation in eating disorders: A cognitive perspective. In Z. Segal & S. Blau (Eds.), The self in
emotional distress: Cognitive and psychodynamic perspectives
(pp. 221–257). New York: Guilford Press.
Vitousek, K., Watson, S., & Wilson, G. T. (1998). Enhancing motivation for
change in treatment-resistant eating disorders. Clinical Psychology
Review, 18, 391–420.
Elizabeth A. Meadows and Jennifer Butcher
Treatment Development
Any modifications or additions to the initial CBT protocol for AN would ideally build on outcome and process
study findings. Given the lack of such studies, significant
modifications to the existing CBT protocol are likely premature at this point. However, some suggestions for plausible
improvements to the existing protocol include the incorporation of motivational interviewing techniques, the incorporation of greater focus on early maladaptive schemas, and
the incorporation of acceptance-based interventions.
See also: Body dysmorphia 1, Body dysmorphia 2, Bulimia
nervosa, Dialectical behavior therapy for eating disorders
Channon, S., De Silva, P., Hemsely, D., & Perkins, R. (1989). A controlled
trial of cognitive–behavioural and behavioural treatment of anorexia
nervosa. Behavior Research and Therapy, 27, 529–535.
Fairburn, C. G., Shafran, R., & Cooper, Z. (1999). A cognitive behavioural
theory of anorexia nervosa. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37,
Garner, D. M., & Bemis, K. (1982). A cognitive–behavioral approach to
anorexia nervosa. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 6, 123–150.
Garner, D. M., Vitousek, K., & Pike, K. M. (1997). Cognitive–behavioral
therapy for anorexia nervosa. In D. M. Garner & P. E.Garfinkel (Eds.),
Keywords: anxiety, exposure, cognitive challenging, psychoeducation,
Anxiety is among the first emotions humans experience, and
it is a familiar experience for most people. Anxiety developed to aid the body in reacting quickly to perceived danger,
and humans likely would not have survived without it. The
critical physical mechanism of anxiety is the fight-or-flight
response, autonomic arousal that prepares the body to confront or flee from danger. This arousal leads to the physical
feelings familiar to most people including racing heart, rapid
breathing, and sweating.
Anxiety is useful because it helps people perform at
their peak level. Research has consistently shown that people perform better when they experience some anxiety rather
than none at all. It also allows people to make quick decisions regarding potentially dangerous situations. For example, it may keep someone from walking into a dark alley late
at night, or jump quickly out of the way of a car.
However, just as a lack of anxiety can lead to poor performance, an excess of anxiety can also inhibit people from
functioning at a high level. When anxiety becomes extreme
or a chronic part of people’s lives, it has transitioned from
a useful indicator of danger into a maladaptive reaction.
An example of this transformation would occur if a person
feared not only dark alleys at night but also safe shopping
malls on Saturday afternoons.
The Anxiety Disorders category of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition–Text
Revision (DSM-IV-TR) includes a number of separate disorders. These disorders share the common feature of excessive
or irrational anxiety, and they differ as to what prompts the
anxiety, or how one reacts to it. For example, Panic Disorder
is characterized by panic attacks, sudden rushes of intense
fear and physical sensations, that seem to come from out of
the blue. Panic Disorder is often accompanied by
Agoraphobia, avoidance of situations related to those out-ofthe-blue panic attacks. Someone who has panic attacks or
strong anxiety in response to a specific situation, however,
would be diagnosed with Specific Phobia (e.g., a fear of
heights, or of dogs); if the fear was of social interactions, of
negative evaluation by others, the diagnosis would be Social
Phobia. Other anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety
Disorder, excessive and uncontrollable worrying;
Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder, intrusive repetitive
thoughts or images and engaging in specific behaviors to
neutralize those thoughts (e.g., repetitive handwashing to
reduce thoughts of being contaminated); Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD), symptoms such as reexperiencing
and avoidance that stem from a traumatic event and have persisted for at least a month; and Acute Stress Disorder, symptoms such as emotional numbing that arise shortly following
a traumatic event.
Because everyone experiences some anxiety, and
because some anxiety is normal, not all experiences of
anxiety are classified as anxiety disorders. However, when
the anxiety becomes highly distressing and/or interferes
with one’s functioning, therapy may be needed to reduce
these feelings.
Cognitive–behavioral therapy is the most empirically
supported psychosocial treatment for anxiety disorders. The
cognitive–behavioral understanding of anxiety disorders is
largely based on learning theory. Mowrer’s two-factor theory suggests that anxiety disorders are created initially via
classical conditioning, and then maintained via operant conditioning. According to this theory, anxiety develops when a
neutral stimulus becomes paired with an aversive response.
For example, someone who was bitten by a spider begins to
pair the concept of “spider” with anxious feelings through
classical conditioning. The person then realizes that he or
she feels better by avoiding spiders, and the drop in anxiety
that follows that avoidance acts as a negative reinforcer,
increasing the likelihood that the person will continue to
avoid spiders in the future.
Cognitive factors can also play a large role in the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders, because in
addition to learned associations, anxiety can also result from
people’s perceptions of a given situation. For example,
while one person bitten by a spider may begin to think of all
spiders as dangerous, another might instead note that the
bite was annoying, but not particularly dangerous, because
the spider wasn’t poisonous. The first person might then be
expected to develop a spider phobia, due in part to the perception that the spider bite was dangerous, while the second
person develops no such disorder.
Cognitive–behavioral treatments for anxiety disorders
generally directly target the hypothesized causal and especially maintaining factors. Treatment usually focuses on
physiological, behavioral, and cognitive responses of anxiety. There are a number of manualized treatment packages
that have been developed to target specific anxiety disorders,
and these have generally been shown to be quite effective
in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of the targeted
disorder. The treatments vary somewhat depending on the
anxiety disorder, but most share many common features
including the use of exposure, cognitive challenging,
relaxation, and psychoeducation.
Exposure is generally considered the treatment of
choice for anxiety disorders, and is a major component of
most empirically supported anxiety treatments. It involves
confronting anxiety-provoking stimuli in a controlled way
until anxiety is reduced, to end the tendency to avoid anxious feelings or stimuli. In addition, exposure helps clients
realize that their anxiety will eventually decrease even without avoidance and that their unrealistic, negative beliefs are
not true. Treatment is generally based on a hierarchy of anxiety-provoking situations, and can either be done gradually,
where less distressing situations are mastered before moving
on to harder ones, or through flooding, where the person is
immediately confronted with the most anxiety-producing
Three main types of exposure are generally used for the
treatment of anxiety. The first is imaginal exposure. In imaginal exposure, clients imagine themselves in fear-producing
situations. Imaginal exposure is used most often in situations such as PTSD where the anxiety-producing situation
cannot be reproduced and when it is the memories of the
event that are frightening to the person. Imaginal exposure
can also be used in the treatment of other disorders as an
early hierarchy item, and it can help to familiarize people
with the process of exposure.
34 Anxiety—Adult
The second type is in vivo exposure, which refers to
real-life exposure. This is where the person confronts the
anxiety-producing stimuli explicitly either in the therapy
session or during exposure exercises outside of treatment.
Examples may include treatment for a Specific Phobia to
dogs where a dog is brought into treatment, or having a
person with Social Phobia call someone from his/her class.
The third type is interoceptive exposure, which is
designed to lessen fears of bodily sensations by systematically and repeatedly inducing them, such as by spinning in
a chair to induce dizziness. It is often used to treat Panic
Disorder because in this disorder it is one’s own physical
sensations that are feared.
For some anxiety disorders, exposure is combined
with various forms of response prevention in order to break
the association between feelings of anxiety and a learned
response. For example, many people with anxiety learn to
associate certain behaviors, places, or people with safety.
Some people with Agoraphobia feel less anxious going far
from home if they have a cell phone with them to call for
help; exposure in this case would involve not leaving home,
but doing so without the cell phone. Distraction is another
response to anxiety that is prevented in exposure therapy;
instead, clients are instructed to fully experience the feelings
of anxiety that are produced during the exposure exercises.
Finally, a more formal type of response prevention is used in
treating Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder, in which compulsions that serve to reduce anxiety are part of the disorder. In
this treatment, prolonged exposure to the obsessions (e.g.,
by touching something one fears is contaminated) is combined with response prevention in which the compulsion is
prohibited (e.g., no handwashing).
Cognitive challenging is another useful treatment for
anxiety disorders. Cognitive challenging is based on the
assumption that thoughts play a powerful role in producing
and maintaining anxiety, as in the spider bite example discussed earlier. The theory behind cognitive challenging suggests that people develop automatic thoughts that are often
inaccurate. These thoughts are called automatic because
people are usually unaware of them. A common automatic
thought may be “If I have a panic attack in the store, I will
pass out and no one will help me.” During cognitive challenging, clients are taught to recognize automatic thoughts,
test their accuracy, and challenge thoughts that are inaccurate or unhelpful.
Using the example above, cognitive challenging would
be done by first identifying the specific automatic thoughts,
which in this case include (1) having a panic attack in the
store, (2) passing out, and (3) not being helped. These
thoughts are then examined for their accuracy. In examining
the likelihood of having a panic attack, questions such as
“How often have you been to the store before? How many
of those times have you panicked? How many have you not
panicked?” might reveal that in fact the likelihood of panicking in the store is quite high, and thus that that thought is
not particularly inaccurate. In examining the likelihood of
passing out, questions such as “Have you ever passed out
from a panic attack?” may show that passing out isn’t nearly
as likely as the client is assuming. Finally, questions such as
“Would you help someone?” or “Have you ever seen someone who needed help ignored?” may suggest that the probability of being left alone passed out on the floor is really
quite low. Thus, while it may be likely that the client will
have a panic attack, the feared consequences of that attack
aren’t nearly as likely as the automatic thoughts suggested.
In addition, clients are taught to evaluate whether their
feared consequences would really be so bad. For example, in
this case, the consequences may be that the client would get
bruises from falling, or be embarrassed by passing out in
public, but that both of these are manageable and tolerable
situations with no lasting harm.
Automatic thoughts may fall into two general categories, maladaptive thoughts and irrational thinking. Maladaptive thoughts are those that seem logical; however,
focusing on them increases anxiety and supports irrational
thoughts. Common categories of maladaptive thoughts in
anxiety include cognitive avoidance and rumination.
Cognitive avoidance is too little focus on anxiety-producing
thoughts. These thoughts are avoided at all costs, to the
extent that the client may not perceive the source of anxiety.
Rumination is in some ways the opposite of cognitive avoidance: repetitive, intrusive anxious thoughts that do not help
decrease anxiety. Rumination is commonly seen in clients
with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, who may, for example,
spend all day worrying about paying bills without actually
putting a check in the mail. Cognitive avoidance and rumination are not mutually exclusive, and people with anxiety
often alternate between the two.
A second category of automatic thoughts is irrational
thinking. For example, someone with PTSD might think,
“I was assaulted in a parking lot; therefore, parking lots are
dangerous,” an example of overgeneralizing. Catastrophizing,
a common type of irrational thinking in anxiety, is the tendency to think that something is intolerable or unbearable.
Using the panic attack example from earlier, the thought
that passing out would be a horrible thing is an example of
catastrophizing; it might not be pleasant, but it’s not as
awful a possibility as the person initially assumed. Two other
common types of irrational thoughts are mind reading, when
someone infers what another person is thinking, often
assuming something negative while ignoring other possibilities, and emotional reasoning, when people make inferences about something based on their feelings, such as
“Because I am scared driving over this bridge, the bridge
must be dangerous.” In all of these cases, the key to change
is in realizing that thoughts and feelings are not facts, and
need not be acted on as if they were. By identifying the specific thoughts, and evaluating their accuracy and utility, people can begin to challenge irrational or unhelpful thoughts,
leading to less anxiety.
Another common method used in CBT for anxiety is
physical relaxation, which can be especially useful because
of the large physical component of anxiety, and because
relaxation methods are often fairly easy to learn and
use. Breathing retraining is one such method. People often
begin hyperventilating when they become anxious. This
irregular breathing leads to decreases in the amount of carbon dioxide in the person’s body, which leads to symptoms
such as breathlessness and dizziness. Breathing retraining
teaches clients to take long, slow diaphragmatic breaths in
order to combat the symptoms associated with hyperventilation. Clients generally learn to slow their breathing by pacing it to a count by the therapist, who slowly counts out the
time to inhale and the time to exhale. Breathing retraining
can often be learned effectively in an initial treatment
session, providing not only a tool to be practiced for times
of higher anxiety, but also giving the client a feeling of
immediate control.
Another method of physical control is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Anxiety evolved to prepare the body to
complete some action, so when anxiety occurs, the body
becomes alert. However, when people feel continuous anxiety, their bodies continuously remain at a high level of alertness. As a result of this alertness, the muscles of the body
remain tense, which can lead to muscle aches and soreness as
the body tires. PMR teaches clients to recognize when their
muscles are tense and to consciously relax them. In PMR,
clients systematically tense and relax the various muscles in
their bodies, often doing so in increasing groupings over time
(so that, for example, initially each muscle is tensed separately, and later, four or eight muscles at a time are tensed).
This technique is often used for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
because muscle tension is one of its prominent symptoms, but
it can be useful for other anxiety disorders as well.
Psychoeducation is a critical part of cognitive–behavioral
treatment for anxiety. Simply helping clients understand why
they are experiencing symptoms and that others have them
as well can make the symptoms less frightening. Psychoeducation also provides a rationale for treatment.
Psychoeducation typically involves defining anxiety
according to three components: thoughts, behavior, and
physical. This makes the problem seem less overwhelming
and helps organize treatment by focusing on each of these
components. The nature and reason for anxiety is often discussed in psychoeducation, so that clients understand the
universality of the emotion, and its importance as a survival
mechanism. Finally, psychoeducation helps clients realize
that their symptoms are not insurmountable and that therapy
involves treatment methods that make rational sense.
Cognitive–behavioral treatments for anxiety disorders
have been empirically supported as effective in reducing
anxiety symptoms. While these treatments have generally
been targeted to specific disorders, a more recent trend has
been to focus on commonalities among anxiety disorders, so
that treatments can address these commonalities across
diagnoses rather than using a different treatment package for
each disorder. Clinical researchers have also been making
strides in expanding the CBT packages that are available to
additional populations, such as tailoring them to children, or
to people with multiple diagnoses (such as those with both
anxiety and substance abuse problems), and in disseminating these treatments to a broader range of clinicians.
See also: Anxiety/anger management training (AMT), Anxiety—
Children, Anxiety in Children—FRIENDS program, Exposure
therapy, Generalized anxiety disorder, Social anxiety disorder 1,
Social anxiety disorder 2
Antony, M. M., Orsillo, S. M., & Roemer, L. (2001). Practitioner’s guide
to empirically based measures of anxiety. New York: Kluwer
Barlow, D. H. (2004). Anxiety and its disorders (2nd ed.). New York:
Guilford Press.
Morris, T. L. & March, J. S. (2004). Anxiety disorders in children and
adolescents (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
36 Anxiety/Anger Management Training (AMT)
Anxiety/Anger Management
Training (AMT)
Richard M. Suinn and Jerry L. Deffenbacher
Keywords: anxiety, anger management
Both anxiety and anger conditions can impair performance,
influence health, or lead to psychological disorders. High
anxiety affects academic work, mathematics learning, test
taking, public speaking, and sport performance. Anxiety can
be an obstacle to psychotherapy and increases vulnerability
to physical illness.
Uncontrolled anger can have negative outcomes such
as loss of employment, or family disruption. Anger can
precipitate risk-taking/impulsive behaviors leading to
self-injurious behaviors, property damage, and school or
workplace violence. Finally, anger increases a person’s vulnerability to physical illness. Although there is no current
formal diagnostic category for anger, dysfunctional anger is
associated with intermittent explosive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, impulse control
disorders, and a number of personality disorders.
Anxiety/Anger Management Training (AMT) is a brief,
structured intervention that is a proven intervention for both
anxiety and anger and related conditions.
In the early 1970s, Anxiety Management Training was
developed as a behavioral alternative for treatment of
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Over the years,
research documented its efficacy for GAD, phobic disorders,
PTSD, and other conditions with anxiety as a primary factor,
such as tension headaches, essential hypertension, dysmenorrhea, test or mathematics anxiety, and athletic or artistic performance. In 1986, the basic AMT approach was used for
anger management. Since then, numerous studies have confirmed the appropriateness of AMT for anger. Hence, AMT
can be viewed as a cognitive–behavioral intervention for
either anxiety or anger management.
AMT is based on the learning principle that conceptualizes
anxiety as a drive state such that individuals can learn behaviors
that eliminate the drive. In essence, anxiety is viewed as having
stimulus properties to which new behaviors can be linked, such
as coping responses. AMT is founded on the view that clients
can be taught: first, to identify their personal signs—physical,
emotional, cognitive, behavioral—that signal the onset of anxiety or anger and then, to react to these signs using coping
cognitive–behavioral responses that remove the emotionality.
The use of AMT for either anxiety or anger states recognizes that these emotional states have much in common.
Both involve levels of arousal. Clients can be taught to recognize signs of arousal and use them to cue coping skills.
Control of each involves a type of impulse control. AMT
aims at gaining control by deactivating the arousal, whether
anxiety arousal or anger arousal.
It is noteworthy that where anxiety has no specific
focus, then the diagnosis of GAD is appropriate. However,
anxiety can be directly linked to specific stimulus precipitants, such as in phobic disorders. Similarly, anger can be
unfocused, in which case the individual is unpredictable
about when the anger is precipitated. However, for some, the
anger is specifically prompted such as in child abuse or
angry drivers. AMT results are not dependent on the specificity of precipitants; hence, this intervention is appropriate
for focused or unfocused arousal states.
AMT is a six- to eight-session structured exposure–
relaxation procedure. AMT aims at self-regulation through
gradually requiring the client to assume more and more
responsibility for deactivating the arousal. Core characteristics
include guided imagery, anxiety or anger arousal, use of relaxation and cognitive techniques for emotional deactivation or
prevention, and transfer of such coping to the external environment. Self-monitoring and homework are also included.
Guided imagery is used to precipitate anxiety or anger
arousal during sessions, in order for the client to practice use
of coping responses to eliminate the arousal, i.e., to deactivate
the arousal. Clients are not required to identify the causes or
stimuli that precipitate the anxiety or anger. For example,
a client suffering from GAD need only recall clearly an event
such as, “The last time I became extremely anxious involved
a discussion with my spouse which ended in our arguing. We
were talking about ___, and I was saying ___. At this point I
was overwhelmed by feelings that got in my way. … ”
Later, clients also are taught to become aware of their initial arousal and to identify the early warning signals that anxiety or anger is developing. As the sessions proceed, the coping
is activated to these early signals, as a means of controlling the
anxiety or anger before the emotion builds to an uncontrollable
level, i.e., in effect a prevention step (Deffenbacher, Filetti,
Lynch, Dahler & Oetting, 2002; Deffenbacher & Stark,
1992). Such early signs might be physiological, emotional,
behavioral, or cognitive and these signs are used to prompt the
deactivation through relaxation responses.
Anxiety/Anger Management Training (AMT)
Termination attends to steps to maintain the emotional
control and to prevent relapse. For some clients, gaining
control over the emotional arousal is sufficient to resolve
dysfunctional consequences and allows them to access and
deploy other social, interpersonal, and problem-solving
skills so that no further intervention is necessary. For others,
additional interventions are needed (see section on integration
of AMT with other interventions).
The efficacy of AMT with a variety of disorders and
problems has received considerable research support (see
Suinn, 1990, and Suinn & Deffenbacher, 1988, for review).
AMT was developed to address general anxiety and
stress. AMT effectively lowers high-anxiety conditions
such as high trait anxiety, GAD, PTSD, panic disorder, high
levels of generalized tension and stress, and multiple
sources of stress. For example, AMT reduced anxiety and
use of anxiety medication in patients with GAD; lowered
anxiety, avoidance, and intrusions of trauma memories in
veterans suffering from PTSD; and reduced general anxiety
and anger in schizophrenic outpatients while improving
these patients’ overall psychiatric status. Thus, AMT
appears applicable and effective with highly anxious,
stressed populations including those with severe pathology.
AMT also successfully reduces phobias and situational
anxieties such as test, math, and public speaking anxieties.
For example, AMT lowered mathematics anxiety and
improved math performance in math-anxious university
students. AMT is also effective with other performance
anxieties (e.g., music or athletic performance), even when
the level of anxiety is not sufficient to warrant a diagnosable
social phobia. Moreover, AMT lowered anxiety and indecision in vocationally undecided college students. Together,
such research shows AMT is effective with situational
anxieties and performance problems.
AMT is also of value with patients suffering from
physical diseases associated with stress. For example, AMT
lowered anxiety and stress in generally anxious and stressed
medical outpatients and was of help to patients with conditions such as diabetes, Type A behavior, essential hypertension, painful menstruation, and other gynecological
conditions. AMT also has potential for training preventive
coping skills. For example, AMT can be valuable in teaching relaxation coping skills to deal with distressing, uncomfortable, or painful medical procedures.
AMT is effective with other high-arousal emotional
states. For example, AMT effectively lowered both general
anger and specific sources of anger such as anger while
driving. In applying AMT to other dysfunctional emotions,
procedures remain essentially the same, except that emotionrelevant (e.g., anger) scenes rather than anxiety or stress
scenes are employed to arouse emotion and train the application of relaxation coping skills.
Throughout outcome research, AMT was significantly
more effective than no treatment, simple relaxation, and
placebo control conditions. AMT effects have been maintained or slightly increased over short- and long-term
follow-ups. When nontargeted measures (e.g., other sources
of anxiety, anger, and depression) were included, AMT
demonstrated generalization effects, i.e., AMT not only
reduced problems that were the focus of treatment, but
showed transfer effects to other problems as well. AMT was
also generally as effective as other active treatments. For
example, AMT was as effective as other relaxation interventions such as relaxation and self-control, self-control desensitization, and systematic desensitization, and, in some cases,
led to greater generalization to nontargeted problems. AMT
was equivalent in effectiveness to stress inoculation training,
cognitive restructuring, cognitive therapy, cognitive relaxation, and social skill interventions, and AMT may be more
effective than psychodynamic therapy. In summary, AMT is
an empirically supported intervention for various anxiety and
stress conditions, stress-related medical conditions, and other
emotions such as anger. It leads to meaningful, maintained
change in targeted problems, shows transfer effects in many
cases, and is as effective as other interventions.
AMT may be conducted with individuals or in
small groups. Group AMT requires several adaptations.
(1) Groups are generally limited to 6 to 10 members since
some research suggests a small group format may be more
effective than large groups. (2) The number of sessions
should be increased by two or three sessions to accommodate the slower members. (3) Sessions should be lengthened
by approximately 30 minutes to allow time to attend to individual issues of all participants. This helps build a positive
working alliance and helps clients feel individual issues are
receiving attention. If sessions cannot be lengthened, an
additional session or two may be needed to handle individual issues over time. (4) Groups can be composed of
individuals with similar problems or can be quite heterogeneous, reflecting a wide variety of concerns. Therapists
accommodate patient differences by having clients specify
different scene content and having scenes labeled Scene 1
and 2. The therapist triggers off different scenes by instructing clients generally with some instruction such as to
visualize their “first stress scene.” Clients, therefore, can
38 Anxiety/Anger Management Training (AMT)
visualize quite different scenes of approximately the same
arousal intensity. (5) Homework to develop relaxation and
anxiety scenes is important in individual AMT, but even
more important in group AMT, if time is to be used efficiently. Clients develop detailed scenes between sessions so
that they can be quickly shaped up and so that the group is
not slowed down by the need to develop scenes during the
sessions. In summary, with a few modifications, AMT can
be delivered efficiently in small groups, and although there
are no studies comparing the relative effectiveness of group
versus individual AMT, a considerable literature shows that
group AMT is very effective.
AMT is easily integrated into a comprehensive, multicomponent treatment plan. For example, AMT might be
mixed with sexual therapy for an anxious, timid, avoidant
person experiencing a sexual dysfunction. Increasing control over anxiety and tension might assist the individual in
talking more comfortably about sexual issues, approaching
sexual encounters, and engaging in sex therapy homework.
AMT might be integrated with cognitive therapy methods
for a combined relaxation–cognitive coping skill intervention. In this format, both relaxation and cognitive strategies
are rehearsed during the arousal induction/reduction procedures. Such cognitive–relaxation approach can broaden the
applicability of AMT to persons who may be more responsive to cognitive strategies, but where purely cognitive
restructuring methods have not helped. AMT can be integrated with behavioral rehearsal activities such that clients
not only lower anxiety, but also visually rehearse appropriate behavior (e.g., assertiveness for a timid client). AMT can
also be integrated with other nonbehavioral interventions
(e.g., medications, career counseling, and psychodynamic
therapy). For example, the combination of AMT and career
counseling was most effective for anxious, vocationally
indecisive individuals. Further, AMT was employed as an
adjunct to ongoing psychodynamic psychotherapy for outpatient schizophrenics. Those receiving AMT lowered their
anxiety and anger, but also were better able to use psychodynamic therapy. In another study, patients with GAD
lowered general anxiety and voluntarily sought further
psychotherapy for other personal and emotional concerns,
suggesting AMT facilitated further psychotherapeutic
involvement. In summary, AMT with its focus on arousal
reduction can be easily integrated with a wide variety of
Although AMT is applicable with a wide range of
clients and problems, some cautions are in order. (1) AMT
has a self-control rationale, i.e., clients learn to employ
relaxation skills for active anxiety/stress control. Some
clients may not enter treatment with self-control expectancies consistent with the model and may resist learning anxiety self-management skills. (2) Another potential difficulty
can be with patients initially too fearful at experiencing
anxiety or anger arousal in the session, despite the therapist’s assurance that the emotions will remain under control.
Alternative interventions (e.g., systematic desensitization)
might be chosen with a movement toward AMT procedures
and rationale as client self-efficacy improved. (3) Clients
must agree that AMT is an appropriate approach to the
presenting problem. Without agreement on therapeutic
approaches, the working alliance is likely to be breached
and therapeutic impasses to ensue. For example, if clients
were committed to a drug or spiritual intervention for anxiety reduction, or to a psychodynamic/humanistic therapy,
then AMT would not fit their conceptualization of appropriate treatment, and AMT could be rejected. (4) Clients must
have the cognitive and motivational capacities to follow
through on the procedures of AMT. For example, they must
be able to visualize images, become aroused, and follow
instruction in relaxation methods. Without these basic characteristics, AMT is likely to fail. Sometimes, such difficulties can be circumvented. For example, if the client has
difficulty visualizing, then an in vivo approach to anxiety
induction might be employed. (5) Relaxation training sometimes induces rather than reduces anxiety (i.e., relaxationinduced anxiety). This can usually be resolved by changing
to an alternative relaxation training procedure, repeating
relaxation training in small steps, and/or counterdemand
instructions and expectancies. If relaxation-induced anxiety
cannot be reduced, an alternative intervention should be
developed. (6) Religious and cultural factors must be taken
into account. For example, some religious groups consider
AMT a meditative procedure, which is counter to the
person’s belief system. Either AMT must be recast in a
culturally congruent manner or an alternative culturally
appropriate intervention should be sought. (7) Although
AMT has been successfully adapted to angry middle school
youth and elderly anxious patients, empirical support for
AMT is limited primarily to young and middle-aged, white
non-Hispanic adults. With these cautions, AMT should be
considered an effective, empirically supported intervention
for many anxiety, stress, and arousal states.
AMT has shown considerable clinical flexibility and
adaptability. Future research and application should continue to map applicability to other arousal-related conditions
such as shame, guilt, or dysthymia, or impulse control issues
such as hyperactivity. The effectiveness of AMT alone
and/or in combination with other psychological and medical
interventions should be evaluated. The value of AMT as a
preventive coping skill either with children or with at-risk
populations such as individuals undergoing elective surgery,
extensive dental procedures, or serving as caregivers for
difficult populations should be explored. AMT also awaits
culturally sensitive adaptations to and empirical validation
in diverse populations.
See also: Anxiety—adult, Anxiety—children, Anxiety in children—
FRIENDS program, Exposure therapy, Generalized anxiety disorder,
Social anxiety disorder 1, Social anxiety disorder 2
Cragan, M. K., & Deffenbacher, J. L. (1984). Anxiety management training
and relaxation as self-control in the treatment of generalized anxiety
in medical outpatients. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31,
Deffenbacher, J. L., Filetti, L. B., Lynch, R. S., Dahlen, E. R., &
Oetting, E. R. (2002). Cognitive–behavioral treatment of high anger
drivers. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 895–910.
Deffenbacher, J. L., & Stark, R. S. (1992). Relaxation and cognitive-relaxation treatments of general anger. Journal of Counseling Psychology,
39, 158–167.
Suinn, R. M. (1990). Anxiety management training: A behavior therapy.
New York: Plenum Press.
Suinn, R. M., & Deffenbacher, J. L. (1988). Anxiety management training.
The Counseling Psychologist, 16, 31–49.
Thomas H. Ollendick and Laura D. Seligman
Keywords: behavior therapy, children and adolescents, cognitive
behavior therapy, developmental issues, evidence-based practice
The anxiety disorders describe a broad spectrum of syndromes ranging from very circumscribed anxiety to pervasive, sometimes “free-floating” anxiety or worry. With the
1994 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders and the 1992 rendition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related
Health Problems, the symptoms of young persons (as well
as adults) can now be categorized with eight major but
separate diagnostic syndromes associated with anxiety:
panic disorder with agoraphobia, panic disorder without
agoraphobia, agoraphobia without history of panic, specific
phobia, social phobia, obsessive–compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Additionally, the DSM-IV and ICD-10 specify one anxiety
diagnosis specific to childhood, separation anxiety disorder.
Earlier versions of the DSM included two additional anxiety
diagnoses specific to childhood, namely, avoidant disorder
and overanxious disorder. In the most recent revision, however, avoidant disorder and overanxious disorder have been
subsumed under the categories of social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder, respectively.
Although diagnostic systems such as the DSM and ICD
describe anxiety as falling into several distinct syndromes or
categories, there is also a rich body of literature examining
anxiety at the symptom level. Rather than defining categorical distinctions, this view embraces a dimensional
approach, examining the number of anxiety symptoms experienced by children and adolescents and the frequency or
severity of such symptoms. This tradition is perhaps best
exemplified in the work of Achenbach and his colleagues
and the development of such instruments as the Child
Behavior Checklist, Teacher Report Form, and Youth SelfReport (Achenbach, 1991). Suffice it to indicate here that
the dimensional approach oftentimes detects subsyndromal
levels of anxiety in addition to the presence of clinical syndromes. Along with diagnostic status, it is frequently used as
an outcome measure when evaluating treatment efficacy.
As is evident from the above discussion, a broad range
of topics is subsumed under the heading of anxiety disorders
in childhood. We have chosen to delimit our review of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and its efficacy to the perspective that examines anxiety as a syndrome or disorder
and, more specifically, to the examination of separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety/overanxious disorder, and
social phobia. Due to space constraints the current brief
commentary cannot address the remainder of the anxiety
disorders in sufficient depth; moreover, several recent books
provide excellent resources for the interested reader on the
treatment of these and other anxiety disorders of childhood
(see Ollendick & March, 2003).
Before proceeding to treatment outcome, it should be
mentioned that the anxiety disorders are the most commonly
occurring disorders of childhood and adolescence (with estimates ranging from 15% to 20%) and that the comorbidity
of anxiety disorders with one another and with other disorders is frequent. Most anxiety disorders are comorbid with
at least one other anxiety disorder and many are comorbid
with an affective disorder (e.g., major depression, dysthymia).
In fact, considering lifetime diagnoses, researchers have
found co-occurring anxiety disorders to be the rule in childhood (approximately 75%) and unipolar depression to be the
most common comorbid diagnosis (approximately 65%) in
adolescence. Furthermore, although anxiety and disruptive
behavior are often thought to represent polar opposites,
comorbidity of anxiety and the disruptive behavior disorders
is not uncommon. Estimates of the comorbidity of disruptive
disorders and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents
40 Anxiety—Children
are as high as 25% to 33%. Thus, when treating children
with anxiety disorders, it is important to keep in mind that
these other disorders will also need to be addressed in many
of these youngsters.
The major factors distinguishing CBT for children from
other psychosocial interventions for youth are their focus on
maladaptive learning histories and erroneous or overly rigid
thought patterns as the cause for the development and maintenance of psychological symptoms and disorders. As such,
CBT for children is focused on the here and now rather than
oriented toward uncovering historical antecedents of maladaptive behavior or thought patterns. Treatment goals are
clearly determined and parents and youth seeking treatment
are asked to consider the types of changes they are hoping to
see as a result of treatment. Progress is monitored throughout treatment using objective indicators of change, such as
monitoring forms and rating devices. CBT for children also
emphasizes a skills building approach, and thus is often
action-oriented, directive, and frequently educative in
nature. For this reason, CBT typically includes a homework
component in which the skills learned in treatment are practiced outside the therapy room. Moreover, given its focus on
the context of the behavior, treatments for children often
incorporate skills components for parents, teachers, and
sometimes even siblings or peers. Because the focus is on
teaching the child and his or her family and teachers the
skills necessary to effectively cope with or eliminate the
child’s symptoms of anxiety, the child and significant others
become direct agents of change. In effect, they function as
“co-therapists” and control of treatment is frequently “transferred” to them. In brief, CBT is designed to be time-limited
and relatively short-term, rarely extending beyond 6 months
of active treatment. In addition to the active treatment phase,
CBT for anxious children may incorporate spaced-out
“booster sessions” that extend over a longer period of time
(i.e., another 4 to 6 months) to ensure maintenance and
durability of change.
Surprisingly, no randomized, controlled between-group
design outcome studies examining the efficacy of CBT with
children evincing anxiety disorders, other than simple or
specific phobias, existed until recently. However, several
controlled single-case design studies provided preliminary
support for the likely efficacy of behavioral and cognitive–
behavioral procedures with overanxious, separation anxious, and socially phobic children (see Ollendick & March,
2003). These early studies provided the foundation for the
between-group design studies that followed in evaluating
the efficacy of CBT.
Cognitive–behavioral treatment for anxiety disorders in
children, as pioneered by Philip Kendall and his colleagues
(1992), serves as a prototype of these newer interventions.
It is focused on both cognitive and behavioral components.
Cognitive strategies are used to assist the child to recognize
anxious cognition, to use awareness of such cognition as a cue
for managing anxiety, and to help them cope more effectively
in anxiety-provoking situations. In addition, behavioral strategies such as modeling, in vivo exposure to the anxiety cues,
role-play, relaxation training, and reinforced practice are
used. A workbook is typically provided to the parents and
the child and weekly monitoring of gains is pursued. Thus, the
cognitive–behavioral procedures are broad in scope and
incorporate many of the elements of treatments used historically with phobic children.
In the first manualized between-group study, Kendall
and his colleagues compared the outcome of a 16-session
CBT treatment to a wait-list control condition. Children and
their families were treated individually. Forty-seven 9- to
13-year-olds were assigned randomly to treatment or waitlist conditions. All of the children met diagnostic criteria for
overanxious disorder, separation anxiety disorder, or social
phobia and over half of them were comorbid with at least
one other psychiatric disorder or an affective disorder.
Treated children improved on a number of dimensions; perhaps the most dramatic difference was the percentage of
children not meeting criteria for an anxiety disorder at the
end of treatment—64% of treated cases versus 5% of the
wait-list children. At follow-up 1 and 3 years later, and then
again 7 years later, improvements were maintained and, in
fact, were enhanced. Kendall and colleagues have reaffirmed the efficacy of this procedure with 94 children (aged
9–13) randomly assigned to cognitive–behavioral and waitlist control conditions. Seventy-one percent of the treated
children did not meet diagnostic criteria at the end of treatment compared to 5% of those in the wait-list condition.
Recently, they have obtained similar findings using a group
treatment format. In addition, other researchers in the
United States, as well as Australia, the Netherlands, and the
United Kingdom, have replicated these findings using interventions either based on this intervention or very similar to
it. Treatments have been delivered in both group and individual formats and the number of sessions has ranged from
10 to 18. Similar findings to those obtained by Kendall and
colleagues have been noted in these programs.
As one example, subsequent to Kendall’s first randomized clinical trial, his CBT approach was evaluated independently by a different investigatory team in Australia
headed by Paula Barrett, Mark Dadds, and Ron Rapee.
Children (aged 7 to 14) were assigned randomly to one
of three groups: individual CBT, individual CBT plus
Family Anxiety Management, and a wait-list control.
The cognitive–behavioral treatment was intended to be a
replication of that used by Kendall (although it was shortened to 12 sessions). At the end of treatment, 57% of the
anxious children receiving individual CBT were diagnosis
free, compared to 26% of the wait-list children; at 6-month
follow-up 71% of the treated children were diagnosis free
(wait-list children were treated in the interim). In this study,
as noted above, a CBT plus Family Anxiety Management
component was also examined. In this condition, the children were treated individually and the parents were trained
in how to reward courageous behavior and how to extinguish reports of excessive anxiety in their children. More
specifically, parents were trained in reinforcement strategies
including verbal praise, privileges, and tangible rewards to
be made contingent on facing up to feared situations.
Planned ignoring was used as a method for dealing with
excessive complaining and anxious behaviors; that is, the
parents were trained to listen and respond empathetically to
the children’s complaints the first time they occurred but
then to withdraw attention if the complaints persisted. In this
treatment condition, 84% of the children were diagnosis free
immediately following treatment, a rate that persisted at
6-month follow-up. Thus, this treatment was superior to
cognitive–behavioral treatment directed toward the child
alone (57% diagnosis free) and the wait-list control condition (26% diagnosis free). Even better results were obtained
at 3- and 6-year follow-up: nearly 90% of the children in the
combined treatment condition were diagnosis free compared
to about 80% in the individual CBT condition. Thus, it
appears to be a very promising treatment package.
In summary, cognitive–behavioral and behavioral treatments have been shown to be quite effective with anxiety disorders in children. It should be noted that these treatments
have been used primarily with anxious children between 7
and 14 years of age and, as with other problem areas and disorders, additional research is required to determine whether
these treatments will be effective with adolescents.
One challenge currently facing CBT practitioners and
researchers is how to more fully integrate developmental theory with cognitive–behavioral theory. As noted above,
Kendall’s CBT protocol appears to be particularly effective
with children but its applicability, suitability, and efficacy
with adolescents remain to be determined. What changes
will need to be made in order to establish its efficacy with
adolescents? And with preschool children? Similarly,
it remains to be seen to what extent individual and family
characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion necessitate modification in CBT
for children. As one brief example, Kendall’s CBT protocol
was found to be less effective with boys than girls in the
Australian study mentioned above. Moreover, the intervention has rarely been used with minority children and thus its
efficacy with these youngsters is untested. As research continues to establish the effectiveness of a growing number of
CBTs for children, additional efficacy studies as well as
studies examining moderators of treatment outcome (i.e.,
the conditions under which it is effective) will need to be
Understanding why CBT for children works and
whether the mechanisms are the same for children, adolescents, and adults will also be an important challenge to meet
in the future. Studies need to test mediational models as well
as break down current CBT treatment packages to isolate the
necessary and sufficient components. Recently, we have
questioned the extent to which cognitive change occurs in
CBT with anxious children and whether the acquisition of
coping strategies is critical to its efficacy (Prins &
Ollendick, 2003). Lastly, as we find more effective treatments, we must focus our energies on whether these same
types of interventions or modified forms of CBT can be
effective in preventing as well as ameliorating psychological
disorders and symptoms in youth. CBT is an effective intervention with anxious children; however, much more remains
to be done before we can rest on our laurels.
See also: Anxiety—adult, Anxiety in children—FRIENDS
program, Children—behavior therapy
Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Integrative guide for the 1991 CBCL/ 4–18, YSR,
and TRF profiles. Burlington: University of Vermont.
Kendall, P. C., Chansky, T. E., Kane, M. T., Kim, R. S., Kortlander, E.,
Ronan, K. R., Sessa, F. M., & Siqueland, L. (1992). Anxiety disorders
in youth: Cognitive–behavioral interventions. Needham Heights, MA:
Allyn & Bacon.
Ollendick, T. H., & March, J. S. (Eds.). (2003). Phobic and anxiety
disorders in children and adolescents: A clinician’s guide to effective
psychosocial and pharmacological interventions. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Prins, P. J. M., & Ollendick, T. H. (2003). Cognitive change and enhanced
coping: Missing mediational links in cognitive behavior therapy with
anxiety-disordered children. Clinical Child and Family Psychology
Review, 6, 87–105.
42 Anxiety in Children—FRIENDS Program
Anxiety in Children—FRIENDS Program
Paula M. Barrett and Robi Sonderegger
Keywords: anxiety, children, family, treatment, FRIENDS
Of all the problems experienced during childhood, anxiety is
the most common. Maladaptive coping-response behaviors
to anxiety can adversely impact school performance, social
competence, interpersonal relationships, and the way children think about themselves. Left untreated, anxiety can
have long-term implications for adult functioning. As such,
it is essential to equip children with skills to manage angst
and help prevent future emotional distress. Clinical research
endeavors have identified both cognitive and behavioral
techniques to be effective in targeting childhood anxiety
problems. When confronted with feared stimuli, the use of
competence-mediating self-statements serves to inhibit dysfunctional reactions (e.g., self-doubting and negativistic
self-talk). At a behavioral level, in vivo and imaginal exposure (desensitization through systematic confrontation of
anxiety-provoking stimuli), muscular relaxation, and contingency management (operant reinforcement of nonfearful
behaviors) serve to extinguish fearful behaviors. Over the
past decade, these applicable techniques have been combined in the development of individual, child-group, and
family cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) programs.
Of all clinical initiatives, CBT programs feature the
greatest empirical support. Considering anxiety as a multidimensional construct, CBT programs focus on the physiological, cognitive, and learning processes that are believed to
interact in the development, maintenance, and experience of
anxiety. Children are taught to be aware of somatic cues when
they are feeling anxious, and learn relaxation techniques so as
to eliminate tension, remain calm, and think clearly. Children
are also taught to recognize negative self-talk and challenge
unhelpful thoughts in positive ways. Because anxious children often exhibit perfectionist standards and unrealistic
self-evaluations, children are taught to concentrate on the positive aspects of anxiety-provoking situations, to which they
respond well. As detailed in Barrett and Shortt (in press), both
self-confidence and esteem are gained when opportunities to
reward and positively reinforce partial success are made available in step-problem-solving and graded exposure strategies
which confront fearful stimuli.
Kendall (1994) conducted the first randomized clinical
trial evaluating the efficacy of CBT for childhood anxiety,
comparing diagnostic change among 47 clinically anxious
children (aged 9 to 13). Children participated in either a
structured 16-session individual cognitive–behavioral treatment (ICBT) program or waitlist condition. Through comprehensive multimethod assessment, Kendall demonstrated
that CBT was effective in reducing primary anxiety
diagnoses among children from pre- to postintervention.
Treatment gains were maintained across 1- and 3.35-year
follow-up (Kendall & Southam-Gerow, 1996). Kendall’s
pioneering work has since been expanded on, with studies
also evaluating the efficacy of CBT for children in group
and family settings. Structured child-focused CBT programs
have also emerged such as the Coping Cat (Kendall, 1990),
Coping Koala (Barrett, 1995), and FRIENDS (Barrett,
Lowry-Webster, & Turner, 2000a, b) programs, which promote important personal development skills such as building
self-esteem, problem solving, and self-expression of ideas
and beliefs.
CBT for anxious children focuses on dysfunctional
cognitions (misperceptions of environmental threats and/or
one’s ability to cope) and how these affect the child’s subsequent emotions and behavior. ICBT aims to help children
develop new skills to cope with their specific circumstances,
facilitates new experiences to test dysfunctional as well as
adaptive beliefs, and assists in the processing of such experiences. Modeling and direct reinforcement are used to facilitate the child’s learning of new approach behaviors, and
cognitive strategies address processes such as information
processing style, attributions, and self-talk. Although ICBT
has been found effective in helping children to build emotional resilience, children also learn by observing and helping others. As such, group-based CBT (GCBT) programs
have been developed based on peer and experiential learning
models. Learning in a group context provides a safe and
familiar environment in which participants can gain peer
support, work in partnership, and practice newly learned
skills in fun ways.
In addition to a child’s social network, the family is considered to be a favorable environment for effecting change in
the child’s dysfunctional cognition. Therefore, CBT-based
family anxiety management (FAM) training programs have
also been developed to incorporate family-directed problemsolving strategies. In addition to helping parents recognize
and effectively manage their own emotional distress, and
Anxiety in Children—FRIENDS Program
identify behaviors that may advance or sustain their child’s
anxiety, parents are taught to utilize their own strengths as
care-providers by assisting their children to practice newly
developed coping skills, facilitate new experiences for children to test dysfunctional beliefs, and provide positive reinforcement. While parents typically participate in FAM
training as a supplement to their child’s ICBT or GCBT
involvement, FAM can also be conducted without child participation (parents only) or with the family unit as a whole
(parents and children participating as a collaborative “team”).
The FRIENDS program (Barrett, Lowry-Webster VI
and Turner, 2000a, b) is an internationally recognized CBT
program for anxious and depressed youth that has received
much acclaim in recent years. Originating with the development of the Group Coping Koala Workbook (Barrett, 1995),
an Australian adaptation of Kendall’s Coping Cat Workbook
(Kendall, 1990), parallel FRIENDS workbooks for children (aged 7–11) and adolescents (aged 12–16) have been
developed through extensive research and clinical validation
over the past decade. Set apart from other structured programs, FRIENDS also features a FAM parenting component. Although primarily developed as a GCBT program for
implementation by mental health professionals, FRIENDS
can also be utilized as ICBT with select clients. In addition,
teachers, counselors, or youth workers who have undergone
accredited training can implement FRIENDS in classroom
settings as a universal preventive intervention.
FRIENDS has a reputation as the only clinically validated early intervention program for anxiety and depression in
Australia, and has been distributed nationally under the Mental
Health Strategy (satisfying federal guidelines for evidencebased research). Its strong evidence base has encouraged international demand, with the program now being used, validated,
and translated in different languages around the world. While
culturally sensitive supplements to FRIENDS have also been
developed (Barrett, Sonderegger, & Sonderegger, 2001b),
recent studies (e.g., Barrett, Moore, & Sonderegger, 2000;
Barrett, Sonderegger, & Sonderegger, 2001a; Barrett,
Sonderegger, & Xenos, in press) have shown FRIENDS in its
current format to also be effective in reducing anxiety and
stress among culturally diverse migrants and refugee youth.
For more information on FRIENDS, see
Although high parental control, parental anxiety, and
parental reinforcement of avoidant coping strategies have
been associated with children’s anxiety symptoms (Shortt,
Barrett, Dadds, & Fox, 2001), parents can also be a valuable
resource in bringing about positive change in their children.
Howard and Kendall (1996) were the first to evaluate the
effectiveness of ICBT plus parent involvement using a multiple baseline design. Six clinically anxious children (aged
9–13) and their families participated in treatment that was
initiated following baseline assessment periods of 2, 4, or
6 weeks (during which time diagnostic criteria was maintained). Four of six clients experienced treatment gains from
pre- to posttreatment as indicated by self-, parent, and
teacher reports, and diagnostic ratings by clinicians who
were blind to participants’ treatment status. The remaining
two clients also showed treatment gains on most measures,
and for five of the six participants, improvements were generally maintained at 4-month follow-up.
Barrett, Dadds, and Rapee (1996) conducted the first
randomized, controlled trial of ICBT and FAM interventions. Seventy-nine children (aged 7–14) diagnosed with
Separation-Anxiety (SAD), Overanxious (OAD), or Social
Phobia (SP) Disorders were randomly allocated to ICBT
or ICBT ⫹ FAM interventions, or a wait-list condition. At
posttreatment 57.1% of children who participated in ICBT
no longer met diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder,
compared with 84% in the ICBT ⫹ FAM condition. In contrast to a 12-week wait-list condition (26% diagnosis free
[DF] at postassessment), both treatment conditions were
found to be superior. ICBT treatment gains continued to
improve at 6-month follow-up (71.4% DF) whereas ICBT ⫹
FAM treatment gains were maintained (84% DF). At 1-year
follow-up, ICBT treatment gains were maintained (70.3%
DF) whereas ICBT ⫹ FAM treatment gains continued to
improve (95.6% DF). While these findings may illustrate the
general benefits of incorporating FAM into existing interventions for childhood anxiety, it should be noted that
younger children and females responded significantly better
to the ICBT ⫹ FAM condition than others.
Flannery-Schroeder and Kendall (2000) conducted randomized ICBT and GCBT clinical trials for 37 children
(aged 8–14) diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety (GAD),
SAD, and SP Disorders. Seventy-three percent of children
who participated in the ICBT were DF at posttreatment compared with 50% of children who participated in the GCBT
trial. In contrast to a 9-week wait-list condition (8% DF at
postassessment), both treatment conditions were found to be
superior, and treatment gains were maintained at 3-month
follow-up. Using a child population with the same clinical
pathologies, Shortt, Barrett, and Fox (2001) conducted the first
randomized clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of the
FRIENDS program. Seventy-one children (aged 6–10) participated in FRIENDS (GCBT ⫹ FAM) and wait-list conditions. It was found that 69% of children who participated in
44 Anxiety in Children—FRIENDS Program
FRIENDS were DF at posttreatment compared with 6% in
the wait-list condition. These treatment gains were maintained at 1-year follow-up (68% DF). To gauge the effectiveness of FRIENDS as a universal intervention for the
prevention of anxiety, the program was also administered to
primary-school children considered to be “at risk” for anxiety problems (i.e., scoring above the Spence Children’s
Anxiety Scale clinical cutoff). Lowry-Webster, Barrett, and
Dadds (2001) recruited 594 children aged 10–13 to participate in teacher-led FRIENDS GCBT and FAM (n ⫽ 432)
and wait-list (n ⫽ 162) conditions. Regardless of risk status,
children (and their parents) who participated in FRIENDS
reported fewer anxiety symptoms at postintervention than
children in the wait-list condition. Children deemed to be at
high risk also reported significant improvements in depression ratings. Compared to 31.2% of wait-list participants.
85% of FRIENDS participants maintained intervention gains
at 12-month follow-up (Lowry-Webster & Barrett, in press).
Similar FRIENDS prevention effects have subsequently been
found for high school students at 12-month postintervention
(Barrett, Johnson, & Turner, in press).
Barrett and Turner (2001) further allocated 489 participants (aged 10–12) at random to a psychologist-led intervention, teacher-led intervention, or normal-class control
condition. Using self-report measures, all participants regardless of intervention condition showed markedly fewer anxiety symptoms from pre- to postassessment compared with
control participants who reported no change. This finding
suggests that the administration of FRIENDS is both generalizable and sustainable within school-based settings for the
early intervention and prevention of anxiety in children.
childhood anxiety problems, much work is required to identify which therapeutic features are most effective in bringing
about sustainable change for specific client populations.
The combination of cognitive and behavioral strategies
has consistently been shown effective in treating childhood
anxiety. Yet some CBT approaches have been paired with
superior and more sustainable change than others. In recognizing the social elements that influence children’s behavior
(e.g., relationships with family members, peers, teachers),
the efficacy of GCBT and FAM has received considerable
attention in recent years. Because sociocultural support
styles and family dynamics differ between cultural groups,
the efficacy of these intervention formats requires closer
scrutiny. It may be argued that diverse types of family
closeness (i.e., closeness–caregiving and closeness–
intrusiveness; Green & Werner, 1996) can dramatically
impact therapeutic outcomes. Whereas caregiving serves to
support child development, intrusiveness is characteristic of
psychological coercive control and may even promote specific fears (Elbedour, Shulman, & Kedem, 1997). As multicultural populations continue to diversify Western nations,
programs that expand ICBT to incorporate experiential peer
learning and family-directed problem-solving strategies
need to determine to what extent contextual influences
maintain or change childhood functioning.
Research and Theory Development
Despite the apparent effectiveness of combining education and graded exposure themes into one treatment package, it remains unclear which aspects of CBT are most
active, and to what extent other factors (e.g., family dynamics, child demographics, order of treatment components)
may influence treatment outcomes. With the exception of
trials that have utilized structured manualized interventions,
determining the efficacy of relative CBT components is
difficult as the arrangement and emphasis on cognitive and
behavioral strategies in published trials may vary. Moreover,
for the majority of ICBT ⫹ FAM trials, it remains unclear
as to what constitutes parent involvement. Coupled with
contrasting results, it is difficult to determine whether particular treatment formats (e.g., ICBT, GCBT, FAM) and
format combinations may be superior to others. Before
clinicians can confidently select appropriate individual,
group, family, or combined CBT interventions for specific
Researchers are challenged to identify the active
components of CBT in the treatment of childhood anxiety,
and better understand the diverse roles of culture, socialization, and family contexts. To date, research trials have not
adequately described the cognitive–behavioral content in
child-focused and FAM sessions. So as to determine best
practice, randomized controlled trials comparing the emphasis and order of CBT components need to be conducted in
different intervention formats and among diverse cultural
groups. Additional research into the trajectory of clinical
anxiety, sociocultural support styles, and the dynamics of
family structure may also lend insight to what role peers and
parents should play in treatment, and contribute immensely
to understanding the developmental pathways of childhood
anxiety. In order to effectively reduce the incidence of anxiety problems among children and subsequently young people, it is fundamental that preventive interventions be further
developed and validated. In this regard, annexing anxiety
concerns among children early will inhibit the development
Applied Behavior Analysis
of maladaptive coping-response behaviors and consequently
the maintenance and escalation of anxiety symptoms.
See also: Anxiety—adult, Anxiety—children, Children—behavior
Barrett, P. M. (1995). Group coping koala workbook. Unpublished manuscript, School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Australia.
Barrett, P. M., Dadds, M. R., & Rapee, R. M. (1996). Family treatment of
childhood anxiety: A controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 64, 333–342.
Barrett, P. M., Johnson, S., & Turner, C. (2004). Developmental differences
in universal preventive intervention for child anxiety. Clinical Child
Psychology and Psychiatry.
Barrett, P. M., Lowry-Webster, H., & Turner, C. (2000a). FRIENDS program for children: Group leaders manual. Brisbane: Australian
Academic Press.
Barrett, P. M., Lowry-Webster, H., & Turner, C. (2000b). FRIENDS program for youth: Group leaders manual. Brisbane: Australian
Academic Press.
Barrett, P. M., Moore, A. F., & Sonderegger, R. (2000). An anxiety prevention program for young former-Yugoslavian refugees in Australia: A
pilot study. Behaviour Change, 17, 124–133.
Barrett, P. M., & Shortt, A. L. (2004). Parental involvement in the treatment
of anxious children. In A. E. Kazdin & J. R. Weisz (Eds.), Evidencebased psychotherapies for children and adolescents.
Barrett, P. M., Sonderegger, R., & Sonderegger, N. L. (2001a). Evaluation
of an anxiety prevention and positive-coping program (FRIENDS) for
children and adolescents of non-English speaking background.
Behaviour Change, 18, 78–91.
Barrett, P. M., Sonderegger, R., & Sonderegger, N. L. (2001b). Universal
supplement to FRIENDS for children: Group leaders manual for participants from non-English speaking backgrounds. Copyright ©
Griffith University and the State of Queensland through the
Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre (QTCMH), Division
of Mental Health.
Barrett, P. M., Sonderegger, R., & Xenos, S. (2004). Using FRIENDS to
combat anxiety and adjustment problems among young migrants to
Australia: A national trial. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Barrett, P. M., & Turner, C. M. (2001). Prevention of anxiety symptoms in
primary school children: Preliminary results from a universal schoolbased trial. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40, 399–410.
Elbedour, S., Shulman, S., & Kedem, P. (1997). Children’s fears: Cultural
and developmental perspectives. Behaviour Research and Theory, 35,
Flannery-Schroeder, E., & Kendall, P. C. (2000). Group and individual
cognitive–behavioral treatments for youth with anxiety disorders: A randomized clinical trial. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24, 251–278.
Green, R. J., & Werner, P. D. (1996). Intrusiveness and closenesscaregiving: Rethinking the concept of family “enmeshment.” Family
Processes, 35, 115–136.
Howard, B. L., and Kendall, P. C. (1996). Cognitive–behavioral family
therapy for anxiety-disordered children: A multiple-baseline evaluation. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 20, 423–443.
Kendall, P. C. (1990). The coping cat workbook. Ardmore, PA: Workbook
Kendall, P. C. (1994). Treating anxiety disorders in children: Results of a
randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 62, 100–110.
Kendall, P. C., & Southam-Gerow, M. A. (1996). Long term follow-up of a
cognitive–behavioural therapy for anxious youth. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 724–730.
Lowry-Webster, H. M., & Barrett, P. M. (2004). A universal prevention
trial of anxiety and depression during childhood: Results at one year
follow-up. Behaviour Change.
Shortt, A. L., Barrett, P. M., Dadds, M. R., & Fox, T. L. (2001). The influence
of family and experimental context on cognition in anxious children.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 585–596.
Shortt, A., Barrett, P. M., & Fox, T. (2001). Evaluating the FRIENDS
program: A cognitive–behavioural group treatment of childhood
anxiety disorders: An evaluation of the FRIENDS program. Journal of
Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 525–535.
Silverman, W. K., Kurtines, W. M., Ginsburg, G. S., Weems, C. F.,
Rabian, B., & Serafini, L. T. (1999). Contingency management, selfcontrol, and education support in the treatment of childhood phobic
disorders: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 67, 675–687.
Barrett, P. M., Dadds, M. R., & Rapee, R. M. (1996). Family treatment of
childhood anxiety: A controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 64, 333–342.
Barrett, P. M., Sonderegger, R., & Xenos, S. (2004). Using FRIENDS to
combat anxiety and adjustment problems among young migrants to
Australia: A national trial. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Kendall, P. C. (1994). Treating anxiety disorders in children: Results of a
randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 62, 100–110.
Applied Behavior Analysis
John W. Jacobson
Keywords: applied behavior analysis, operant process
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and cognitive behavior
therapy (CBT) represent two distinctive orientations to the
improvement of human functioning that share certain
elements of a common intellectual heritage, but also have
disparate conceptual features that reflect the sequence of
their inceptions as guiding orientations for therapists. ABA,
in the guise of operant psychology, behavior management,
or behavior modification, emerged as a guiding orientation
at an earlier point than CBT, and hence developments
in CBT have incorporated aspects of ABA, but have also
entailed embracing other developments in mainstream
aspects of clinical psychology, which emphasize cognitive
processes, the relation of cognitions to affect, developmental
46 Applied Behavior Analysis
psychopathology, and social psychological and cognitive
and developmental constructs. From this standpoint, ABA
may be viewed as a relatively noneclectic orientation,
whereas CBT can be considered more eclectic in its origins
and directly incorporating treatment evaluation and research
findings in general, abnormal, and clinical psychology.
ABA as a field is not isolated from developments within
psychology more generally, but rather than incorporating
procedures and treatments within its model and applications
directly, it has broadened its focus over several decades to
address similar concerns, and this has been reflected in the
emergence of some treatment procedures targeted to typical
child and adult clinical populations.
CBT is founded on the general model of psychological
function and practice that distinguishes affect, behavior, and
cognition as cardinal factors that differ in the applicability of
various intervention strategies, whereas ABA is founded on
a model that emphasizes that feeling, behaving, and thinking
are classes of behavior that are similarly susceptible to
alteration through application of the same or similar procedures. Moreover, CBT emerged as a therapeutic orientation
focused on intervention with verbal, communicative
children and adults, and ABA emerged as an orientation
focused on intervention with less communicative children
and adults, often with developmental delays or disabilities
that affected cognitive functioning, and these considerations
have also affected the form and extent of incorporation of
various psychological and behavioral science constructs
within the work of practitioners in ABA or CBT.
ABA organizes its interventions based on principles of
operant processes, whereas CBT interventions are founded on
a combination of operant and respondent processes and other
orientations including information processing and cognitive
models. Correspondingly, the principal theorist whose work
underpins ABA is B. F. Skinner (1938, 1957). With respect to
both theory and its application to clinical and educational settings, many behavior analysts and psychologists have made
crucial contributions to ABA practice, including Ayllon,
Azrin, Baer, Ferster, Keller, Lindsley, Risley, Sidman, and
Wolf. Highly influential predecessors whose work formed the
zeitgeist in which critical developments in operant psychology occurred included Pavlov, Thorndike, and Watson. The
status of theoretical development and diversification by subarea of practice in ABA reflects in part that its leading theorist, Skinner, lived until 1990, and thus the influence of his
work on theoretical and practical developments is still pervasive and pronounced. In addition to influences stemming from
the work of those already mentioned, CBT has drawn heavily
on, or bases specific models of intervention on, the work
of Bandura, Beck, Ellis, Eysenck, Lazarus (Arnold and
Richard), Meichenbaum, Patterson, and Wolpe, among many
other recent and contemporary scientist-practitioners.
Development and diversification of CBT models, rather than
consolidation of a unitary model, continues apace, and
reflects the fact that most prominent contributors to its focus
continue their work through the present.
The foundation of contemporary ABA is the three-term
contingency, or functional relation, exemplified by the
expression A–B–C, where A stands for “antecedent,” B for
“behavior,” and C for “consequence.” In a specific instance
or intervention, A, B, and C may represent a discrete and
particular antecedent, behavior, and consequence, or may
represent classes of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. In addition to the extant or baseline functional relation, other factors are stipulated in contemporary ABA
models to be especially salient, including learning history
(both in terms of skills salient to the particular relation, and
other skill development), physiological factors affecting
learning, performance, or baseline rates of behaviors (e.g.,
behavioral phenotypes), and social or cultural factors
impinging on the relation. Behaviors may be altered through
modification of antecedents (referred to as stimulus control)
or consequences (referred to as consequence manipulation).
Contemporary antecedent models encompass concepts
such as occasion-setting stimuli or establishing operations
that entail events that alter later functional relations (and
which can be relatively distal, rather than proximal or contiguous with the occurrence of a behavior of interest;
see Michael, 1993). Intervention based on consequence
manipulation entails provision of reinforcing (accelerative)
or punishing (decelerative) events contingent on criteria for
performance, and contingent alteration of schedules of reinforcement (with relevance to shaping a behavior, or duration
and spread of a behavior across time and settings). In more
recent years there has been an increased research and
practitioner emphasis on stimulus control as a first-stage
intervention model, but complex interventions including
alteration of distal and proximal antecedents as well as the
manipulation of multiple consequences.
Over the past 20 years, ABA has been variously and
negatively characterized as an orientation that oversimplifies
complex issues, is unconcerned or cannot address cognitive
phenomena, ignores genetic influences, discounts or cannot
account for complex behavior including language, does not
address concerns regarding such phenomena as creativity or
intrinsic motivation, relies entirely on animal models or analogues of human problems, or is incompatible with helping
models of professions, mechanistic, or positivistic (see
Wyatt, n.d.). These criticisms are essentially overgeneralizations, coarsely inaccurate, and belied by actual practice both
Applied Behavior Analysis
in behavior analytic research and in ABA. Several
contemporary developments in ABA are largely compatible
with concerns of CBT practitioners, and conducive to adoption within CBT frameworks, albeit based on operant
models (e.g., Moore, n.d.).
These developments include phenomena within the
realm of verbal behavior (language) and complex verbal
processes and functions. More specifically, phenomena of
growing interest in research and application relevant to ABA
include stimulus equivalence, rule-governed behavior, imitation, behavioral momentum, relational frames, interaction
between operant and classical conditioning, and functional
clinical assessment (Hawkins & Forsyth, 1997; Plaud &
Vogeltanz, 1997). These developments are all relevant to
treatment priorities within CBT, including the inception and
maintenance of rule-governed behavior (e.g., in CBT terms,
cognition–behavior and cognition–affect relations).
While there are important, if possibly irreconcilable,
differences between the models underpinning ABA and
CBT, there are some aspects of both theoretical focus and
practical application that converge. Some of these aspects
reflect common features of interventions, rather than conceptual features. First, ABA can and does encompass thinking, feeling, and behaving (as forms of behavior subject to
experimental and applied analysis), whereas CBT encompasses cognition, affect, and behavior. Moreover, ABA and
CBT both recognize the salience of operant processes in
behavior change, and maintenance and generalization of
change. ABA and CBT both focus on classes of behavior as
the target of intervention (i.e., skills as utilized differentially
consistent with environmental demands), but define them
differently (e.g., ABA as functional classes reflecting shared
motivational influences, CBT in culturally typical terms
reflecting psychological constructs). ABA and CBT also
both focus on alteration of environmental factors, in the former approach through alteration of factors that precede the
problematic behavior, and of consequences, in the latter
approach through resolution of stressors (e.g., active coping). ABA and CBT both share a primary goal of substantial
change in human functioning through intervention.
ABA and CBT both utilize individual and group treatment research designs, although the former substantially
emphasizes individual designs and the latter typically utilizes
group designs (and possibly individual designs are underutilized in CBT research and group designs are underutilized in
ABA research). In intervention, ABA and CBT both seek to
achieve normal range functioning with respect to therapeutic
targets as a short- to intermediate-term therapeutic outcome
(i.e., a time-limited focus rather than an extended course,
although either model can encompass extended clinical
service). ABA and CBT both utilize frequently repeated
measures to assess outcome of intervention, and where feasible and appropriate, utilize self-reports as components of
both preintervention assessment and intervention monitoring
Both ABA and CBT place emphasis, as appropriate,
on increased self-determination by clientele, in the former
approach through self-management, in the latter through
increased self-direction and coping skills (and in some
instances, while teaching methods may differ, the skills
taught or practiced may be indistinguishable). Relatedly,
ABA and CBT both focus on problem-solving skills as a
component of intervention when applicable (e.g., social
problem solving in CBT; decision-making or choice-making
and preference assessment in ABA).
Procedurally, ABA and CBT both focus on classes of
behavior as the target of intervention (i.e., skills as utilized
differentially consistent with environmental demands), but
may define them differently. Both models also focus on
alteration of environmental factors, in the former approach
through alteration of factors that precede the problematic
behavior, and of consequences, in the latter approach
through resolution of stressors. ABA and CBT both utilize
observational learning and modeling as procedures to alter
problem behavior and build skills. Finally, ABA and CBT
both typically include interventions implemented outside of
a professional office (e.g., interventions in multiple typical
settings, homework assignments, in vivo extensions).
Despite the commonalities noted, there are many distinctive features of ABA and CBT that differ significantly.
These differences reflect discrepancies in theoretical orientation, from which procedural differences also derive. A key
difference is that ABA focuses on the functional relation of
stimulus–response–consequence as the fundamental causal
process underpinning human functioning, whereas CBT
focuses on cognitive components or systems as a particularly important causal aspect of human functioning, such as
cognition–behavior and cognition–affect relations. In turn,
ABA focuses on environmental events as the primary causal
factor affecting human functioning, and CBT focuses on
cognitive processes, or a combination of cognition, affect,
and behavior, as primary causal factors of varying salience
depending on the condition or problem in human functioning. As a corollary, ABA focuses on observable behavior
48 Applied Behavior Analysis
that is readily accessible (that is overt) as its dependent
variable and defines treatment goals with respect to overt
behavior change. In contrast, CBT includes observation of
behavior that is either readily accessible or not so readily
accessed as dependent variable (i.e., covert behavior) and
defines treatment goals with respect to cognitive or affective
change, as well as behavior change.
In ABA, limited distinctions are typically drawn among
(operant) factors inducing changes in cognitive, affective, and
behavioral domains of human functioning, although in recent
years some variation in conceptualization of cognitive (i.e.,
verbal behavior) domain has emerged. In CBT, varying distinctions are drawn among (operant, respondent, observational learning) factors inducing changes in the three
stipulated domains of human functioning. These distinctions
between the two orientations are very pronounced and
theory-driven, and constitute the critical differences that are
largely irreconcilable. From these core distinctions, and
the developmental course of theoretical and practical
developments, other features derive.
Whereas ABA uses frequency, duration, intensity, or
rate change metrics as primary expression of behavior
change, CBT uses these measures as well as scales completed by therapists or systematic self-reports as primary
expressions of behavior change. Whereas ABA has a primary or exclusive focus on specific maladaptive or problem
behaviors, and organization of treatment literature in these
terms, as well as de novo or restorative skill building, CBT
shares a focus on specific maladaptive or problem behaviors, as well as on syndromes and conditions, and organization of treatment literature in these terms, as well as de novo
or restorative skill building. ABA is primarily implemented
as service delivery through consultation and training by the
behavior analyst, with implementation by others (which
may be seen as less compatible with private practice settings), while CBT is primarily implemented by the cognitive
behavior therapist, as individual or group therapy (which
may be seen as more compatible with private practice). In
ABA, the primary focus of research and practice is on intervention with individuals with cognitive disabilities and individual and group educational applications, but in CBT the
primary focus of research and practice is on intervention
with individuals with psychopathology (i.e., entire range of
maladaptive conditions or reactions) with normal range or
superior cognitive functioning, and secondarily on group
(preventive) educational applications. Correspondingly,
while practitioners of ABA principally include psychologists, special educators, and general educators, practitioners
of CBT include psychologists, psychiatrists, and members
of other helping professions who provide individual therapeutic services. Many ABA practitioners view behavior
analysis as a field separate from psychology and other
disciplines, whereas CBT practitioners likely tend to designate their discipline as the one in which they received graduate training (e.g., psychology, social work).
A final and core distinction reflecting both theory and
practice is that ABA uses technical and specific terms that are
discrepant from culturally typical meanings, to refer to everyday behavioral processes (e.g., technical versus culturally typical meaning of “punishment”), while CBT uses technical and
specific terms that are largely consistent with culturally typical
meanings, to refer to everyday behavioral processes. The use
of culturally atypical terms within ABA possibly hinders adoption of research findings by non-behavior analytic practitioners and educators, whereas, while the specific parameters of
terms may not be fully recognized by nonbehavioral practitioners, the use of more culturally typical terms within CBT
models may expedite adoption of related therapeutic practices.
Although ABA and CBT are not readily reconciled on
theoretical grounds, pragmatic research on verbal and rulegoverned behavior has begun to result in interventions
(Hayes & Hayes, 1992; Kohlenberg, Kanter, Bolling,
Parker, & Tsai, 2002) that are procedurally relevant to CBT
models of intervention. Other developments, such as
research on behavioral momentum, have implications for
enhancing durability of treatment effects. Although models
of verbal behavior and related phenomena on which ABA
research is based are discrepant from those typical of how
language is treated within CBT perspectives, in time this
may prove to enhance, rather than vitiate, the range of contributions ABA research may make to CBT techniques.
See also: Behavioral assessment
Hawkins, R. P., & Forsyth, J. P. (1997). The behavior analytic perspective:
Its nature, prospects, and limitations for behavior therapy. Journal of
Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 28, 7–16.
Hayes, S. C., & Hayes, L. J. (1992). Verbal relations and the evolution of
behavior analysis. American Psychologist, 47, 1383–1395.
Kohlenberg, R. H., Kanter, J. W., Bolling, M. Y., Parker, C., & Tsai, M.
(2002). Enhancing cognitive therapy for depression with functional
analytic psychotherapy: Treatment guidelines and empirical findings.
Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9, 213–229.
Michael, J. L. (1993). Concepts and principles of behavior analysis.
Kalamazoo, MI: Association for Behavior Analysis.
Moore, J. (n.d.). Explanation and description in traditional
neobehaviorism, cognitive psychology, and behavior analysis.
Asperger’s Disorder
Milwaukee: Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–
Milwaukee. Accessed via the Internet at
Psychology/BehaviorAnalysis/conceptual-analysis/papers-moore/ on
June 18, 2003.
Plaud, J. J., & Vogeltanz, N. D. (1997). Back to the future: The continued
relevance of behavior theory to modern behavior therapy. Behavior
Therapy, 28, 403–414.
Skinner, B. F. (1938/1999). The behavior of organisms: An experimental
analysis. Morgantown, WV: B. F. Skinner Foundation.
Skinner, B. F. (1957/2002). Verbal behavior. Morgantown, WV: B. F.
Skinner Foundation.
Wyatt, J. (undated). Clarifying some common misrepresentations of behavior analysis: A collaborative project sponsored by the BALANCE SIG
of the Association for Behavior Analysis-International. Accessed via
the Internet at http://www2. departments/teachba/ on
July 6, 2003.
Asperger’s Disorder
Tony Attwood
Keywords: Asperger’s syndrome, autism, pervasive developmental
Asperger’s disorder was originally described in 1944 by the
Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger. The disorder has more
recently been classified as a Pervasive Developmental
Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder generally considered to be on the autism spectrum. Individuals with this
developmental disorder have an intellectual capacity within
the normal range but a distinct profile of abilities that have
been apparent since early childhood. The profile of abilities
includes the following characteristics:
A qualitative impairment in social interaction, for
Failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to
the child’s developmental level
Impaired use of nonverbal behaviors such as eye
gaze, facial expression, and body language to
regulate a social interaction
Lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy
Impaired ability to identify social cues and
Qualitative impairment in subtle communication
skills, for example:
Fluent speech but difficulties with conversation
skills and a tendency to be pedantic, have an
unusual prosody, and to make literal interpretations
Restrictive interests, for example:
The development of special interests that are unusual
in their intensity and focus
Preference for routine and consistency
The disorder can also include motor clumsiness and
oversensitivity to auditory and tactile experiences. There can
also be problems with organizational and time management
The exact prevalence rates for the general population
have yet to determined, but research suggests that it may be as
common as 1 in 259. The etiology is probably due to factors
that affect brain development and is not due to emotional
deprivation or other psychogenic causes (Attwood, 1998).
When one considers the diagnostic criteria for
Asperger’s disorder and the effects of the disorder on the
person’s adaptive functioning in a social context, one would
expect such individuals to be vulnerable to the development
of secondary mood disorders. The current research indicates
that around 65% of adolescent patients with Asperger’s
disorder have an affective disorder that includes anxiety
disorders and depression (Attwood, 2002). There is also
evidence to suggest an association with delusional disorders,
paranoia, and conduct disorders. We know that comorbid
affective disorders in adolescents with Asperger’s disorder
are the rule rather than the exception but why should this
population be more prone to affective disorders?
Research has been conducted on the family histories of
children with autism and Asperger’s disorder and identified
a higher than expected incidence of mood disorders.
However, when one also considers their difficulties with
regard to social reasoning, empathy, verbal communication,
profile of executive skills, and sensory perception, they are
clearly prone to considerable stress as a result of their
attempts at social inclusion. Thus, there may be constitutional and circumstantial factors that explain the higher
incidence of secondary affective disorders.
The theoretical models of autism developed within
cognitive psychology and research in neuropsychologv also
provide some explanation as to why such individuals are
prone to secondary mood disorders. The extensive research
on Theory of Mind skills confirms that individuals with
Asperger’s disorder have considerable difficulty identifying
and conceptualizing the thoughts and feelings of other
people and themselves (Baron-Cohen, Tager-Flusberg, &
Cohen, 1993). Research on executive function in subjects
with Asperger’s disorder suggests characteristics of being
disinhibited and impulsive with a relative lack of insight that
affects general functioning (Russel, 1997). Impaired
executive function can also affect the cognitive control of
emotions. Clinical experience indicates there is a tendency
on the part of these individuals to react to emotional cues
50 Asperger’s Disorder
without cognitive reflection. Research with subjects with
autism using new neuroimaging technology has also identified structural and functional abnormalities of the amygdala,
which is known to regulate a range of emotions including
anger, fear, and sadness. Thus, we also have neuroanatomical evidence that suggests there will be problems with the
perception and regulation of the emotions.
remarkably quick in resolving grief. They may also misinterpret gestures of affection such as a hug with the comment
that the “squeeze” was perceived as uncomfortable and not
comforting. Their emotional reactions can also be delayed
perhaps with an expression of anger some days or weeks
after the event.
There are several self-rating scales that have been
designed for children and adults with specific mood disorders that can be administered to clients with Asperger’s
disorder. However, there are specific modifications that can
be used with this clinical group, as they may be better able
to accurately quantify their response using a numerical or
pictorial representation of the gradation in experience and
expression of mood. Examples include an emotion thermometer, bar graphs, or a “volume” scale. These analogue
measures are used to establish a baseline assessment as well
as in the affective education component.
The assessment includes the construction of a list of
behavioral indicators of mood changes. The indicators can
include changes in the characteristics associated with
Asperger’s disorder such as an increase in time spent in solitude or engaged in their special interest, rigidity or incoherence in their thought processes, or behavior intended to
impose control in their daily lives and over others. This is in
addition to conventional indicators such as panic attacks, feelings of low self-worth, or episodes of anger. It is essential to
collect information from a wide variety of sources as children
and adults with Asperger’s disorder can display quite different
characteristics according to their circumstances. For example,
there may be little evidence of a mood disorder at school but
clear evidence of the mood disorder at home.
The clinician will also need to assess their coping
mechanisms and vocabulary of emotional expression. While
there are no standardized tests to measure such abilities,
some characteristics have been identified by clinical experience. For example, discussions with parents can indicate
that the child displays affection, but the depth and range
of emotional expression is usually limited and immature
relative to what might be expected of a child their chronological age. Their reaction to pleasure and pain can also
be atypical, with idiosyncratic mannerisms that express
feelings of excitement, such as hand flapping, or a stoic
response to pain and punishments. Examples of characteristics that parents may be concerned about are a lack
of apparent gratitude or remorse and paradoxical and
atypical responses to particular situations. For example, the
child may giggle when expected to show remorse and be
Affective education is an essential component of CBT
for those with Asperger’s disorder. The main goal is to learn
why we have emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression. A basic principle
is to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project.
The affective education stage includes the therapist
describing and the client discovering the salient cues that
indicate a particular level of emotional expression in the
facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context.
Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion
have been identified, it is important to use an instrument to
measure the degree of intensity. The therapist can construct
a model “thermometer,” “gauge,” or “volume control” and
use a range of activities to define the level of expression.
Clinical experience has indicated that some clients with
Asperger’s disorder can use extreme statements such as
“I am going to kill myself” to express a level of emotion
that would be more moderately expressed by another more
“normal” client. During a program of affective education the
therapist often has to increase the client’s vocabulary of
emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.
The education program includes activities to detect
specific degrees of emotion in others but also detecting and
identifying emotions in oneself. This can be done by using
internal physiological cues, cognitive cues, and behavior.
Technology can be used to identify internal cues in the form
of biofeedback instruments such as EMG and GSR
machines with auditory or visual feedback.
People with Asperger’s disorder can make false
assumptions of their circumstances and the intentions of
others. They have a tendency to make a literal interpretation
of stimuli so that a casual comment may be taken out of context or be taken to a literal extreme. For example, common
statements such as “I’m over my head” when referring to
work may be seen as the person being swamped by papers
to the height of his head.
In explaining a new perspective or to correct errors or
assumptions, “Comic Strip Conversations” can help the
Asperger’s Disorder
client determine the thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, and intentions of the participants in a given situation (Gray, 1998).
This technique involves drawing an event or sequence of
events in story board form with stick figures to represent
each participant and speech and thought bubbles to represent their words and thoughts. The client and therapist use
an assortment of fibro-tipped colored pens, with each color
representing an emotion (red ⫽ anger, blue ⫽ calm). As
they write in the speech or thought bubbles, their choice of
color indicates their perception of the emotion conveyed or
Cognitive restructuring also includes activities that are
designed to improve the client’s range of emotional repair
mechanisms. The author has extended the use of metaphor to
design programs that include the concept of an emotional
toolbox to “fix the feeling.” Clients know that a toolbox
usually includes a variety of tools to repair a machine and
discussion and activities are employed to identify different
types of tools for specific problems associated with emotions.
In conventional CBT programs, the client is encouraged
to self-reflect to improve insight into his or her thoughts and
feelings, thereby ideally promoting a realistic and positive selfimage as well as enhancing the ability to self-talk for greater
self-control. However, the concept of self-awareness may be
different for individuals with Asperger’s disorder. There may
be a qualitative impairment in the ability to engage in introspection. Research evidence, autobiographies, and clinical
experience have confirmed that some clients with Asperger’s
disorder and high-functioning autism can lack an “inner voice”
and think in pictures rather than in words. They also have difficulty translating their visual thoughts into words.
In keeping with the client’s style, treatment modifications include a greater use of visual materials and resources
such as drawings, role-play, and metaphor and less reliance
on spoken responses. It is interesting that many clients find
it easier to develop and explain their thoughts and emotions
using other expressive media, such as typed communication
in the form of an e-mail or diary, music, art, or a pictorial
dictionary of feelings.
The therapy includes programs to adjust the clients’
self-image to be an accurate reflection of their abilities and
the neurological origins of their disorder. Some time needs
to be devoted to explaining the nature of Asperger’s disorder
and how the characteristics account for their differences
from others. The author recommends that as soon as the
child or adult is told the diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder,
the clinician needs to carefully and authoritatively explain
the nature of the disorder to his or her family but the child
must also receive a personal explanation. This is to reduce
the likelihood of their developing inappropriate or more
maladaptive compensatory mechanisms to their recognition
of being different, and to address their concern as to why
they have to see psychologists and psychiatrists.
Once clients have improved their cognitive strategies
to understand and manage their moods at an intellectual
level, it would be necessary to start practicing the strategies
in a graduated sequence of assignments. After practice during the therapy session, the client has a project to apply the
new knowledge and abilities in real-life situations. The therapist will obviously need to communicate and coordinate
with those who will be supporting the client in real-life circumstances. After each practical experience the therapist
and client consider the degree of success using activities
such as Comic Strip Conversations to debrief the client and
to reinforce his or her achievements such as by a “boasting
book” or certificate of achievement. It will also help to have
a training manual for the client that includes suggestions and
explanations. The manual becomes a resource for the client
during the therapy but is easily accessible information when
the therapy program is complete. One of the issues during
the practice will be generalization. People with Asperger’s
disorder tend to be quite rigid in terms of recognizing when
new strategies are applicable in a situation that does not
obviously resemble the practice sessions with the psychologist. It will be necessary to ensure that strategies are used in
a wide range of circumstances, and no assumptions be made
that once an appropriate emotion management strategy has
proved successful, it will continue to be used in all settings,
and will continue to be successful.
Finally, our scientific knowledge in the area of psychological therapies and Asperger’s disorder is remarkably limited. We have case studies, but at present no systematic and
rigorous independent research studies that examine whether
CBT is an effective treatment with this clinical population
(Hare & Paine, 1997). This is despite the known high incidence of mood disorders, especially among adolescents with
Asperger’s disorder. As a matter of expediency, a clinician
may decide to conduct a course of CBT on the basis of the
known effectiveness of this form of psychological treatment
in the general population. However, we have yet to establish
whether it is universally appropriate and to confirm the
modifications to accommodate the unusual characteristics
and profile of abilities associated with Asperger’s disorder.
See also: Autism spectrum disorders
Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger’s syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publications.
52 Asperger’s Disorder
Attwood, T. (2002). Frameworks for behavioural interventions. Child
Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 1–22.
Baron-Cohen, S., Tager-Flusberg, H., & Cohen D. J. (1993).
Understanding other minds: Perspectives from autism. Oxford:
Oxford Medical Publications.
Gray, C. (1998). Social stories and comic strip conversations with students with Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism. In
H. Schopher, G. B. Mesihov, & L. J. Kuuice (Eds.), Asperger
syndrome or high functioning autism? New York: Plenum Press.
Hare, D. J., & Paine, C. (1997). Developing cognitive behavioural
treatments for people with Asperger’s syndrome. Clinical Psychology
Forum, 110, 5–8.
Russel, J. (Ed.). (1997). Autism as an executive disorder. Oxford: Oxford
Medical Publications.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
J. Russell Ramsay and Anthony L. Rostain
Keywords: adults, psychosocial, combined treatment, case
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most
prevalent behavioral disorder of childhood, with an estimated 4% of the school-age population affected. Recent
prospective longitudinal research has shown that upward of
50–70% of children with ADHD will continue to experience
clinically significant symptoms into adulthood (Barkley,
1998). Increasingly, these adults are seeking treatment for
this complex neuropsychiatric disorder.
Whereas pharmacotherapy has been a mainstay of
treatment for ADHD patients of all ages, the development of
effective psychosocial treatments has lagged sorely behind,
particularly for adult patients. As recently as 1997, data on
psychosocial treatments for adults with ADHD could be
summarized as being “entirely anecdotal” (American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997).
Recently, a few studies of psychosocial approaches for
adults with ADHD have appeared in the research literature,
with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) offering some of the
more promising results.
The goal of this article is to provide a brief description
of the emerging CBT approach for treating adult patients
with ADHD. To do so, we will provide a description of the
CBT model of adult ADHD, the elements of this treatment
approach, and a review of preliminary studies showing the
effectiveness of CBT for this clinical population.
The core symptoms of ADHD are developmentally
inappropriate levels of impulsivity, inattention, and/or
hyperactivity that have been present since childhood. To
make the diagnosis in adulthood requires clear evidence that
these symptoms have caused enduring difficulties throughout the individual’s development, although there can be
great variability in the intensity of symptoms and in the settings in which they occur. Finally, it must be determined that
the symptoms are not better accounted for by another psychiatric or medical condition.
The scientific consensus is that ADHD is a developmental disorder with genetic and neurobiological underpinnings. Heritability ratios derived from research of the
children with ADHD and their parents and from twin studies of ADHD probands are virtually equivalent to those
derived in studies of height among first-degree family
members, with an average of 80% of the variance being
explained by genetics and only a trifle attributed to shared
environmental factors (e.g., parenting). The core symptoms
of ADHD reflect a neuropsychological profile of impaired
executive functioning (associated with the prefrontal cortex)
that significantly affects an individual’s reciprocal interactions with the environment. In particular, impaired inhibition, planning, working memory, and cognitive processing
speed appear to subserve the impulsivity and inattentiveness
seen in these patients (Barkley, 1997; Faraone & Biederman,
From a CBT standpoint, then, these executive function
deficits associated with ADHD exquisitely influence core
beliefs by affecting the ongoing experiences from which
individuals compose personal meaning. Considering the
cumulative effects of the many problems associated with
ADHD on one’s adaptive functioning and ongoing sense of
self, the adult with ADHD likely presents for assessment
and treatment with a history of problems that may have been
encoded in the form of maladaptive beliefs (e.g., “I’m a failure”; “I’m incompetent”). Consequently, the symptoms of
ADHD and the reactivation of maladaptive beliefs (and concomitant emotions) routinely disrupt the individual’s life,
further eroding what is often an already fragile sense of selfefficacy and further impairing the effective execution of
cognitive problem solving.
CBT offers a therapeutic approach that acknowledges
the supreme difficulties associated with ADHD as well
as the need to develop effective coping skills. It illuminates
the explicit and implicit beliefs that arise from the experience of living with ADHD and offers a framework that
integrates the biological and neuropsychological dimensions
of the disorder. The next section outlines the core elements
of this therapeutic approach.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)—Adult
The elements of CBT that follow will be familiar to any
clinician well-versed in the model. What differentiates CBT
from being merely a collection of techniques is that, done
rightly, it endeavors to enlighten the unique experience of a
patient and to help her/him explore possibilities for making
desired changes. What follows represents a cross-sectional
summary of ongoing efforts to modify CBT to the clinical
needs of adults with ADHD (see McDermott, 2000;
Ramsay & Rostain, in press).
Receiving the diagnosis of ADHD is often a liberating
experience and offers the first cognitive reframe of a
patient’s chronic difficulties. To this point, most patients
have viewed their difficulties as confirming their maladaptive core beliefs (e.g., “I’m lazy”). Many patients have communicated a sense of relief at finally having a coherent (and
nonjudgmental) explanation of their difficulties, hearing that
they are not alone in their struggles, and that there is indeed
hope for change.
True to the CBT model, patients often have diverse personal notions of their difficulties and the steps they are willing
to take in treatment. Some patients respond to the diagnosis
with eagerness to explore new coping strategies and openness
to making significant changes in their environments. Other
patients, however, may be more suspect about the diagnosis
and their abilities to change what seem to be uncontrollable
cognitive and behavioral impulses. Spending time addressing
these issues and matching CBT to the patient’s therapeutic
pace helps to increase treatment compliance and effectiveness.
The next step is providing psychoeducation about
ADHD to the patient to demystify misconceptions about
treatment and to shed light on the nature of this syndrome.
To encourage further self-awareness we often encourage the
patient to augment treatment with personal research, such as
reading about adult ADHD or exploring reputable online
resources. We caution that while these resources can be very
helpful, they will not be as personalized to the patient’s
unique circumstances as would psychosocial treatment.
We also encourage that patients share their impressions of
these resources in treatment so that any potential misunderstandings or distortions can be addressed.
Therapeutic Alliance
The therapeutic relationship provides a safe place for
the adult with ADHD to explore the nature of his/her difficulties, to develop new coping skills, and to discuss the
range of emotions involved in this personal undertaking.
Rather than being a blank slate, the therapist actively inquires
about the patient’s experience, keeps sessions focused, and
helps the patient find a balance between accepting the reality
of ADHD and making behavioral changes to minimize its
negative impact.
A common therapeutic issue is managing what
would typically be deemed “therapy-interfering” behaviors.
Tardiness to sessions or failure to complete therapeutic
homework, traditionally thought to be signs of hostility or
resistance, are better understood as manifestations of the
executive functioning deficits associated with ADHD.
Framing them as opportunities to understand the effects
of ADHD and to develop commensurate coping strategies
gently addresses both the core symptoms of ADHD and the
emotional frustration engendered by these sorts of recurring
difficulties in a constructive, nonshaming way.
If patients have been prescribed a medication for their
core symptoms, therapy can provide a regular opportunity to
monitor both the patient’s response and her/his attitudes that
might interfere with compliance. Regular consultation
between the therapist and prescribing physician, with the
patient’s expressed consent and input, helps to coordinate
Case Conceptualization
The neurobiological and cognitive–emotional elements
of the experiences of adults with ADHD are unavoidably
intertwined. An ongoing case conceptualization allows the
clinician and patient to understand how these various factors
coalesce to influence that patient’s automatic reactions. It
also provides a therapeutic touchstone for assessing efforts
to modify these reactions and to develop alternative options,
particularly for maladaptive core beliefs and self-defeating
compensatory strategies.
The most common core beliefs encountered in adults
with ADHD cluster around notions of failure (“I’ve not
fulfilled my potential”), defectiveness (“I’m inadequate”),
social undesirability/exclusion (“I’m different and no one
understands me”), and incompetence (“I cannot handle life”).
These beliefs often stem from actual life circumstances
and seem to “make perfect sense” based on the patient’s
described experience (e.g., “I frequently failed exams and
classes and often had to attend summer school”). However,
reexamining these events, simultaneously affirming the
patient’s affective experience and reexamining the accounts
based on a retrospective understanding of ADHD, often
opens up novel and/or expanded interpretations (e.g., “I did
better when I had a teacher who answered my questions
without making me feel that I was stupid”).
The most compelling experience that prompts patients
to reconsider their beliefs seems to come when they alter
54 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)—Adult
their default compensatory strategies that have maintained
the maladaptive core beliefs. Of the many compensatory
strategies associated with ADHD, anticipatory avoidance is
the most ubiquitous. This is sometimes referred to as the
“excessive procrastination technique” based on the patient’s
wish that the task will just “go away.” This strategy involves
putting off a necessary task because the patient anticipates
that it will be unpleasant, the benefit for doing the task is too
vague or distant in time, and/or the patient assumes his/her
performance will ultimately be inadequate. The immediate
relief gained whenever the task is avoided, often with the aid
of a permission-giving cognition (e.g., “I’ll do it later when
I’m more up to it”), negatively reinforces avoidance as a
default behavior and leads to an accumulation of disappointments. Behavioral experiments permitting the patient
to stay on-task for a minimal time (even during a therapy
session) provide immediate and positive (or at least less
negative than predicted) emotional experiences associated
with proactive behaviors.
Ultimately, the case conceptualization for the adult
patient with ADHD aids her/him in making informed
decisions. No treatment can guarantee that patients will be
unaffected by ADHD. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder
that requires ongoing coping in order to transcend the
core symptoms. CBT helps patients to face challenging life
decisions by considering all options without falling into
impulsive avoidance patterns. Further, CBT aims to foster
resilience, maintaining a focus on important overarching
goals in one’s life, even in the face of apparent setbacks and
The next section will review preliminary clinical
research on the effectiveness of this therapeutic approach.
Overall, the empirical literature on psychosocial treatments for adults with ADHD is sparse. CBT approaches
have offered some encouraging preliminary results. Wilens
et al. (1999) performed a chart review of 26 adults seeking
treatment for ADHD. Clinical data were collected at baseline, at the point of medication stabilization, and at the end
of CBT (introduced after medication stabilization). The
findings indicated that CBT was associated with patient
improvements on a measure of depression, on clinician
ratings of anxiety and improvements on ADHD symptoms,
and on a rating of overall functioning, both when comparing
the overall effects of the combination of CBT and meds,
and when assessing the effects of CBT after medication
Rostain and Ramsay (2003) conducted a prospective pilot study of a treatment approach combining
pharmacotherapy and CBT for 45 adults diagnosed with
ADHD. Clinical data were gathered at initial assessment and
at the end of approximately 16 sessions of CBT. The results
indicated that the combined treatment was associated
with statistically significant improvements on measures of
depression, anxiety, hopelessness, ADHD symptoms, and
clinician ratings of ADHD symptoms and overall functioning. A drawback of both studies is that it is difficult to tease
apart the relative contributions of CBT and pharmacotherapy. However, anecdotal reports from patients indicate that
CBT offers a valuable psychosocial component in their
efforts to manage ADHD.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that does not
automatically remit during childhood or adolescence, but
instead leads to long-standing functional difficulties for a
significant portion of those affected. While studies of
psychosocial treatments for adults with ADHD have only
recently appeared, CBT stands as a strong candidate for
being able to effectively address the varied needs of this
clinical population.
See also: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—child,
Case formulation
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (1997). Practice
parameters for the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents,
and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36(10,
Suppl.), 85S–121S.
Barkley, R. A. (1997). ADHD and the nature of self-control. New York:
Guilford Press.
Barkley, R. A. (Ed.) (1998). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder:
A handbook for diagnosis and treatment (2nd ed.). New York:
Guilford Press.
Faraone, S. V., & Biederman, J. (1998). Neurobiology of attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 44, 951–958.
McDermott, S. P. (2000). Cognitive therapy for adults with attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder. In T. E. Brown (Ed.), Attention deficit
disorders and comorbidities in children, adolescents, and adults (pp.
569–606). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Ramsay, J. R., & Rostain, A. L. (in press). A cognitive therapy approach for
adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Cognitive
Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly.
Rostain, A. L., & Ramsay, J. R. (2003). Results of a pilot study of a combined treatment for adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Manuscript in preparation.
Wilens, T. E., McDermott, S. P., Biderman, J., Abrantes, A., Hahesy, A., &
Spencer, T. (1999). Cognitive therapy in the treatment of adults with
ADHD: A systematic chart review of 26 cases. Journal of Cognitive
Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 13(3), 215–226.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder—Child
Ricardo Eiraldi and Kimberly Villarin
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a
neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by behavior
disinhibition, overactivity, and difficulty sustaining attention.
It affects 3 to 7% of school-age children in the United States.
Prevalence estimates in other industrialized and Third World
countries indicate that ADHD affects children of all races,
cultures, and socioeconomic status. The gender ratio in the
United States is 3 : 1 male to female, with a larger ratio in
clinical samples and a smaller ratio in community samples.
Behaviors related to ADHD account for 33 to 50% of all
referrals to psychiatric clinics in this country. Up to 70% of
children with ADHD continue to meet diagnostic criteria into
adolescence, and at least 50% meet diagnostic criteria into
young adulthood. Core deficits in ADHD include deficient
impulse control, poor affect regulation, difficulty sustaining
attention, and hyperactivity. The Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), distinguishes three subtypes, ADHD Predominantly Inattentive,
ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive, and ADHD Combined. In
order to meet diagnostic criteria, symptoms of ADHD must
be present across at least two settings and cause clinically
significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational
functioning. Children with ADHD are, in most cases, chronic
underachievers at school, tend to have difficulty reading
social cues, have social skills deficits, and often experience
social isolation and bullying. The most pervasive and severe
adolescent and adult outcomes of ADHD occur in children
who have comorbid conduct disorder (CD) and/or mood disorders. The presence of comorbidity in children with ADHD
appears to have a direct impact on treatment outcome. In
the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD
(MTA), to date the largest, most comprehensive treatment
study of ADHD in children, psychostimulant medication was
found to be the single most effective treatment. The combination of behavior modification strategies and psychostimulant medication was the more effective treatment modality
for children with ADHD and comorbid anxiety disorders and
for those characterized as low socioeconomic status (SES).
In the great majority of studies, including the MTA study,
only children with ADHD Combined Subtype have been
studied. Boys are greatly overrepresented in these studies and
little is known about differences in treatment outcome for
girls, ethnic/racial minorities, or children of low SES.
Cognitive–behavioral interventions (CBI) specifically
developed for impulsive and inattentive children have been
widely used for over 30 years. In 1971, Meichenbaum and
Goodman conducted the first study to test the effectiveness
of cognitive training (CT), specifically, self-directed speech,
in improving sustained attention and behavioral inhibition in
impulsive children. Other studies have also assessed the
effectiveness of cognitive modeling, attribution retraining,
stress inoculation, self-monitoring, and interpersonal problem
solving in treating children with symptoms of ADHD. The
basic aim of those interventions was to target self-control,
sustained attention, and reflective problem-solving deficits
(Braswell, 1998). In those studies, it was expected that by
learning the CT strategies, children would internalize selfcontrol and problem-solving steps and apply those skills
across situations. The results of earlier studies in this area were
very encouraging and some were independently replicated.
However, as the most influential meta-analytic study in this
area showed, strategies using CBI were effective with mildly
behaviorally disordered children, but they were not effective
with children who met full diagnostic criteria for ADHD
(Abikoff, 1991). Treatments using self-instruction training,
cognitive modeling, self-monitoring, self-reinforcement, and
cognitive and interpersonal problem solving for treating
children with ADHD, generally have not shown significant
effects on children’s cognitive and behavioral functioning or
academic performance when those treatments were used in
isolation or in combination with psychostimulant medication (Abikoff, 1991). A notable exception cited in this
meta-analysis was the use of self-reinforcement procedures
for improving math productivity in children with ADHD.
Self-reinforcement, which has been found to increase
children’s motivation and persistence, led to a significant
increase in math productivity and a reduction in careless
errors (Abikoff, 1991). Despite the rather discouraging track
record of CBI for treating core symptoms of ADHD, the
popularity of this type of treatment has not diminished and
new applications are being developed.
Two of the most widely used CBIs are self-instruction
training and self-management. The main goal of selfinstruction training is to teach children to utilize selfdirected speech to guide their own behavior with the
assumption that this will lead to improved self-control.
Russell Barkley and others have observed that children with
ADHD exhibit a developmental lag in developing verbal
56 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder—Child
working memory, also known as internalization of speech.
The progressive shift from public to private speech in children has been found to influence motor behavior and
inhibitory control. According to Barkley, self-directed
speech provides a means for description and reflection by
which the child covertly labels, describes, and verbally contemplates the nature of an event or situation before responding to that event. Shapiro and Cole (1994) summarized the
self-instruction training process in the following manner.
First, the instructor models self-speech out loud and
engages in a task while the child listens and observes. Second,
the instructor models self-speech out loud while the child
concurrently engages in the activity. Next, the instructor
observes and prompts the child when needed while the student uses self-speech out loud and engages in an activity.
Then, the instructor observes and eventually discontinues
prompting while the child whispers self-speech and engages
in a task. The instructor then observes while the child
engages in the task silently. From then on, the child is
instructed to use private self-directed speech only. Shapiro
and Cole (1994) note that children may have difficulty
generalizing the behavior outside of the training situation.
Repeated practice, especially across a variety of settings,
helps to improve generalization. It is also important to
consider whether or not the child is motivated, as this will be
the deciding factor in the acceptability of this type of intervention. Finally, the instructor must also consider whether the
child is more focused on the self-speech procedure than the
activity in which he or she is to be engaged. Ervin, Bankert,
and DuPaul (1996) found that self-instruction training can be
effective with children with ADHD if used with concurrent
behavioral components (i.e., contingencies of reinforcement).
Another popular set of strategies for helping children
develop self-control is self-management. Self-management
is often divided into self-evaluation and self-reinforcement.
The original impetus behind these strategies was to develop
a set of strategies that could allow teachers to shift the
responsibility for monitoring children’s behavior to the children themselves (Shapiro & Cole, 1994). In a typical procedure, the teacher identifies one or two behaviors the child
needs to improve in class. For example, a third-grade teacher
identifies “staying in my seat” and “finishing my work” as
target behaviors for the intervention. The teacher then creates
the criteria for rating the target behaviors. The teacher may
create a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 to 4: 1, very low
effort; 2, not enough effort; 3, sufficient effort; and 4, very
good effort. The teacher trains the child in completing the
ratings using specific examples to explain what each of the
levels in the scale represents. The child is then instructed to
monitor his or her behavior carefully and try to guess what
score the teacher is going to give. The goal of the procedure
is to enable the child to approximate and eventually match
the ratings of an objective rater. Both the teacher and the
child complete a rating at the end of each class period and
then compare the results. If the child’s ratings are within one
point of the teacher’s ratings, the child is awarded points. If
the child’s ratings match the teacher’s ratings exactly, the
child is awarded bonus points. Of crucial importance in these
procedures is developing a reinforcement system that is initially managed by the teacher and then management is slowly
transferred to the child. The teacher and the child develop
a menu of reinforcements containing privileges or other
rewards to be given at school or at home. Once the child consistently matches the teacher’s ratings, the teacher’s participation in the rating and reinforcement is slowly faded out
until the child does both without assistance. Self-management
is a popular intervention for addressing classroom disruption
and off-task behavior in students with ADHD, especially
those in middle school and later grades. Self-management
has been found to be effective with students with ADHD,
although training must occur at the point of performance in
order to ensure maintenance across settings (Shapiro & Cole,
A number of cognitive–behavioral researchers have
developed comprehensive interventions for children and
adolescents with ADHD, which include individual skills
training, family therapy, and school interventions. To our
knowledge, none of these comprehensive intervention packages have been compared in their totality vis-à-vis stimulant
medications, contingency management, or as an adjunct
intervention to the established treatments. Building on the
successes and failures of the first generation of CBI for
ADHD, Lauren Braswell and Michael Bloomquist (1991)
developed one of the most comprehensive treatment packages for children and adolescents with ADHD. This treatment package, Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy with ADHD
Children: Child, Family and School Interventions, was
developed based on an ecological– developmental model of
cognitive–behavioral therapy to improve children’s selfcontrol. In contrast to previous treatment packages where
most of the interventions focused on the child, Braswell and
Bloomquist emphasized the role of parents and teachers in
teaching, modeling, and monitoring strategies for enhancing
self-control. According to Braswell and Bloomquist, just as
children have cognitive and behavioral deficits that need to
be addressed through skills training, so do parents and families. The primary aim of the treatment is to teach children
self-control strategies using problem-solving and selfinstruction training. These training strategies are employed
in dealing with impersonal problems (e.g., academic work
Autism Spectrum Disorders
or poor effort) and/or interpersonal problems (e.g., interaction
difficulties with peers and family members). Children and adolescents also receive social skills training, anger management
training, and strategies for improving academic work. To modify parents’ thoughts and attitudes, educational and cognitive
restructuring are employed. Parents are taught effective behavior management skills and strategies for reinforcing what the
children learn in individual and group sessions.
Families receive communication skills training, and
anger and conflict management training. Finally, Braswell
and Bloomquist (1991) offer a model for cognitive–
behavioral school consultation and instructions for schoolbased interventions. The treatment manual is intended for
children who have ADHD with and without conduct disorder. The manual contains separate child, parent-family,
and school components. Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy with
ADHD Children: Child, Family, and School Interventions
(Braswell & Bloomquist, 1991) probably represents the most
ambitious effort thus far to apply cognitive–behavioral methods and strategies to children with ADHD and their families.
Even though many of the treatment components in this package have been found to be effective in treating a number of
behavioral and emotional disorders in children, their effectiveness has not yet been assessed in children with ADHD.
Recent large, long-term, multisite studies indicate that
a significant proportion of children with ADHD must be
treated using a combination of several treatment modalities
including medication and behavioral (contingent management) strategies. Despite the success of stimulant medication and contingency management for treating symptoms of
ADHD and mild forms of the most common comorbidities,
studies have shown that children with ADHD typically do
not generalize skills learned across situations and that treatment gains decrease rapidly after treatment is terminated.
Further, the chronic nature of this disorder makes it very
difficult for patients and those involved in managing the
interventions to coordinate the various treatments and maintain treatment fidelity. Although CBI has proven ineffective
for treating clinical levels of inattention, hyperactivity, or
impulsivity, it may be effective for treating common comorbidities such as internalizing disorders and thus serve as an
effective adjunct treatment. Because CBI places great
emphasis on enabling the child to develop self-control and
problem-solving skills, it may prove to be effective in supporting generalization and maintenance of treatment gains.
The next generation of multimodal treatment studies for
ADHD should test the effectiveness of CBI as facilitators
and boosters for proven effective treatments. For example,
parents could be taught problem-solving steps that they can
use to modify contingency management strategies between
office visits or after treatment has been terminated.
Cognitive restructuring and the scientific method of
systematic evidence gathering and hypothesis testing can
be taught to parents who hold negative biases or irrational
beliefs about medication as a treatment for ADHD. Goal
setting and self-management strategies could be used with
adolescents who have difficulty managing their medication.
For the past three decades, CBI for ADHD has seen an
initial period of theory development, application, and empirical effort, a longer period of critical evaluation followed by
strong skepticism, and a more recent period of renewed
interest. There is some indication that CBI for ADHD could
serve an important role as an adjunct treatment to psychostimulant medication and behavioral contingency management. Future research should investigate what specific
components of CBI should be used with specific children to
supplement their established treatments.
See also: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—adult,
Parents of children with ADHD
Abikoff, H. (1991). Cognitive training in ADHD children: Less to it than
meets the eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, 205–209.
Braswell, L. (1998). Cognitive behavioral approaches as adjunctive treatments for ADHD children and their families. In S. Goldstein and M.
Goldstein (Eds.), Managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
in Children (2nd Ed.) (pp. 533–544). New York: Wiley.
Braswell, L., & Bloomquist, M. (1991). Cognitive–behavioral therapy with
ADHD children: Child, family, and school interventions. New York:
Guilford Press.
Ervin, R. A., Bankert, C. L., & DuPaul, J. (1996). Treatment of attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder. In M. A. Reineke, F. M. Dattilio, & A.
Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive therapy with children and adolescents:
A casebook for clinical practice. New York: Guilford Press.
Meichenbaum, D.H., & Goodman, J. (1971). Training impulsive children to
talk to themselves. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 77, 115–126.
Shapiro, E. S., & Cole, C. L. (1994). Behavior change in the classroom:
Self-management interventions. New York: Guilford Press.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Raymond G. Romanczyk and
Jennifer M. Gillis
Keywords: autism, autism spectrum disorder, fears/phobias,
Asperger’s disorder, social skills anxiety
Currently, there are five different disorders under the
category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) in
the DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000). The term Autism Spectrum
58 Autism Spectrum Disorders
Disorders (ASD) is commonly used in place of PDD,
particularly by the lay public. The most prevalent diagnoses
in this category—Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder,
and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise
Specified (PDD-NOS)—are the three most commonly
associated with ASD. These developmental disorders have
profound effects on specific areas of development. The three
share substantial deficits in social development and
restricted or stereotyped patterns of activities, interests, and
behaviors. Unlike Asperger’s Disorder, language development in individuals with autism and PDD-NOS is typically
significantly delayed or absent. While specific prevalence
rates are controversial (estimates of 2–6 per 1000 for ASD),
the relative current prevalence rates can be ordered from
most frequent to least frequent: PDD-NOS, autism, and
Asperger’s Disorder.
Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS are
heterogeneous disorders. Diagnostic criteria encompass a
wide range of specific symptoms, which can vary substantially in their expression from individual to individual.
Comorbidity is also an important factor with respect to heterogeneity as autism can occur with other disorders or conditions such as fragile X disorder, Anxiety Disorder, mental
retardation, or epilepsy. While many hypotheses exist as to
etiology, the cause (s) remains unknown. It is clear that these
disorders have a neurobiological basis. However, the specific
mechanisms and links between pathophysiology and behavior remain unidentified. These disorders are most likely present at birth, but may not manifest for several years. There is
currently no physical or medical test for these disorders.
With regard to cognitive characteristics, individuals
with autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS vary
widely in terms of deficits, delays, and advanced skills.
Some of these cognitive deficits include difficulty with
categorical thinking, emotion recognition, rule-governed
behavior, perspective taking, logical reasoning, executive
functioning, and abstract and symbolic representations.
Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder often demonstrate
minimal impairment compared to individuals with autism
and PDD-NOS. As an example of a specific deficit, in the
context of categorical thinking, the category of chair would
include lawn chair, recliner, rocking chair, table chair, and
so on; an individual with autism or PDD-NOS may have
difficulty with placing these types of chairs under this one
category. Rather, the individual might use each type of chair
as its own category. Individuals with autism, Asperger’s
Disorder, or PDD-NOS may also have difficulty with rulegoverned behavior either in comprehending the rule or in
responding to nested rules. An individual with autism or
PDD-NOS may take longer to comprehend a general rule
than a specific rule. An example of a common rule-governed
behavior is that children are told to look both ways before
crossing a street. A child with autism or PDD-NOS may
only understand this rule to apply to the specific street at
which the rule was taught and not apply the rule to other
streets, roads, pathways, and the like. Further, difficulty is
often encountered with teaching a broad rule, for example,
examining the environment for possible dangerous situations. The impairment in rule-governed behavior for individuals with Asperger’s Disorder can be more subtle and is
sometimes referred to as demonstrating a significant lack of
common sense.
Individuals with autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and
PDD-NOS have significant difficulty in perspective taking,
which makes traditional role-playing, modeling, and cognitive interventions problematic. Thus, modification of CBT
procedures is necessary in order to address this fundamental
deficit. It is important to note that this deficit is not a distortion (e.g., paranoia) but rather is the impairment in the ability to understand and recognize consequences and actions
from another person’s point of view (e.g., egocentrism). For
individuals with autism and PDD-NOS, because of their
typically significant language delays/deficits, modification
of CBT procedures along this dimension must also be made.
Cognitive–behavioral therapy has not yet had a major
influence in the treatment of individuals with ASD, as individuals with these disorders may have limited or impaired
cognitive and language abilities. Applied behavior analysis
(ABA) is a complex intervention process demonstrated to be
effective in the treatment of ASD. It involves many similar
components of CBT, and focuses strongly on experiential
learning. ABA includes the comprehensive use of principles of learning in order to develop or enhance skills of
individuals with and without disabilities. In ABA, interventions are designed, implemented, and evaluated in a systematic fashion. The individual’s behavior and the environment
are observed and measured to detect progress, impediments
to progress, and other variables influencing behavior, thus
making it conceptually similar to CBT.
Emerging CBT interventions for individuals with ASD,
with influence from the ABA methodology, include the
application of relaxation techniques and systematic desensitization procedures for individuals with fears and phobias.
Since many individuals with ASD have impaired cognitive
and communication abilities, these procedures are adjusted
to the individual’s specific limitations in understanding the
Autism Spectrum Disorders
language component of the intervention(s). Some of the
symptoms that are impediments to CBT and therefore require
adjustment are:
Poor eye contact
Poor reciprocal social interactions
Poor social communication skills
Poor recognition and expression of emotions
Slow acquisition of new skills
Poor generalization of skills
Poor attention and motivation
Poor behavioral flexibility
Poor impulse control
Intense behavioral outbursts in the absence of typical
The initial assessment phase for CBT usually consists
of interview, self-report, surveys, or questionnaires assessing current psychological functioning. These types of
assessments can also be used with individuals with ASD,
with certain modifications; for instance, pictures of faces
displaying different emotions to assist the individual in
correctly identifying his or her own emotions. Behavioral
symptoms of individuals with ASD can also be measured
(e.g., frequency, intensity) and monitored throughout a CBT
intervention to indicate progress. Behaviors such as withdrawal, poor eye contact, and lack of reciprocal interaction
are often clinically relevant and important variables.
Another component common to CBT is teaching clients
to recognize their feelings and learn how their feelings and
thoughts influence behavior. Teaching individuals with ASD
the behavioral, cognitive, and physiological symptoms associated with different emotions is often an extreme challenge.
Significant time may be devoted over numerous sessions to
impact this limitation. Although it may seem contraindicated,
group therapy may be effective as it allows for the use of peer
modeling in order to teach imitation skills, appropriate use
of language (communication), and social interactions. Even
individuals with significant impairments in cognition and
communication or language skills may benefit from group
therapy. However, one-to-one therapy will typically also be
needed to make interactions more discrete and sequential, in
order to improve recognition and modeling. These sessions
may include role-playing and using scripts to teach appropriate interaction skills that will be required in a group setting,
which in turn will maximize generalization of these skills
outside of the therapeutic context. It is often necessary to create multiple situations and create lists of choices as to what
are appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with
different situations, as self-generation of such options is
typically highly impaired.
Social skills impairment in individuals with ASD can
often impede developing friendships, holding conversations,
and participating in employment, to name a few. For some
individuals with ASD, such impact on social interaction
with the resulting social isolation may lead to depression.
Depending on the individual’s chronological age and functioning level, different goals for therapy are addressed. For
example, for children with ASD the social skills of being a
good sport and learning how to appropriately handle losing
may be taught, along with other social skills including
teaching eye contact, inviting a friend to the movies, and
even telephone conversational skills. For very young children with ASD, the simple task of sharing may be the focus.
Difficulty with language and communication abilities
may also be a focus of CBT for individuals with ASD.
Individuals with ASD tend to have difficulty with abstract
concepts. For example, teaching humor or use of slang can
be challenging as they involve the often subtle use of language and abstract concepts and relationships. Such seemingly simple skills as use of humor and slang can be
essential in establishing and maintaining appropriate peer
Some individuals with ASD have difficulty with transitions or changes in routine. CBT procedures that focus on
self-monitoring and anxiety reduction, as well as problem
solving, can help with providing the skills to prepare for
such change (expected or not) in their daily schedule.
Individuals with ASD have difficulty with selfperception and self-esteem. Self-talk strategies may help
individuals with ASD improve in both areas. When using
self-talk strategies for individuals with ASD, it may be necessary to have a more overt system for self-prompting than
is usually the case, such as using a visual system. Thus, the
extent to which each of these CBT interventions may be
used will depend on the level of functioning of the individual with ASD and his or her particular pattern of symptom expression.
Homework is necessary in order to focus on practicing
skills learned in therapy. This is all the more true for individuals with ASD who often display poor maintenance and
generalization of skills. Usually skill practice for homework
assignments will require a parent or other adult who can serve
as an in vivo coach. It may be important to have a parent or
peer education component to teach them how to participate
as “co-therapists.” Consistently practicing the skills learned in
therapy is a critical component for individuals with ASD.
The discussion up to this point has focused on the clinical modification of CBT interventions for individuals with
ASD. Specific outcome research for such modification is lacking, although there are encouraging case reports of success.
60 Autism Spectrum Disorders
Perhaps the most neglected but potentially useful CBT
intervention procedures involve the use of relaxation techniques in concert with cognitive structuring. It is not uncommon that the comorbidity of ASD and Anxiety Disorder is
not detected/addressed, given the extreme behavior outbursts and the relative social isolation presumed to be simply a characteristic of ASD. Since social situations may
increase the level of anxiety in general for individuals with
ASD, this is particularly problematic because a primary goal
of therapy is often to improve social interaction. The use of
relaxation and/or diaphragmatic breathing in combination
with CBT has proven useful for individuals with anxiety and
related disorders. Application to individuals with ASD
would appear to be a promising direction (Luscre & Center,
1996). However, systematic controlled outcome research
for CBT with individuals with ASD is currently lacking,
but there is increasing interest and activity in the clinical
application of CBT.
See also: Anxiety—adult, Asperger’s disorder, Social skills
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Luscre, D. M., & Center, D. B. (1996). Procedure for reducing dental fear
in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders, 26, 547–556.
Cautela, J. R., & Groden, J. (1978). Relaxation: A comprehensive manual
for adults, children, and children with special needs. Champaign, IL:
Research Press.
Groden, G., & Baron, M. G. (Eds.) (1991). Autism: Strategies for change:
A comprehensive approach to the education and treatment of children
with autism and related disorders. New York: Gardner Press.
Lesniak-Karpiak, K., Mazzocco, M. M. M., & Ross, J. L. (2003).
Behavioral assessment of social anxiety in females with Turner or
fragile X syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,
33, 55–67.
Love, S. R., Matson, J. L., & West, D. (1990). Mothers as effective therapists for autistic children’s phobias. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Analysis, 23, 379–385.
Palkowitz, R., & Wisenfeld, A. R. (1980). Differential autonomic responses
of autistic and normal children. Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders, 10, 347–360.
Romanczyk, R. G., & Matthews, A. L. (1998). Physiological state as
antecedent: Utilization in functional analysis. In J. K. Luiselli &
M. J. Cameron (Eds.), Antecedent control: Innovative approaches to
behavioral support. Baltimore: Brookes.
Steen, B. E., & Zuriff, G. E. (1977). The use of relaxation in the treatment
of self-injurious behavior. Journal of Behavior Therapy and
Experimental Psychiatry, 8, 447–448.
Behavioral Assessment
Robert A. DiTomasso and Robert Gilman
Keywords: functional analysis, behavior analysis, cognitive
behavioral case conceptualization, case formulation, behavioral
Behavioral assessment is a specific empirically based
assessment paradigm which evolved from the field of behavior therapy. Traditional assessment approaches, based on the
trait model, lacked utility for behavioral clinicians and
researchers who stressed the critical importance of directly
observable phenomena and the verifiability of observations.
According to Bellack and Hersen (1998), behavioral assessment, then, is an empirically driven, multimethod, multimodal, and multi-informant process that involves the
carefully specified measurement of observable behavior and
associated temporally related causal variables. Behavioral
assessment is, therefore, a systematic approach designed to
facilitate the understanding of behavior and its reliable and
valid measurement for clinical and research purposes.
Ultimately, the purpose of this process is to provide a sound
basis for clinical decision making and the development of
effective behavior change strategies (Haynes, Leisen, &
Blaine, 1997; Haynes & Williams, 2003). Behavioral assessment procedures rely on minimally inferential tools that are
applied in a repeated measurement format over a period of
time for a given behavior of interest. These measurements
target problem behaviors and associated antecedent and
consequential social, physical, and environmental factors as
they relate to the development and maintenance of problem
Behavioral assessment provides data about what a person
does, the circumstances under which the behavior reliably
occurs, how often the behavior occurs, whether a behavior
should be increased or decreased, how long it lasts, and the
consequences of the behavior, that is, its impact regarding
what is obtained, escaped, or avoided as a result (Bellack &
Hersen, 1998). These data provide a basis for conducting a
functional analysis of behavior or behavior analysis specifying
critical variables to consider in the development of treatment
The behavioral assessment model developed out of the
growing dissatisfaction with traditional assessment
approaches. These traditional approaches were based on a
trait model of personality. Inferred enduring characteristics
of individuals were used to explain and predict the behavior
of individuals across different contexts and situations.
Behaviorists viewed personality as the sum total of an individual’s habit repertoire and behavior (Wolpe, 1973). As a
result, traditional approaches simply could not provide the
behavioral clinician with the data that were needed to
develop a conceptualization of a patient’s problem, let alone
a behavioral intervention. The popularity of behavior therapy called for an assessment approach that made similar
assumptions about human behavior. The behavioral assessment model shares the underlying assumptions of the behavioral approach. First, learning, a relatively permanent
change in behavior that occurs as a result of the experience
of the individual, is viewed as a primary mechanism for the
62 Behavioral Assessment
development of maladaptive behavior. Principles of learning
could be used to explain the onset, development, and maintenance of maladaptive responding. Second, this approach
emphasizes the observable and focuses on the here and now.
Third, the behavior, as opposed to some assumed underlying
cause, is the problem to be targeted, Fourth, principles of
learning could, then, be used to help clients learn more adaptive responses that are incompatible with maladaptive
responses. The behavioral approach to assessment, therefore,
encompassed these assumptions which led to the development of methods for actively gathering empirical information
about maladaptive problems causing impairment. This information could then be used to inform a learning-based
conceptualization of the client’s problem.
Traditional assessment approaches relied heavily on
inference, too subjective a process for most behaviorists.
Behaviorists placed a premium on observation, not inference. The subjective nature of inference made it susceptible
to bias in the interpretation of behavior. Behavioral clinicians sought an approach that provided an actual sample of
the individual’s behavior in the contexts of interest.
In the traditional model, the problematic behavior of an
individual was viewed as a symptom of some underlying
nonobservable cause. Failure to understand and treat the
underlying cause was viewed as a sure means of promoting
treatment failure and consequent symptom substitution. In the
behavioral assessment model, the behavior is the problem to
be treated by unlearning it and relearning more adaptive
Empirical Basis
Behavioral assessment is empirically based, meaning
that it is capable of being verified by direct observation. The
criterion behavior of interest and the test situation are one
and the same. Therefore, generalizing from the behavioral
assessment data to the actual life situation of the client is
usually not an issue. Obtaining an adequate sample of the
situations in which the criterion behavior is likely to occur
is, however, essential in providing a thorough understanding
of the behavior in question. Therefore, scheduling and collecting observations across a variety of relevant situations
is most beneficial. Limiting observations to a small number
of situations may prevent a thorough understanding of the
target behavior, especially if these situations preclude the
emission of the target response (DiTomasso & Colameco,
1982). For some problems, setting the occasion for the
response to occur may be necessary. Otherwise, waiting for
situations to occur that include occasions for the response
may be too time-consuming and impractical.
Multiple Methods
In behavioral assessment there is reliance on multiple
methods, which are selected and based on the nature of the
problem to be studied. The characteristics of the target behavior or problem measured, such as frequency, intensity, latency,
duration, or a combination of such, depend on the nature of the
problem. In some instances, multiple facets of the problem
behavior may require observation. The intent is for the method
to yield the maximum amount of relevant and usable information for the least amount of effort and cost. Behavioral assessment tools are tailor-fitted and designed to yield the most
important information. Behavioral clinicians do not employ a
measure of some underlying trait on which to infer behavior.
Rather, the behavioral observations are directly obtained in the
natural environment where the behavior is occurring, either
directly observed by another or self-monitored by the patient.
Even in situations where observable behavior is coded in some
fashion, the reliance on inference is minimal.
Explicitly Defining the Target Behavior
The quality of the information obtained from behavioral
assessment depends on explicitly defining the target behavior
or complaint in question. Carefully and precisely delineating
and operationalizing the critical components of the target
behavior allows for clear discrimination of the occurrence
and nonoccurrence of the behavior under observation
(DiTomasso & Colameco, 1982). Clear specification of the
target behavior allows for more precise measurement of the
phenomena and ensures that when the behavior in question
occurs, it is detected and recorded by the observer. It also
serves to differentiate instances of the target behavior from
other behaviors that could otherwise be confused with the target behavior. Over the years as the field has evolved, there has
been a noticeably increasing trend to rely, or perhaps overrely,
on self-report measures as opposed to observational methods
(Taylor, 1999). One example of a self-report approach is
behavior rating scales, which rely on a thorough representative
sampling of the universe of behaviors that define a construct.
Multimodal Focus
Behavioral assessment is also multimodal and focuses on
more than one aspect of the client. In this sense, behavioral clinicians are most often interested in more than just the behavior of the client. Behavior is therefore more broadly defined
and may include cognitive, emotional, and physiological
parameters. By engaging the client to become a direct observer
Behavioral Assessment
and recorder of his/her own private events, the assessment
helps to make in a sense the unobservable more observable.
Multiple Informants
This assessment approach may incorporate observational information from more than one source. Possible
informants include the client as well as those who share the
client’s environment including family members, teachers,
peers, psychiatric technicians, nurses, and the like. Reliance
on other observers helps to provide a fuller understanding of
the target behavior from different perspectives. All observers,
however, employ behavioral assessment tools designed to
provide useful information for the clinician and are asked to
provide carefully collected observations. The use of observers
necessitates that they are trained in the methods that are being
employed. Training must ensure that the observers know how
to use the tools correctly and complete them within the
parameters that are likely to increase their utility. For example, when making observations, the data are recorded at the
time of the occurrence and not completed at a later time when
memory decay may threaten the validity of the information.
As far as observation is concerned, more is better.
Other informants may shed light on some aspect of the problem behavior about which the client does not have access or
awareness. An important by-product of this process is that it
may ultimately help those in the client’s environment learn
how their own behavior may be intimately tied into maintaining the problem behavior of the client. These observational data may also serve to provide social validation about
the change in a client’s behavior, an important yardstick for
determining the clinical significance of any change.
Identifying Antecedent Conditions
The identification of antecedent conditions is valuable
in delineating specific circumstances and situations under
which the target problem manifests itself. The problem
behavior may be more likely to occur under one set of conditions than another. In this sense these situations may
represent high-risk situations and associated cues to which
the client and clinician need to be alerted. If the target problem is found to differentially occur across situations, the
exploration of differences across these situations may provide helpful information about subtle precipitating factors.
Identifying Time-Associated Causal Variables
In understanding and predicting behavior, behavioral
assessment considers time-associated causal variables. A
complete picture of a problematic behavior involves
considerably more than the mere observation of the behavior
itself. Since the information derived from behavioral assessment is used to select, design, and implement interventions,
information about the frequency of a problem behavior provides only part of the picture. Behavioral assessment data
often include the circumstances under which a behavior is
likely to occur; the target behavior itself; associated
thoughts, images, and feelings; and the consequences in the
client’s environment that may serve to reinforce and maintain the problem. The determination of factors serving to
reinforce and maintain problematic behavior is crucial. By
observing the impact a problem has on the client’s environment, it is possible to identify possible gains mediated
through the role of positive reinforcement. It is also possible
to determine how the problem may serve to prevent the
client from contact with an anticipated aversive stimulus
(avoidance) or remove the client from an aversive situation
Repeated Measurements Over Time
Behavioral assessment measures are usually collected
across a variety of situations over time. Data are collected
during baseline, treatment, and follow-up. Assessment is
therefore not a one-shot deal. Rather, the clinician obtains a
series of integrated snapshots of the targets by sampling
across a variety of relevant contexts. The synthesis of this
information provides a comprehensive view of the target
problem yielding clinically useful information. Baseline
information provides a measure of the severity of the problem, useful information for performing a functional analysis,
and a criterion against which to measure treatment efficacy.
Ongoing data obtained during treatment further inform the
case conceptualization, either supporting the selection of
treatment or necessitating a reanalysis of the problem and
selection of another treatment. Data obtained during the treatment phase should confirm improvement of the problem.
Otherwise, the treatment plan has been misinformed assuming the correct implementation of the treatment has occurred.
Follow-up data provide a measure of the stability of the
behavior change, identify possible relapse, and the degree to
which alternative ways of responding have been learned.
Scheduling of Observations
In the assessment of targets, continuous observation
would be costly in terms of time and effort and most
assuredly impractical. To provide valuable information,
behavioral assessments must be collected under circumstances that ensure adequate representation of the target
problem. Therefore, decisions about when to collect observations involve selection and planning of observations
during samples of time and events that are most likely to be
64 Behavioral Assessment
representative of the problem. Otherwise, a biased and inaccurate view of the problem may be obtained.
Reliability of Observations Collected
When using an observer to collect information, an important question centers around the reliability of the information
gathered. The key issue has to do with interobserver agreement, that is, the extent to which the observations are replicable by an independent observer. Although less frequently
addressed, the reliability of self-monitored information is just
as important. In either case, the use of an independent
observer, when relevant, can add much to the confidence one
places in the information obtained. Considering the extent to
which two observers agree regarding, for example, the frequency and duration of a target behavior, lends credibility to
the observational process and the information itself. The use of
an independent observer with self-monitored information
necessitates that the behavior being self-monitored be observable and open to public scrutiny (e.g., having a spouse monitor the amount of time it takes for an insomniac to fall asleep).
Reactivity Issues
The mere fact of knowing one is being observed or that
one is observing oneself may produce reactive effects.
Reactive effects occur when the knowledge of observation
changes the phenomenon being observed. In short, the observations obtained when one is aware of the observation will not
necessarily generalize to situations when observations are
made without this awareness of the client. From a clinical
standpoint, reactive effects appear to occur in a direction that
is congruent with treatment effects and although transient in
nature, may be initially confused with treatment effects.
Unobtrusive and Random Reliability Checks
Reliability between observers may be expected to be
higher when observers, even self-observers, are aware that
reliability will be checked. In this sense, the reliability of
observations obtained when the observers are aware may
not generalize to situations when they are aware they are not
being checked. A possible solution to this problem is to
make the observers aware that reliability will be checked,
but not let them know when the checking is actually occurring (DiTomasso & Colameco, 1982).
There are many possible behavioral assessment tools
available for use. The exact nature of these tools depends on
the specific types of target problems being assessed. Methods
of behavioral assessment include direct observation by another
or self-observation in vivo, in vitro, or during performance
on an analogue measure. Regardless of the specific tool
selected or designed, a commonality across all tools is the
monitoring of important and relevant aspects of the target
response. For example, a behavioral assessment tool for monitoring panic attacks might include the day, situation, symptoms, thoughts, anxiety levels, the time the panic attack began,
time ended, and behaviors. A mood diary might include the situation, feeling, rating of feelings, automatic thought, belief rating, specific type of cognitive distortion, rational thought,
rerating of negative automatic thought, and rerating of feelings. A tool for monitoring tantrums might include the day, frequency of tantrums, duration of each tantrum, situations
precipitating tantrums, and the behaviors of significant others
in response to the tantrums. A food diary may include the
foods, amounts of food, calories consumed at each meal, eating situations, thoughts, and associated feelings preceding eating. A headache chart may include the day, time of onset of
headache, specific symptoms, duration of headache, pain
intensity rating, and behavior of the client. A smoking chart
may include the situations in which smoking occurs, the number of cigarettes smoked, relevant thoughts, and feelings.
To develop accurate assessment plans, case conceptualizations, and, ultimately, effective treatment plans, cognitive–behavioral therapists must carefully assess the features,
context, and manner in which a client’s cognitive–behavioral
difficulties develop (Thorpe & Olson, 1997). Both Persons
(1989) and, more recently, Needleman (1999) offer clinically
useful models. The case conceptualization, a template for
understanding clients, accurately accounts for the client’s past
behaviors, explains the client’s present behaviors, and predicts the client’s future behavior (Needleman, 1999). A number of terms, synonymous with case conceptualization,
describe the process for identifying antecedent variables for
problematic behavior including functional analysis, behavior
analysis, and functional assessment (Cone, 1997). Whatever
term one chooses to use, the formulation is directly linked to
behavioral assessment. As a higher-order process, case conceptualization firmly rests on the careful collection, evaluation, and interpretation of valid and reliable behavioral
assessment data. The quality of behavioral assessment data
directly affects the quality of the formulation. A poorly conceived and implemented behavioral assessment plan could
misinform the conceptualization process and ultimately
undermine treatment.
Behavioral Neuropsychology
Behavioral assessment data, then, fuel the case conceptualization process by providing clinically relevant information that helps clients understand their problems more fully
from a learning-based perspective. These data are integrated
and synthesized with other relevant information about the
client and form a solid foundation for the selection of specific treatment protocols. Finally, this information is helpful
in predicting barriers to treatment.
Treatment planning and implementation are critical to
successful cognitive–behavioral therapy. Both are linked to
the therapist’s ability to generate clinical hypotheses and
develop, refine, and tailor treatment to the client’s needs.
Behavioral assessment helps the clinician formulate casespecific treatment plans (Needleman, 1999; Persons, 1989)
that are of direct relevance to the client’s treatment.
Behavioral assessment enables the clinician to reduce
target problems into observable and measurable units. It also
informs the treatment process in an ongoing manner. For
example, baseline data provide the clinician with important
information about the state of the client’s problem before an
intervention has been made. During the course of treatment
the clinician expects that if treatment is appropriately
attending to the critical aspects of the problem, change will
occur in the desired direction.
Behavioral assessment serves an important function in
clinical research. It is used to substantiate the effects of
treatments by providing evidence of change in the targets of
treatment. Over the past many years it has been and continues to be an integral part of single-subject experimental
Behavioral assessment is an integral and critical
component of cognitive–behavioral approaches to assessment, case formulation, treatment planning, clinical outcome evaluation, and research. It lies at the very heart and
soul of the cognitive–behavioral empirically supported
model of treatment. As the field of cognitive–behavioral
therapy continues to evolve and expand in the future, behavioral assessment is likely to remain a central and indispensable element of this important model.
See also: Applied behavior analysis
Bellack, A. S., & Hersen, M. (1998). Behavioral assessment: A practical
guide. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Cone, J. D. (1997). Issues in functional analysis in behavioral assessment.
Behavior Research and Therapy, 35, 259–279.
DiTomasso, R. A., & Colameco, S. (1982). Patient self-monitoring of
behavior. Journal of Family Practice, 15(1), 79–83.
Haynes, S. N., Leisen, M.B., & Blaine, D.D. (1997). Design of individualized behavioral treatment programs using functional analytical clinical
case models. Psychological Assessment, 9(4), 334.
Haynes, S. N., & Williams, A. E. (2003). Case formulation and the design
of behavioral treatment programs: Matching treatment mechanisms to
causal variables for behavior problems. European Journal of
Psychological Assessment, 19(3), 164.
Needleman, L. D. (1999). Cognitive case conceptualization: A guidebook
for practitioners. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Persons, J. B. (1989). Cognitive therapy in practice: A case formulation
approach. New York: Norton.
Taylor, S. (1999). Behavioral assessment: Review and prospect. Behavior
Research and Therapy, 37(5), 475–482.
Thorpe, G. L., & Olson, S. L. (1997). Behavior therapy: Concepts, procedures, and applications. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Wolpe, J. (1973). The practice of behavior therapy. New York: Pergamon
Behavioral Neuropsychology
Arthur MacNeill Horton, Jr.*
Keywords: neuropsychology, rehabilitation, behavioral treatment,
brain damage, brain injury
The theoretical and scientific knowledge required for the
specialty of behavioral neuropsychology concerns
brain–behavior relationships and includes considerable portions of the human neurosciences and theories of hemispheric specialization (Kolb & Whishaw, 1996); in addition,
knowledge of psychometrics and measurement theory is
important (Reynolds, 1981). In pursuit of conceptual clarity,
the following brief definitions are provided. The terms to be
discussed have been used in idiosyncratic fashion by numerous authors. This practice has undoubtedly diminished the
conceptual clarity of the issues. To date, satisfactory methods of correcting this situation have not been developed.
Dr. Horton’s contribution is based in part on his chapter in the
Neuropsychology Handbook (Horton, 1997).
66 Behavioral Neuropsychology
While different authors have advanced multiple definitions of neuropsychology, in the context of this contribution
the following definition was selected: “Neuropsychology is
the scientific study of brain–behavior relationships” (Meier,
1974). Some limitations of this definition will be briefly
mentioned. The definition ignores distinctions among the
many fields of neuropsychology that have developed over
the years (Davison, 1974; Horton, Wedding, & Phay, 1981).
In order to provide further clarification, the following will
offer a brief definition of behavioral neuropsychology.
Behavioral neuropsychology is the most recent addition to the principal subfields of neuropsychology. Horton
(1979) has offered the following definition of behavioral
Essentially, behavioral neuropsychology may be defined as
the application of behavior therapy techniques to problems
of organically impaired individuals while using a neuropsychological assessment and intervention perspective. This
treatment philosophy assumes that inclusion of data from
neuropsychological assessment strategies would be helpful
in the formulation of hypotheses regarding antecedent
conditions (external or internal) for observed phenomena of
psychopathology. (p. 20)
This new area of research and clinical interest combines
elements of both clinical neuropsychology and behavior therapy. Despite a focus on applied aspects of neuropsychology,
behavioral neuropsychology may be easily discriminated
from related subfields of neuropsychology by its reliance on
behavior therapy/applied behavior analysis research for its
treatment/intervention techniques. The major emphasis of
behavioral neuropsychology is on the problems of management, retraining, and rehabilitation (Horton, 1994). In contrast, the related areas of clinical neuropsychology and
behavioral neurology are more associated with the problems
of clinical diagnosis. Furthermore, it should be clear that
experimental neuropsychology can be easily separated from
clinical neuropsychology, behavioral neurology, and behavioral neuropsychology by the primary research aims of the
former and the more clinical aims of the latter (Horton &
Wedding, 1984).
Essentially, the biological problem that behavioral neuropsychology addresses is that of impaired brain functioning
due to cerebral dysfunction. The distinctive knowledge and
skills that define the specialty which reflect the problem are
knowledge of functional neuroanatomy, clinical neurology
and neurosurgery, behavioral neurology, neuropathology,
and psychopharmacology. The essential understanding is
how the brain functions and how the functioning of the brain
on multiple levels is related to behavioral functioning at various levels. The problem of impaired neuropsychological
functioning can be seen in a number of varied settings with
respect to physical and organizational aspects. Impaired
functioning may be relatively obvious in terms of a stroke
victim or relatively subtle in terms of a child with attention
deficit disorder syndrome. The range of settings in which
disordered brain functioning may cause behavioral disturbances can encompass a private practice setting, an educational
setting, an industrial or occupational setting, a substance
abuse treatment facility, a rehabilitation setting a neurology
or psychiatry ward in a major teaching hospital or in a community hospital. In all of these settings, or impaired brain
functioning may cause disturbances that are responsible
for specific problems in terms of adapting to the behavioral
demands of the setting. The sorts of problems that the
biological insult causes may be related to cognitive skills,
sensory–perceptual abilities, motor skills, or emotional/
personality functioning. This may have psychological ramifications with respect to the person’s adequacy or inability to
self-manage his or her own behavior or may have social
complications with respect to the person’s ability to interact
with others to maintain a productive lifestyle. The person
may be unable to contribute through vocational activities to
the welfare of society and also be limited in assuming
mature roles in relationships and family activities such as
parenting. The problem in terms of psychological or social
aspects to a degree is related to the fit of the person in the
special circumstances in which he or she finds him- or herself.
Examinations of major currents in behavioral therapy
can help delineate the scope of behavioral neuropsychology.
Behavior therapy can be seen as having developed three
salient subareas: behavior, cognitive, and affective. Due
to the work of Watson (1913), Skinner (1938), and others
several decades ago, behavior therapy is premised on the
principle that behavior is a function of environmental consequences and utilizes positive and negative reinforcement
as major concepts.
The affective trend in behavior therapy owes much to
the early work of Joseph Wolpe, M.D. (1958), the South
African psychiatrist who is credited with the establishment
of clinical behavior therapy. His techniques of systematic
desensitization and assertiveness training have, in large part,
sparked the clinical behavior therapy movement.
In contrast, the cognitive–behavioral trend postulates
that inferred variables, such as thoughts and images, should
be seen as legitimate concepts in the functional analysis of
human behavior (Mahoney, 1974). The cognitive trend in
behavior therapy has been a subject of controversy (Beck &
Mahoney, 1979; Ellis, 1979; Lazarus, 1979; Wolpe, 1978).
More recent contributions such as this volume demonstrate
the current wide acceptance of cognitive–behavioral therapy
and its preeminence in the human services and mental health
Behavioral Neuropsychology
One of the first to suggest that behavioral neuropsychological knowledge would be helpful in understanding childhood learning disorders was William Gaddes (1968). Many
have advocated such a position (Hynd & Obrzut, 1981;
Rourke, 1975); indeed, some have gone so far as to suggest
that the interface of education and behavioral neuropsychology has been so productive that a subdiscipline
has evolved. Various terms advocated to describe this new subdiscipline have included school neuropsychology (Hynd &
Obrzut, 1981), developmental neuropsychology (van der Vlugt,
1979), and educational neuropsychology (Gaddes, 1981).
Factors that have contributed to the current enthusiasm regarding the educational relevance of neuropsychological data
include the wealth of reliable clinical findings correlating
localized brain lesions and academic performance.
Of even more immediate value to the notion of promoting an interface between education and behavioral neuropsychology has been research demonstrating the value of
neuropsychological data in treatment planning for educational deficiencies. Perhaps some of the most interesting
results were obtained by Hartlage (1975). In this early study,
first-graders were placed in reading programs based on neuropsychological assessment data. The experimental group was
1.5 standard deviations above the control group in reading
after 1 year. Similar results have been obtained by others
(Kaufman & Kaufman, 1983). It should be noted that these
studies utilized a strengths approach to treatment planning
(Reynolds, 1981). Expectations are that a strengths
approach will be of great value and that more effective use
of cognitive–behavioral therapy can be made with this
approach (Horton, Wedding, & Phay, 1981). As noted by
others (Satz & Fletcher, 1981), the therapeutic role of the
behavioral neuropsychologist is emerging. A major and
salient trend in human neuropsychology is the move away
from the classic diagnostic role toward that of intervention/
therapy (Diller & Gordon, 1981; Horton & Miller, 1984;
Horton & Wedding, 1984). One strong trend in the therapy of
the brain-impaired is the use of behavior modification with
the brain-injured (Horton, 1979; Horton & Wedding, 1984).
Research documents excellent results (Horton, 1997; Horton
& Miller, 1984; Horton & Wedding, 1984).
See also: Developmental disabilities in community settings,
Rehabilitation psychology
Beck, A., & Mahoney, M. J. (1979). Schools of thought. American
Psychologist, 34, 93–98.
Davison, L. A. (1974). Introduction. In R. M. Reitan & L. A. Davison
(Eds.), Clinical neuropsychology: Current status and applications.
New York: Wiley.
Diller, L., & Gordon, W. A. (1981). Interventions for cognitive deficits in
brain injured adults. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
49, 822–834.
Ellis, A. (1979). On Joseph Wolpe’s espousal of cognitive–behavior
therapy. American Psychologist, 34, 98–99.
Gaddes, W. H. (1968). A neuropsychological approach to learning
disorders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, I, 523–534.
Gaddes, W. H. (1981). An examination of the validity of neuropsychological
knowledge in educational diagnosis and remediation. In G. W. Hynd &
J. E. Obrzut (Eds.), Neuropsychological assessment and the school-aged
child: Issues and procedures (pp. 27–84). New York: Grune & Stratton.
Hartlage, L. C. (1975). Neuropsychological approaches to predicting outcome of remedial education strategies for learning disabled children.
Pediatric Psychology, 23, 8.
Heaton, R. K., & Pendleton, M. G. (1981). Use of neuropsychological tests
to predict adult patient’s everyday functioning. Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology, 49, 807–821.
Horton, A. M., Jr. (1979). Behavioral neuropsychology: Rationale and presence. Clinical Neuropsychology, 1, 20–23.
Horton, A. M., Jr. (1994). Behavioral interventions with brain-injured children. New York: Plenum Press.
Horton, A. M., Jr. (1997). Behavioral neuropsychology: Problems and
prospects. In A. M. Horton, Jr., D. Wedding, & J. S. Webster (Eds.),
Neuropsychology handbook (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 73–98). New York:
Horton, A. M., Jr., & Miller, W. G. (1984). Brain damage and rehabilitation.
In C. J. Golden (Ed.), Current topics in rehabilitation psychology
(pp. 77–105). New York: Grune & Stratton.
Horton, A. M., Jr., & Wedding, D. (1984). Clinical and behavioral neuropsychology. New York: Praeger Press.
Horton, A. M., Jr., Wedding, D., & Phay, A. (1981). Current perspective on
assessment of a therapy for brain-damaged individuals. In C. J. Golden,
S. E. Alcaparras, F. Strider, & B. Graber (Eds.), Applied technique in
behavioral medicine (pp. 59–85). New York: Grune & Stratton.
Hynd, G. W., & Obrzut, J. E. (1981). School neuropsychology. Journal of
School Psychology, 19, 45–60.
Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (1983). Kaufman Assessment Battery
for Children. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Services.
Kolb, B., & Whishaw, I. Q. (1996). Fundamentals of human neuropsychology (4th ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman.
Lazarus, A. A. (1979). A matter of emphasis. American Psychologist, 34, 100.
Mahoney, M. J. (1974). Cognition and behavior modification. Cambridge,
MA: Ballinger.
Meier, M. J. (1974). Some challenges for clinical neuropsychology. In
R. M. Reitan & L. A. Davison (Eds.), Clinical neuropsychology:
Current status and application (pp. 289–323). New York: Wiley.
Reynolds, C. R. (1981). Neuropsychological assessment and the habilitation of learning: Consideration in the search for the aptitude treatment
interaction. School Psychology Review, 10, 342–349.
Rourke, B. P. (1975). Brain–behavior relationships in children with learning
disabilities: A research program. American Psychologist, 30, 911–920.
Satz, P., & Fletcher, J. M. (1981). Emergent trends in neuropsychology:
An overview. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49,
Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms. New York:
van der Vlugt, H. (1979). Aspects of normal and abnormal neuropsychological development. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), Handbook of behavioral neurobiology (Vol. 2, pp. 754–781). New York: Plenum Press.
68 Behavioral Neuropsychology
Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological
Review, 20, 158–177.
Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press.
Wolpe, J. (1978). Cognition and causation in human behavior and its
therapy. American Psychologist, 33, 437–446.
Behavior Therapy
L. Michael Ascher and Christina Esposito
Keywords: behavior therapy, behavioral treatment
The tenets of behavioral therapy are anchored in
J. B. Watson’s view of psychology (1913, 1924). It was his
position that for psychology to advance it had to renounce
the procedures and goals of many of his contemporaries in
the field; these included the use of nonreproducible, subjective methods, such as introspection, to study “faculties of the
mind.” By restricting the subject matter of psychology to
observable behavior, Watson held that behaviorism—his
perspective of psychology—was amenable to the methods
of scientific study. As such, psychological findings could be
objective and reproducible and psychology could approach
the status of biology and chemistry as a respected discipline
for the study of a significant aspect of nature.
Watson was greatly impressed by the then recent findings of Ivan Pavlov (and his unsung assistant, Isabel
Wringing) in the area of conditioning (Watson, 1916). In
applying the methodology of science to behavior, Watson
chose the empirical investigation of the environment considered by him to be the most important area of observable
phenomena that affected behavior. He thus took the radical
position of placing environmental influences, especially
viewed from the perspective of classical conditioning, as the
principal source of influence, while relegating those phenomena formerly held to be primary factors in the formation
of behavior (e.g., thoughts, genetics, instincts), to inconsequential collateral roles.
If one assumes that behaviorism forms the foundation
of behavior therapy—and this is not a universally accepted
assumption—then its definition follows logically. Behavior
therapy applies the scientific method to the amelioration of
clinically significant behavioral problems. As science seeks
relationships among observable sets of observables, behavior therapy primarily seeks relationships between behavior
and the environment. It is this resolute reliance on empirical
investigation of therapeutic methods and treatment outcomes
that serves to differentiate behavior therapy from all other
approaches to psychotherapy.
Watson (Watson & Rayner, 1920) demonstrated the
basic tenets of his position by employing the principles of
classical conditioning to establish a phobia to an albino
rat—a phobia that was demonstrated not to preexist—in
“little Albert,” a preverbal child. Further verification of the
role of learning in the phobia came from the generalization
of Albert’s conditioned emotional response to other white,
furry objects. Watson intended to show that this phobia, like
other conditioned responses, could be extinguished, but the
child was removed from his care before this last phase could
be conducted.
In 1924, Mary Cover Jones, one of Watson’s graduate
students, was able to complete this last stage with a young
boy who demonstrated a phobia of unknown origin for rabbits. After observing children playing with rabbits, “little
Peter” was gradually exposed to a rabbit using a rudimentary form of systematic desensitization. The counterconditioning agent was eating ice cream. In the study, Jones
successfully extinguished the conditioned emotional
response elicited by the rabbit.
The significance of these studies for behaviorism
comes from the hypothesis that they supported, suggesting
that emotional responses developed as the result of individuals’ experience with their environment; and that this relationship could be understood from the perspective of
Pavlov’s model of classical conditioning. In the case of “little Albert,” anxiety was conditioned to a stimulus complex
with which it had not, prior to the study, been associated. In
addition, Watson and Rayner (1920) demonstrated that the
new emotional response followed classical conditioning
phenomena reported by Pavlov (1941). And Jones (1924)
provided evidence suggesting that a phobic response of
unknown origin could be extinguished in the same manner
as that of a conditioned emotional response.
Between Watson’s studies in the 1920s and the middle
to late 1950s, aside from the vast volume of work accomplished in the area of human and animal learning, little of
great significance occurred that was specifically relevant to
behavior therapy. However, there was some isolated writing
that could be classified under the rubric of behavior therapy,
and that did contribute to its later development. For example,
Knight Dunlap (1928) received a good deal of attention after
publishing several books that focused on his work with negative practice. Although criteria for classifying procedures
as behavioral or nonbehavioral vary, it seems justified to
consider negative practice—because of the ease with which
it can be operationalized, tested experimentally, employed in
a clinical setting, and placed within a general learning
Behavior Therapy
theory context—one of the earliest behavioral additions to
the repertoire of the psychotherapist.
Other notable bridges between Watson and modern
behavior therapy were contributed by Dollard and Miller
(1950) and Salter (1949, 1952), among others. These psychologists presented early attempts to apply learning concepts to the amelioration of clinical difficulties. While
Dollard and Miller were interested in adapting psychoanalytic components to learning-based explanations, Salter
(1949) was a belligerent critic of psychoanalysis. He
eschewed the accepted basis of psychotherapy and chose
instead to develop an approach to behavior modification
with classical conditioning as the foundation (1952).
In 1953, B. F. Skinner and Ogden Lindsley (Lindsley,
Skinner, & Solomon, 1953) demonstrated the use of operant
principles in an operant context with hospitalized schizophrenics. These authors were the first to use the term behavior therapy in association with the application of learning
concepts to the modification of clinically significant behavioral problems.
Joseph Wolpe (1958) introduced the first systematic
use of classical conditioning concepts to the amelioration of
anxiety associated with phobic and other neurotic behavior.
Although he credited much of the development of his position to the work of Pavlov and Hull, Guthrie’s (1935) principles, particularly regarding the extinction of previously
reinforced responses, formed the basis of counterconditioning,
a central component of systematic desensitization.
Of primary importance for Wolpe (1958) was that all
aspects of behavior therapy should have an empirical foundation. Thus, the technique with which he is most closely
associated, systematic desensitization, was developed from
experiments that he conducted in modifying experimental
neurosis in cats. After delivering a number of painful shocks
to cats in a test cage, Wolpe explored a variety of ways of
reducing the high level of anxiety that these cats associated
with that cage. The most consistently successful procedure
formed the basis of the reciprocal inhibition component of
Wolpe’s model of systematic desensitization. This involved
feeding the cats in cages that varied along a gradient of similarity to the test cage. The pleasurable component of eating
was considered by Wolpe to have a reciprocally inhibiting
relationship with anxiety. That is, at low levels of anxiety
this positive experience would inhibit the anxiety and a new,
more adaptive response would be associated with the cues
that elicited anxiety and avoidance; whereas at high levels of
anxiety, fear inhibited eating. Feeding began in the cage that
was least similar to the original test cage and was transferred
from cage to cage along the gradient of similarity until the
cat was able to eat in the cage in which it was initially
shocked. While this method was similar to a procedure that
Mary Cover Jones (1924) found to be effective in the ame-
lioration of the rabbit phobia of “little Peter,” Wolpe’s
approach was more practical for application to a wide variety of outpatient clinical settings with many different phobic
These studies formed the basis of Wolpe’s contention
that the effective component of systematic desensitization
was counterconditioning through the reciprocal inhibition of
anxiety. In transferring his method to the clinic, he modified
a procedure developed by Jacobson (1938) to reduce the
physical tension that he hypothesized to form the foundation
of anxiety. Labeled deep muscle relaxation by Wolpe, it
functioned as the reciprocal inhibitor for most of his phobic
cases. Another accommodation for adult phobics was a shift
from the presentation of the actual graded phobic stimuli to
the development of a hierarchical presentation of the phobic
stimuli in imagination.
Although Wolpe’s model for the effectiveness of
systematic desensitization has been questioned, along with
the exact nature of the components of the technique (e.g.,
Kazdin & Wilcoxon, 1976), the procedure as described by
Wolpe and its modern variants have been demonstrated to be
effective with many phobias. In addition, Wolpe emphasized
the role of exposure to the anxiety-provoking stimulus as a
major factor in neutralizing phobias. And, although he
believed that this exposure should be of a gradual nature in
order to avoid reconditioning anxiety, this general concept
of exposure is central to most of the procedures that are
associated with behavior therapy today.
A procedure that Wolpe found to be a useful supplement
to systematic desensitization was assertive training (most
closely associated with Salter [1949] at the time). Because it
became a popular technique both within and outside of a
behavioral orientation, numerous variations were developed.
All had a common goal, the reduction of anxiety associated
with interpersonal interactions. Thus, Wolpe is credited with
establishing the utility of the technique of systematic desensitization though his more important contribution was the promotion of behavior therapy as an empirical psychotherapeutic
approach. In fact, he tended to diminish in importance the role
of the therapeutic procedures in behavior therapy in favor of
his overarching theoretical position emphasizing scientific
methodology and learning theory-based explanation.
A significant addition to the behavioral catalog was
a set of procedures, developed by Joseph Cautela (Cautela &
Kearney, 1986), that he labeled covert conditioning. He
based these techniques on Skinner’s position that thoughts
were private events that were subject to the same learning
principles as were external stimuli and responses. Cautela
described practical methods for applying learning principles
to imaginal stimuli and responses for the purpose of ameliorating clinically significant difficulties. Perhaps the most
important of the covert conditioning techniques is covert
70 Behavior Therapy
sensitization (Cautela, 1967). This procedure pairs the imaginal representation of a maladaptive approach response,
such as sexually offensive behavior, with the imaginal
depiction of an event that is extremely aversive to the client.
The goal is to assist individuals to remove from their behavioral repertoires responses that, although pleasant, reduce
their quality of life by causing harm to themselves and/or to
others. Covert sensitization represents a significant contribution to behavior therapy since it is the sole generally
acceptable aversive method available to behavior therapists.
While all approaches to psychotherapy address clients’
cognitions, covert conditioning is classified as a behavioral
procedure rather than as a “cognitive–behavioral” procedure.
This is due to Cautela’s insistence that covert conditioning
methods are based on principles of learning that are used to
explain the dynamics of private events in a manner parallel
to their use with publicly observable stimuli and responses.
In contrast, cognitive behavior therapy suggests that cognitions represent a unique set of behaviors, when compared
with observable events, and therefore require a different set
of principles for understanding and addressing them.
The task that behaviorism has set for behavior therapy
is quite difficult. The demand is to treat clinical problems
while remaining strictly with observable phenomena. It is
largely for this reason that some who are generally behaviorally oriented have found a pragmatic solution in the principles and techniques offered by cognitive–behavior therapy.
Throughout its history, there have been, and remain, many
controversies in behavior therapy; among these are its name
and who was the first to use it, the extent to which behavior
therapy is related to behaviorism and to learning theory in
general, what constitutes a behavioral procedure, and what
the role of cognitive factors should be in behavior therapy.
In this brief definition our endeavor was to present a reasonable position on several important areas in the discipline.
Cautela, J. R. (1967). Covert sensitization. Psychological Reports, 20,
Cautela, J. R., & Kearney, A. J. (1986). The covert conditioning handbook.
New York: Springer.
Dollard, J., & Miller, N. E. (1950). Personality and psychotherapy. New
York: McGraw–Hill.
Dunlap, K. (1928). A revision of the fundamental law of habit formation.
Science, 67, 360–362.
Guthrie, E. R. (1935). The psychology of learning. New York: Harper & Row.
Jacobson, E. (1938). Progressive relaxation. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Jones, M. C. (1924). A laboratory study of fear: The case of Peter.
Pedagogical Seminar, 31, 308–315.
Kazdin, A. E., & Wilcoxon, L. A. (1976). Systematic desensitization and nonspecific treatment effects: A methodological evaluation. Psychological
Bulletin, 23, 729.
Pavlov, I. P. (1941). Lectures on conditioned reflexes. New York:
International Universities Press.
Salter, A. (1949). Conditioned reflex therapy. New York: Creative Age.
Salter, A. (1952). The case against psychoanalysis. New York: Holt,
Rinehart & Winston.
Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological
Review, 20, 158–177.
Watson, J. B. (1916). The place of the conditioned reflex in psychology.
Psychological Review, 23, 89–116
Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. New York: Peoples’ Institute
Publishing Co.
Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reaction.
Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press.
Deidre Donaldson and Dennis Russo
Keywords: behavioral medicine, biofeedback, EEG or electroencephalogram, EMG or electromyogram
Biofeedback is the process of providing an individual with
physiological data of which he or she might be otherwise
unaware. A key assumption is that by providing “feedback”
to the individual about physiological responses (“bio”), it is
possible for the individual to learn to become aware of and
exert direct control over the physiology, the focus in clinical
settings being to improve health outcomes.
Although the theoretical underpinnings of biofeedback
(primarily physiological and learning) have existed since the
turn of the century, biofeedback emerged as a clinical intervention in the late 1960s. The application of biofeedback to
clinical problems evolved from laboratory research on operant control of the autonomic nervous system in animal models. Interest in biofeedback as a clinical application coincided
with popular interest in altered states of consciousness and
activities focused on reducing autonomic arousal (Roberts,
1985). This combination of scientific and popular interest in
biofeedback and related applications fueled its popularity
and generated widespread application throughout the 1970s
and 1980s. Simultaneous advances in the technology used to
measure the physiology, specifically electronics and computers, have further perpetuated this trend.
One of the central uses of biofeedback from a cognitive–
behavioral point of view is to promote the acquisition of selfcontrol training or self-regulation skills. For example, in
behavioral medicine, the use of biofeedback assists the clinician in monitoring and guiding treatment involving relaxation
training. As the client demonstrates control over the physiology, positive reinforcement may be provided. Thus, biofeedback is not a treatment modality per se but an adjunct to assist
in the process of treatment. The field of cognitive–behavior
therapy includes biofeedback as just one of many options in
its armamentarium of biobehavioral treatment components.
The feedback loop created by biofeedback has been theorized
to result in cognitive change (for example, improved selfefficacy) that may also be important in the treatment process.
This requires thorough knowledge of cognitive–behavior
therapy in addition to specialized training in biofeedback. The
American Association for Applied Physiology and
Biofeedback is devoted to promoting the use of biofeedback
and offers professional trainings. Board certification in
biofeedback is also available through the Biofeedback
Certification Institute of America (BCIA).
Biofeedback technology requires at least one sensor to
obtain physiological information, a repository for this information, and a method of translating or feeding this information back to the patient. This is most commonly done through
the use of a computer. Sensors are connected to the patient to
monitor the indices of interest. These sensors connect the
patient to the computer and special software reads the data
and translates it to the monitor, allowing the information to
be communicated to the patient in visual or graphical form.
This is referred to as “computer-assisted biofeedback.”
Advances in computer technology have improved patient
access to biofeedback as a clinical modality and further perpetuated its widespread application. Improvements in computer software have made biofeedback more user friendly
and broadened its appeal to the general population. Patients
now ask for biofeedback because of its technological appeal
without any further knowledge of how it works.
Electromyogram biofeedback involves sensors that
measure skeletal muscle tension, particularly in the frontalis
(forehead), masseter ( jaw), and trapezius (upper back).
Increased electrical firings indicate increased tension
(Basmajian, 1989). The goal of EMG biofeedback is to learn
to be aware of the cues of muscle tension, avoid escalating
tension, and deescalate or reverse tension through the use of
certain skills (e.g., progressive muscle relaxation). Thermal
biofeedback assesses changes in skin temperature, which
indicate changes in blood flow as well as the autonomic
nervous system more generally as constriction is related to
stress activation. EEG biofeedback measures electrical
action of the cortex and translates it into frequencies and
amplitudes yielding different types of brain waves
(Basmajian, 1989). Changes in brain waves provide information about arousal level and attentiveness. Other commonly used modes include heart rate, blood pressure, and
respirations (PNG or pneumogram). Many of these modes
are also used in combination with one another.
Biofeedback is presently applied either as a means of
directly addressing specific physical symptoms (primary
intervention), or as an adjunct to teaching self-control skills
to enhance coping with a variety of physical and emotional
problems (secondary intervention). A good example of the
former is migraine headaches. Thermal biofeedback, in
which the peripheral temperature is the focus, has long been
used to control blood flow, which has been implicated in this
condition. Studies have shown that the ability to produce
vasodilation is related to alleviation of migraine symptoms.
An example of the latter is the use of EMG biofeedback to
teach effective progressive muscle relaxation, which can be
used to alleviate pain symptoms. These two modes are often
used simultaneously.
Session Structure
Modes of Intervention
Biofeedback encompasses any physiological process
that can be measured. The most common modes used in contemporary clinical practice assess autonomic nervous system
functioning and are summarized in the following table:
The typical biofeedback treatment regimen mimics that
of cognitive–behavioral treatment. If biofeedback is being
used for a medical condition, treatment starts once a thorough medical evaluation has been conducted. The first session includes assessment of the presenting problem,
including all symptom parameters, relevant psychological
Chronic pain
Relaxation training
Galvanic skin response
Tension headache
Raynaud’s syndrome
Seizure disorder
ADHD symptoms
72 Biofeedback
history, functional analysis, and initial baseline assessment
of the physiology. Treatment duration is often 8–12 sessions
lasting an hour each. However, this may be shorter or longer
depending on the condition, treatment motivation and adherence, treatment attendance, and so on.
Treatment sessions include review of the session agenda,
review of previous week and homework/monitoring, baseline
reassessment, skill review or introduction, skill practice, and
homework/monitoring assignment. In this case, skill practice
would include practicing control over the physiological target(s) toward a desired goal. Portable biofeedback systems
have made it easier to practice such skills at home and even in
school (e.g., Osterhaus et al., 1993). Treatment success is ideally defined by the person’s ability to attain desired goals
while fading the use of the biofeedback equipment and
generalizing this progress.
Biofeedback with Children and Adolescents
The use of biofeedback with children and adolescents is
increasing. However, the number of clinicians appropriately
qualified to provide biofeedback treatment in general
remains quite limited, and even fewer have been trained to do
so with children and adolescents. Biofeedback with children
and adolescents has been used to address physical symptoms
and enhance skills training, similar to that with adults.
Clinical anecdotal reports suggest that children are
excellent candidates for biofeedback (Culbert, Kajander, &
Reaney, 1996). Clinicians using biofeedback with children
typically report that they are less skeptical than adults about
treatment and have more flexible behavior patterns that are
amenable to change. Compared to adults, they learn skills
quickly and tend to be more susceptible to relaxation, which
can be an added benefit. They also respond eagerly to praise
and positive reinforcement. In addition, there are now several biofeedback software programs available that are particularly appealing to young clients, most of which present
physiological data in the format of computer games (e.g.,
reducing muscle tension allows cars to go around a race
track). Applications exist for different age categories. Most
children enjoy computer games and technology, which not
only help hold their interest but increase their interest and
motivation in treatment.
As with any clinical intervention, special considerations around biofeedback with children can enhance its
acceptability, appropriateness, and success. Biofeedback is
appropriate for use across the developmental spectrum from
the time an individual is considered able to develop selfmodulation skills (early school age, or approximately 5 or
6 years old) throughout adulthood. The structure of treatment
and sessions with children is similar to that with adults. In
addition to using biofeedback within a cognitive–behavioral
approach, family members are included in consultation
around treatment components and education.
In general, as children develop, they form an increased
capacity to direct and maintain attention, understand complex instruction, and maintain interest in having control over
their bodies. They also possess greater knowledge and understanding about the world around them which assists in educating them about the body. Treatment should be modified
to address these changing abilities. Generally speaking,
treatment sessions may need to be altered in length, educational information must be tailored in complexity, and the
mode of presentation should vary in intensity and format.
Additionally, it may be more appropriate to focus goals on
relative improvement targets rather than absolutes (Culbert
et al., 1996). The selection of biofeedback modality can also
vary depending on ease. For example, EMG biofeedback
seems to be easier and thus might be chosen more frequently
over other modes with younger clients. Allowing them to be
creative in the treatment process also assists with motivation
and skill generalization.
Scientific investigation of biofeedback has lagged
behind its clinical application. This is true with both adult
and child populations. Although a lot of literature on the
topic has been published, empirical support for biofeedback
has not clearly supported its widespread use.
Research during the late 1970s and 1980s focused on
the use of biofeedback with adult populations for a variety
of disorders. This literature base has been criticized for lack
of scientific rigor. From the empirical studies that have been
conducted with adults, biofeedback appears to be most useful in combination with other forms of biobehavioral interventions, most notably relaxation training. Specifically,
support exists for the use of EMG biofeedback for tension
headaches in combination with relaxation training. And,
thermal biofeedback in combination with relaxation training
appears to be effective in treating migraine headaches
(Holroyd & Penzien, 1994).
Empirical studies of biofeedback with pediatric populations became more prevalent during the past decade. Similar
to adults, empirical research with children and adolescents
supports the use of biofeedback as part of a package of
cognitive–behavioral treatment. Biofeedback-assisted relaxation training has been found to be efficacious in treating
recurrent headache, particularly thermal biofeedback
(Fentress, Masek, Mehegan, & Benson, 1986; Holden,
Deichmann, & Levy, 1999). EMG biofeedback has also shown
efficacy in treating emotion-induced asthma (McQuaid &
Nassau, 1999). EMG biofeedback in combination with
medical intervention has merit in treating functional encopresis (McGrath, Mellon, & Murphy, 2000), as does the related
procedure of the bell and pad in treating nocturnal enuresis.
There is increasing evidence that children and adolescents do respond better than adults to biofeedback, at least
in the area of headache management. Recent research on
biofeedback has continued to empirically evaluate the efficacy of biofeedback treatment for other disorders (e.g., EEG
biofeedback for ADHD) as well as compare the efficacy of
different modes of biofeedback and potential mediators or
mechanisms by which biofeedback may exert its effects
(Hermann & Blanchard, 2002).
The most significant criticism of biofeedback involves
the limited amount of empirical data supporting its widespread clinical application. In some cases, the application of
biofeedback to certain clinical problems has progressed with
even limited theoretical rationale, let alone empirical support.
Biofeedback by definition can involve a variety of physiological indicators, making its application highly variable.
Thus, regardless of empirical findings, treatment using
biofeedback is not well standardized. In some settings, biofeedback is equated with relaxation treatment and/or variations occur in the specificity and sophistication of the
physiological data provided to the individual (e.g., using
computerized versus noncomputerized information; real-time
versus lag-time data).
A related problem is that biofeedback is used by clinicians with varying training backgrounds. There is board certification available but it is not required in order to practice.
This problem is exacerbated by the limited number of
trained professionals available. Also, those referring are not
often knowledgeable about the appropriate uses of biofeedback or the benefits of the approach in the face of lagging
empirical studies. It is not uncommon for referrals to request
biofeedback either for problems for which it has limited
support, or to address biobehavioral problems when other
primary problems exist (e.g., mood disorders). The technological appeal of biofeedback tends to perpetuate referral in
the absence of understanding. This highlights the need for
more trained clinicians and for those clinicians to appropriately screen referrals, while continuing to educate referral
sources and the general public.
The use of biofeedback in clinical settings has
increased dramatically over the past three decades. At the
same time, however, research regarding the underlying
mechanisms and effectiveness of this approach lags behind
its application. Moreover, results regarding its effectiveness
have historically been inconsistent at best, depending on the
type of biofeedback examined and the area to which it is
It is important that scientist-practitioners continue to
empirically examine the utility of biofeedback. This
includes not only determining whether it is indeed effective
for the myriad of applications for which it has been proposed, but also examining models that forward our understanding of how it works across different applications. It is
proposed that different mechanisms may be operating
depending on whether biofeedback is used as a primary
or secondary intervention. Thus, models for understanding
the mechanisms by which it exerts its effects may need to be
altered accordingly. Training programs play a critical role in
not only continuing to investigate the empirical merits of
biofeedback, but also in training clinicians to provide
biofeedback to persons across the developmental spectrum.
At the same time, there are areas where biofeedback has
been shown to be a promising intervention within the context
of a broader cognitive–behavioral treatment approach. As clinicians continue to use biofeedback it is important to stay
abreast of the empirical findings and integrate them into clinical practice. Education of clients as well as referral sources
will assist in ensuring biofeedback is applied in a helpful
manner in the context of cognitive–behavioral treatment with
patients who can most benefit.
See also: Clinical health psychology
Basmajian, J. (1989). Biofeedback: Principles and practice for clinicians.
Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
Culbert, T. P., Kajander, R. L., & Reaney, J. B. (1996). Journal of
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 17, 342–350.
Fentress, D. W., Masek, B. J., Mehegan, J. E., & Benson, H. (1986).
Biofeedback and relaxation-response training in the treatment of pediatric migraine. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 28(2),
Hermann, C., & Blanchard, E. B. (2002). Biofeedback in the treatment of
headache and other childhood pain. Applied Psychophysiology and
Biofeedback, 27(2), 143–162.
Holden, E. W., Deichmann, M. M., & Levy, J. D. (1999). Empirically supported treatments in pediatric psychology: Recurrent pediatric
headache. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 24(2), 91–109.
Holroyd, K. A., & Penzien, D. B. (1994). Psychosocial interventions in the
management of recurrent headache disorders: I. Overview and effectiveness. Behavioral Medicine, 20(2), 53–63.
McGrath, M. L., Mellon, M. W., & Murphy, L. (2000). Empirically supported
treatments in pediatric psychology: Constipation and encopresis.
Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 25(4), 225–254.
74 Biofeedback
McQuaid, E. L., & Nassau, J. H. (1999). Empirically supported treatments
of disease-related symptoms in pediatric psychology: Asthma, diabetes, and cancer. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 24(4), 305–328.
Osterhaus, S. O. L., Passchier, J., van der Helm-Hylkema, H., de Jong,
K. T., Orlebeke, J. F., de Grauw, A. J. C., & Dekker, P. H. (1993).
Effects of behavioral psychophysiological treatment of schoolchildren
with migraine in a nonclinical setting: Predictors and process variables. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 18(6), 697–715.
Roberts, A.H. (1985). Biofeedback: Research, training, and clinical roles.
American Psychologist, 40(8), 938–941.
Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., & McKay, M. (1995). The relaxation and stress
reduction workbook (pp. 117–125). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Biopsychosocial Treatment of Pain
Barbara A. Golden and L. Stuart Barbera, Jr.
Keywords: pain, chronic pain, stress
But that I can save him from days of torture,
That is what I feel is my great and ever new privilege.
Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death
—Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Pain is a universal stress encounter. Despite advances in the
understanding of the physiological process, pain continues
to be a source of distress for patients, caregivers, and physicians. Chronic pain, that is, “pain which persists a month
beyond the usual course of the acute disease or reasonable
time for an injury to heal or that is associated with chronic
pathological process that causes continuous pain or pain
that recurs at intervals for months or years” (Bonica, 1990,
p. 19), is considered to be an illness itself, which generally
does not remit. Patients with chronic pain experience physical, psychological, and social factors as sources of distress.
The biomedical model, which dates back to the ancient
Greeks, views pain as an objective biological event and fails
to address the roles of psychological and psychosocial variables in health and disease.
The contemporary biopsychosocial model includes complete understanding of pain with no single factor in isolation.
Biological (physical), psychological (emotional, cognitive,
and behavioral), and social (interactions with others) factors
must be incorporated for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
All of us may experience similar pain sensations, that is, the
mental awareness of an unpleasant stimulus associated with an
injury or illness. However, each of us manifests a very different pain experience, that is, the total subjective experience of
pain associated with injury or illness.
The gate control theory (GCT) changed the way in
which the pain experience is understood (Melzack & Wall,
1965). The pain experience is affected by three systems: the
sensory–discriminative dimension, in which pain is sensed
and perceived; the cognitive–evaluative dimension involving
the primary cognitive constructs with which pain is evaluated, and its implications judged; and the motivational–
affective dimension or the motivational forces that affect the
patient’s emotional reactions (Melzack, 1996). The GCT
suggests that the central nervous system acts as a physiologic
basis for the role of psychological factors in the pain experience. Within the spinal cord, sensory input is modified by
neural mechanisms of the dorsal horn; this region acts as
a hypothetical gate that inhibits or facilitates transmission
of nerve impulses from peripheral sites to the brain. This
process inhibits nociceptive signals, closes the gate, and
decreases pain; alternatively, it facilitates transmission, opens
the gate, and increases pain. This complex integration,
orchestrated by the reciprocal interaction of cognitive, emotional, and physical factors, shapes the way that individuals
perceive and respond to pain.
Patients with chronic pain often experience a wide
range of distressing emotions including anger, anxiety,
depression, and pain-related fears (Eccleston, 2001). These
fears may be a result of social learning, respondent learning,
operant learning, dysfunctional cognitions, and schema. As
a result of social learning, pain behaviors may be acquired
through observational learning and modeling processes. If,
as a child, the adult patient may have observed a parent who
had poor coping abilities for pain management, the painrelated behaviors might increase. As a result of respondent
conditioning, a patient may have experienced pain through
physical therapy and consequently the anticipation of
suffering may be sufficient to establish a long-term avoidance of future physical therapy. Operant learning has been
applied to overt expressions of pain behavior. This model
suggests that avoidant behaviors and fears arise and are
maintained as a result of environmental consequences.
For example, if overt pain behavior results in being excused
from household responsibilities and increased attention
from a family member, the pain behavior is likely to be
maintained. Avoidant behaviors and unrealistic fears can
lead to a cascade of negative outcomes, including erosion of
self-efficacy, restriction in patient’s activity functioning,
exacerbation of negative emotions such as anxiety and
depression, and poor treatment compliance.
The cognitive–behavioral (CB) model has become
the commonly accepted conceptualization of pain, and
Biopsychosocial Treatment of Pain
cognitive–behavioral therapy is recognized as an empirically supported treatment for chronic pain (Eccleston, 2001;
McCracken & Turk, 2002; Morley, Eccleston, & Williams,
1999; Turk & Okifuji, 1999). According to the CB model,
individuals actively process sensory information. This processing is based on past experiences, filtered through preexisting knowledge, and organized representations of this
knowledge result in an idiosyncratic response rather than an
objective response. Since information processing is not
static, attention is given to the ongoing reciprocal relationships among physical, cognitive, affective, social, and
behavioral factors, which ultimately influence the patient’s
pain experience.
There are five basic assumptions of the CB model of
pain (Turk & Okifuji, 1999). The first assumption is that individuals actively process information; they do not passively
react to the environment. Together, cognitions, schema, and
previous learning all shape the perception of pain. For
example, when patients receive the diagnosis of fibromyalgia
or other pain-related syndromes they may perceive themselves
as defective (self), their interactions with their healthcare
providers as futile (world), and their prognosis as daunting
(future) (Eimer & Freeman, 1998).
The second assumption is that thoughts (i.e.,
appraisals, beliefs, expectations) will have an influence on
affect and behavior and influence one another in a reciprocal manner. For example, a chronic pain patient who perceives the duration, intensity, and frequency of the pain as
unremitting, may feel helpless about the pain experience,
have an automatic thought such as “I am helpless to control
my pain,” and may be noncompliant with treatment.
The third assumption is that behavior is reciprocally
determined by the individual and the environment. For example, patients who receive positive reinforcement from others
(i.e., family members, healthcare providers, or support
groups) may experience an improvement in their overall
level of functioning and self-efficacy as well as a decrease in
emotional distress and suffering.
The fourth assumption is that patients are capable of
learning more adaptive ways of thinking, feeling, and
behaving. Providing patients with a variety of skills (i.e.,
cognitive restructuring, problem-solving skills, activity
pacing, role-playing) can assist them in leading fuller lives
with less distress and pain.
The last assumption is that patients should be integrally
involved in treatment of their maladaptive behaviors, cognitions, and feelings. Patients in chronic pain should see themselves as active agents of change. Patients are integral
members of the treatment team. By assuming an appropriate
measure of responsibility for treatment, patients collaborate
with the entire interdisciplinary treatment team in an effort
to achieve their treatment goals.
Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the
assumption that patients will enter treatment with the belief
that their pain problem is unmanageable, and this belief
becomes the target for change. Patients have generally been
to several physicians and have become frustrated and
demoralized in the process of searching for successful pain
management. Since “cognitive therapy [is] aimed at reducing pathogenic negative thinking [it] is a natural remedy for
alleviating psychological and emotional distress associated
with persistent pain and chronic pain syndromes” (Eimer &
Freeman, 1998, p. 154). Other goals of CBT include changing patients’ view that pain is unmanageable, educating
patients about pain, teaching patients ways in which they
can identify and restructure maladaptive cognitions and
behaviors associated with pain, enhancing the self-efficacy
of patients, and assisting patients in generalizing and maintaining treatment outcomes.
Turk and Rudy (1994) outlined seven objectives of
CBT for chronic pain. The first, and perhaps most important, objective is to assist patients in conceptualizing their
situation so that problems are perceived as manageable. This
cognitive shift can provide patients with a sense of hope that
their situation can improve and that their suffering can be
reduced. Second, patients should understand that they will
be taught how to manage their problems more effectively.
Third, patients will develop a belief that through their active
involvement in treatment they are able to manage their pain
more effectively. The fourth objective is to teach patients
how to self-monitor so that they can accurately observe and
restructure their cognitions, feelings, and behaviors more
effectively. The fifth objective includes teaching patients
a variety of skills that they can use to solve problems. The
sixth objective involves helping patients recognize and take
ownership for the positive accomplishments that they
achieve. The final objective is to teach patients how to anticipate difficulties and to develop strategies to overcome these
obstacles if and when they occur.
Cognitive restructuring is one of the cardinal features
of CBT treatment of chronic pain. As such, the clinician
works with patients to change perceptions, behaviors,
beliefs, and emotional reactions to their pain experiences so
that their cognitions are accurate and adaptive. Feldman,
Phillips, and Aronoff (1999) identified several common
cognitive beliefs that patients develop regarding pain. These
maladaptive beliefs are associated with: (a) control (i.e.,
there is nothing I can do about my pain), (b) disability (i.e.,
I am unable to do anything worthwhile because of my pain),
(c) harm (i.e., if I engage in chores I will be in much worse
pain), (d) emotion (i.e., my pain is always the same regardless of what I do), (e) medication (i.e., I will always need
medication to manage my pain), (f) solicitude (i.e., my family
should take better care of me because of my pain), and
76 Biopsychosocial Treatment of Pain
(g) medical care (i.e., when I find the right doctor he/she will
be able to get rid of my pain). In addition, there are many
common cognitive distortions that pain patients experience
such as all-or-nothing thinking, disqualifying the positive,
selective abstraction, should statements, low frustration tolerance, perfectionism, pain-based emotional reasoning, mind
reading and personalization, negative prediction, catastrophizing, and overgeneralization. These distortions further
complicate treatment, drain coping resources, erode selfefficacy, and exacerbate distress (Eimer & Freeman, 1998).
There are several intervention strategies and techniques
that are commonly utilized when working with chronic pain
patients. These include socializing patients to the CB conceptualization of pain and approach to treatment.
Introducing patients to the CBT model provides a context in
which patients begin to see that problems are manageable,
and that through collaboration with the interdisciplinary
treatment team, some degree of control over circumstances
can be achieved and, therefore, change is possible. Patients
are also taught a variety of skills that facilitate adaptive
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors relative to the pain. For
example, patients are taught how to identify and restructure
maladaptive thoughts by means of cognitive restructuring.
Patients also are taught problem-solving skills, family interventions, and communication skills training. Respectively,
these skills assist patients in meeting challenges more effectively and in communicating with others (family members,
healthcare providers) and advocating more effectively.
Likewise, patients also learn self-regulatory techniques such
as various relaxation training interventions (diaphragmatic
breathing), meditation, imagery, and distraction to relieve
their pain (McCracken & Turk, 2002).
Providing patients with skills needed to negotiate the
inevitable obstacles is critical to maintaining treatment gains.
As treatment concludes, it is important for patients to review
what skills they have learned, to identify possible setbacks
and problems that may arise, and to consider how they can
respond adaptively to these challenges. Incorporating this
aspect into treatment can equip patients with the expectation
and knowledge about ways to respond to future challenges
more successfully.
CB interventions with chronic pain patients will
continue to evolve as the science of pain management
matures. Several points deserve particular attention. First,
while there is a body of literature evaluating CBT interventions with various populations, future research should continue to address members of society who are marginalized
such as children, adolescents, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with HIV-AIDS, and ethnic minorities patients.
Second, a significant challenge for clinicians and researchers
alike will be to provide culturally sensitive interventions
while tailoring them to the specific needs of patients. Third,
a CBT model should continue to emphasize and integrate
a biopsychosocial perspective when conceptualizing, researching, and treating patients. Finally, refinements in psychological assessment measures will need to keep pace with
technological advances so that these new developments can
provide a more accurate complete assessment and treatment
of pain.
See also: Chronic pain, Clinical health psychology
Bonica, J. J. (1990). Definitions and taxonomy of pain. In J. J. Bonica (Ed.),
The management of pain (pp. 18–27). Philadelphia: Lea & Febringer.
Eccleston, C. (2001). Role of psychology in pain management. British
Journal of Anaesthesia, 87(1), 144–152.
Eimer, B. N., & Freeman, A. (1998). Pain management psychotherapy: A
practical guide. New York: Wiley.
Feldman, J. B., Phillips, L. M., & Aronoff, G. M. (1999). Cognitive systems
approach to treating pain patients and their families. In G. M. Aronoff
(Ed.), Evaluation and treatment of chronic pain (3rd ed., pp. 313–322).
Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
McCracken, L. M., & Turk, D. C. (2002). Behavioral and cognitive–behavioral treatment for chronic pain: Outcome, predictors of outcome, and
treatment processes. Spine, 27(22), 2564–2573.
Melzack, R. (1996). Gate control theory: On the evolution of pain concepts.
Pain Forum, 5(2), 128–138.
Melzack, R., & Wall, P. (1965). Pain mechanisms: A new theory. Science,
50, 155–161.
Morley, S., Eccleston, C., & Williams, A. (1999). A systematic review and
meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of cognitive behaviour
therapy and behaviour therapy for chronic pain in adults, excluding
headache. Pain, 80, 1–13.
Turk, D. C., & Okifuji, A. (1999). A cognitive–behavioral approach to pain
management. In P. D. Wall & R. Melzack (Eds.), Textbook of pain (4th
ed., pp. 1431–1444). London: Churchill Livingstone.
Turk, D. C., & Rudy, T. E. (1994). A cognitive–behavioral perspective
on chronic pain: Beyond the scalpel and syringe. In C. D. Tollison,
J. R. Satterhwaite, & J. W. Tollison (Eds.), The handbook of pain management (2nd ed., pp. 136–151). Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
Bipolar Disorder
Cory F. Newman
Keywords: bipolar, cognitive, prodromal, adherence, family
Bipolar disorder, known colloquially as “manic-depression,”
is a heterogeneous affective disorder, apparently related to
Bipolar Disorder
unipolar depression, but also involving varying degrees of
euphoria, impulsivity, irritability, hyperactivity, agitation, and
(sometimes) psychotic ideation. Less prevalent than unipolar
depression, it strikes 0.8–1.6% of the adult population. Less is
known about the incidence in childhood and adolescence, as
the field is still trying to disentangle and otherwise understand
the relationship between early onset bipolar disorder and
childhood disorders such as conduct disorder (CD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Bipolar illness
appears to be represented equivalently between the genders,
and across ethnic groups (Bauer & McBride, 1996).
Symptom episodes involving depression and hypomania or mania often occur in cycles, thus causing serious,
repeated psychological and general health problems for the
sufferer. As the natural course of bipolar disorder often
involves relapses, ongoing active treatment is necessary,
preferably starting early in the course of the illness. When
treatment is delayed, interrupted, or neglected, persons with
bipolar disorder often experience a deteriorating course of
their illness (Goldberg & Harrow, 1999). This involves
shorter interepisode normality, greater duration of symptom
episodes, and perhaps increased vulnerability to the triggering of mood swings with little environmental or biological
provocation—a hypothesized phenomenon known as the
“kindling effect” (Post & Weiss, 1989). At least half of all
patients actively treated for bipolar illness do not respond
quickly, or relapse after an initial, promising response. Thus,
there is a pressing need to improve pharmacotherapeutic and
psychotherapeutic interventions for this serious disorder.
Bipolar disorder is comprised of a number of subtypes,
depending on the particular admixture of depression, hypomania, mania, and mixed episodes, as well as the duration
and course of the symptom episodes (e.g., rapid-cycling).
For example, a person diagnosed as “Bipolar II” does not
have a history of full-blown mania, but rather has experienced at least one major depressive episode, and at least one
hypomanic episode. Hypomania involves similar symptoms
as mania—euphoria and irritability, decreased desire for
sleep, racing thoughts and pressured speech, excessive goaldirected activities, increased distractibility, pursuit of high
stimulation, decreased social judgment, and so on—but with
lesser intensity and duration, and no sign of psychotic
ideation. Those patients who have had full-blown manic
episodes are designated as “Bipolar I,” representing the
individuals who are most at risk for serious interruptions in
life functioning, damaged relationships, multiple losses,
demoralization, and even suicide. For example, the conservative estimate of the proportion of patients with bipolar disorder who will ultimately die by suicide is 15% (Simpson &
Jamison, 1999), a figure that takes into account those who
are treated as well as those who are not. This ultimate hazard
is worsened if the patients experienced mixed episodes, in
which they have rapidly changing moods within the context
of an overarching manic, impulsive, agitated presentation,
and/or if they abuse psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and others.
Prior to the development of mood stabilizers such as
lithium, the standard treatments for bipolar disorder often
involved the use of neuroleptics, electroconvulsive therapy,
and institutionalization. As these approaches were largely
ineffective, many individuals with bipolar disorder simply
avoided treatment if they could, and their conditions deteriorated. The advent of lithium and its successors (e.g.,
Depakote, anticonvulsants, atypical antipsychotics) represented a significant improvement in the treatment of bipolar
disorder, but there was still the problem of inconsistent medication adherence, toxicity, and symptom breakthrough.
Thus, psychosocial treatment approaches came to the fore as
a way to supplement the overall treatment of bipolar disorder. This makes intuitive sense—if we view bipolar disorder
from a “diathesis–stress” model, medications are aimed at
the biochemical diathesis, and the psychosocial interventions target the patients’ “stress.” For example, cognitive
therapy (e.g., Newman, Leahy, Beck, Reilly-Harrington, &
Gyulai, 2001) helps individuals with bipolar disorder to
define and solve their problems more effectively, reframe
life situations in a more constructive and less catastrophic
way, improve self-efficacy so as to combat helplessness and
hopelessness (and thus reduce the risk of suicide), and learn
reliable self-instructional methods to moderate extreme
moods and hyperarousal. Additionally, cognitive therapy has
been shown to improve medication adherence, as the bipolar sufferers’ misconceptions about their pharmacotherapy
are addressed empathically, rationally, and with the aim of
solving the problem (e.g., Lam et al., 2000; Scott, Garland, &
Moorhead, 2001).
Another promising psychosocial model is focused
family therapy (FFT; Miklowitz & Goldstein, 1997), an
approach that reduces bipolar patients’ stress by improving
maladaptive family interactions that are associated with
bipolar disorder. By working in session to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of hostile, accusatory, coercive communications between bipolar patients (many of
whom feel overcontrolled, distrusted, and disrespected by
their families) and their family members (many of whom
feel frightened, frustrated, and depleted in the face of the
chaotic life of their family member with bipolar disorder),
practitioners of FFT can improve the quality of life of all
parties in the family. Goals include improving intrafamilial
empathy, cooperation, and problem-solving, and decreasing
conflicts, blaming, shaming, and related forms of acting out.
Presumably, bipolar patients’ participation in pharmacotherapy is enhanced when adherence is no longer perceived as
central to the power struggle within the family.
78 Bipolar Disorder
Another psychosocial model combines the tenets of interpersonal therapy (IPT) with a methodology to regulate the
biopsychosocial rhythms of the bipolar patients—
interpersonal, social-rhythm therapy (IP-SRT; Frank et al.,
1994). As individuals with bipolar disorder are very sensitive
to changes in their sleep–wake cycle (e.g., with the risk of
mania increasing with disruptions in normal sleep), IP-SRT
addresses the patient’s world of relationships. The chief
hypothesis is that by improving the stability of the personal
life of the individual with bipolar disorder, there will be less of
the sort of conflict and turmoil that will increase stress, cause
loss of sleep, and exacerbate impulsivity. Thus, the bipolar
patient will be more apt to maintain mood states within normal
limits, provided that medication adherence is optimal.
that can induce persons to act impulsively and recklessly.
Patients are taught to spot the early warning signs of such
hypomanic and manic symptoms—or “prodromes”—and to
take a series of steps to mute the full expression of the symptom episodes while adjustments in pharmacotherapy are
sought. Techniques include: (1) choosing trusted personal
advisors with whom to consult about ambitious, goal-directed
ideas, (2) waiting at least 48 hours (including at least one full
night of sleep) before making big decisions and acting on
them, (3) moderating activities so that there is time for the
proper amounts of food, sleep, and taking care of basic responsibilities, and (4) implementing the principles of effective
problem solving in a systematic, methodical fashion.
Cognitive therapy employs homework assignments in which
the patients can test and practice these all-important techniques and skills.
As depressive symptoms play a significant role in the
course of bipolar illness, much attention is paid to patients’
negative views of themselves, their lives, and their futures.
Although it is important for patients to acknowledge that they
have bipolar disorder and to engage in the proper treatment, it
is not helpful if they make dire assumptions about their condition that make them feel helpless and hopeless. Thus, it is
important to teach patients the basic cognitive therapy skills
of recognizing their automatic thoughts and related beliefs,
and rationally responding so as to reduce subjective stress,
maintain a constructive outlook, and stay focused on goals in
a productive manner. It is critical that individuals with bipolar
disorder learn to utilize such skills in the face of their suicidal
ideation and feelings, as well as when they maintain a sense
of shame and stigma. For example, a patient who views himself as synonymous with his bipolar illness, and thus declares
himself to be “fatally flawed,” would be taught in cognitive
therapy to assess and define his personal identity with as
many variables as possible, taking into account his strengths,
accomplishments, hopes, goals, and other personal resources.
Thus, the individual who declares himself to be a “doomed
misfit with manic-depression” would work to redefine himself perhaps as a “politically moderate, outdoors-loving, dogowning, chess-playing, somewhat cynical, jazz-loving, loyal
friend who is getting treatment for bipolar disorder.” He
would then strive to live his life in a way that better reflected
these multiple facets of his persona, all the while receiving
proper treatment in a consistent way.
Cognitive therapy synergizes with other treatment
approaches such as pharmacotherapy and family therapy.
Above and beyond the ubiquitous phenomenon of medication side effects, some patients have more individualized
The skills of rational responding also can be used to
assess and modify hyperpositive thinking—the sort of thinking
As extreme mood swings are characteristic and problematic aspects of bipolar disorder, cognitive therapists help their
patients to take measures to moderate their emotionality. For
example, the patients schedule their live’s activities so that they
are taking care of their chief responsibilities (balanced with
family time, and rest and relaxation), but not to the extent that
they are working frenetically or excessively. Similarly, patients
are taught to reduce excessive arousal via the techniques of
relaxation and breathing control. Self-instructional statements
can be used to remind individuals with bipolar disorder to
refrain from acting on bursts of anger and ardor, and instead
to monitor the intensity and longevity of these moods prior to
taking any action. The therapist must be sensitive to the
patients’ difficulties in managing their moods, acknowledging
that high affect (and its concomitant urges to express them
publicly) is quite a challenge to contain. Further, some patients
believe that their manic episodes are glorious experiences,
and/or that these represent their times of greatest creative output. Therapists must be respectful of such views, all the while
focusing on the down side of the equation (e.g., depressive
crashes, impulsive harm done to one’s life, suicidality), as well
as being willing to assist the patients in their “grief work” for
the loss of their manic highs through treatment.
Bipolar Disorder
complaints about their pharmacotherapy as a result of
maladaptive beliefs that—left unchecked—could needlessly
interfere with a vital part of their treatment. Cognitive therapists assess and address patients’ negative views about taking
medications, including the following examples:
Medication will take away all my creativity.
Medication will change my personality and I’ll lose
my identity.
If my meds are changed, it means that my therapist
doesn’t know what she’s doing.
If I feel better, it means that I no longer have to take
my medications.
I can maintain my privacy better if I stop taking my
In cognitive therapy, patients are helped to find the
flaws in the above arguments, and to look for evidence in
support of alternative views that support ongoing pharmacotherapy. In the end, the goal is to facilitate the patients’
“making peace” with the need to take medications for their
bipolar illness, and to find the appropriate medications that
will do the best job with the fewest side effects.
Similarly, cognitive therapy has a great deal to offer
in working with individuals with bipolar disorder and their
families. As in the case of schizophrenics and their families,
bipolar patients and their families often experience harmful
interactional cycles of mutual criticism, control issues, and
general conflict—a concept broadly known in the literature as
high “expressed emotion” (EE). High EE in the families of
persons with bipolar disorder has been associated with a more
problematic course of the illness. Thus, it is often beneficial
for such families to attend therapy sessions in which they can
learn more effective communication skills, as well as become
more aware of their propensity for making excessively negative interpretations of each other’s behaviors. Cognitive therapists endeavor to understand the unique history and
interactional patterns of each family so as to provide accurate
empathy and to develop a solid case formulation. Therapists
model the process of trying to be compassionate in describing
the problematic behaviors of the patients and their families,
giving each person the benefit of the doubt that they are not
deliberately trying to make things worse, and initiating
the process of constructive problem solving. In order to
help the patients and their families acquire such skills,
cognitive therapists actively use such techniques as reframing,
role-playing, and the assignment of homework for the family.
linked to an increased onset of affective episodes in bipolar
disorder. Additionally, the bipolar patients’ cognitive styles
play an important interactional role, thus supporting the contention that a cognitive case conceptualization is important
even in the treatment of a disorder that seems to be so frequently driven by biological factors. In general, bipolar
patients who demonstrate maladaptive thinking styles are
more apt to develop affective symptoms, including both
depressive and manic episodes. Specifically, there is some
evidence that perfectionistic beliefs, poor autobiographical
recall, excessive goal-directedness, and high degrees of both
sociotropic and autonomy-related beliefs represent vulnerability factors that need to be addressed in cognitive therapy for
bipolar disorder (see Newman et al., 2001, for an overview).
Recently, a number of randomized, controlled trials
have shown the promise that cognitive therapy holds for
improving the overall treatment package for bipolar disorder.
For example, Perry, Tarrier, Morriss, McCarthy, and Limb
(1999) used a brief trial of 12 sessions of cognitive therapy
with a large sample of individuals with bipolar disorder,
mainly focusing on teaching them how to spot and manage
prodromal signs of symptom episodes. The result was that
patients achieved longer periods of wellness between
episodes, and shorter hospital stays. In a similar project,
Lam et al. (2000) offered 20 sessions of cognitive therapy to
those patients who had been refractory to pharmacotherapy
alone. Compared to the group receiving treatment as usual
(TAU), the cognitive therapy participants had fewer symptoms, better coping skills in response to early warning signs
of impending depression or mania, less hopelessness, and
better adherence to medication. In another study, Scott et al.
(2001) showed that the addition of cognitive therapy relative
to TAU reduced the patients’ medication nonadherence rates
from 48% to 21%, and 29 of the 33 patients completed the
cognitive therapy program, an extraordinary figure.
Replications and extensions of these studies are being conducted, using both individual and group treatment formats.
Currently under way in North America is a major, longterm, 20-site effectiveness study called the Systematic
Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder
(STEP-BD). The application of cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder is a most promising development, and will
become more so as the field learns more about the specific
interactions between cognitive styles, major life events,
medication adherence, and family factors.
See also: Depression—adult, Mood disorders—bipolar disorder
A number of studies suggest that significant life events,
such as those bringing hardship or major life changes, are
Bauer, M., & McBride, L. (1996). Structured group psychotherapy for
bipolar disorder: The life goals program. New York: Springer.
80 Bipolar Disorder
Frank, E., Kupfer, D. J., Ehlers, C. L., Monk, T. H., Comes, C., Carter, S., &
Frankel, D. (1994). Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy for bipolar disorder: Integrating interpersonal and behavioural approaches.
Behaviour Therapy, 17, 143–149.
Goldberg, J. F., & Harrow, M. (1999). Poor-outcome bipolar disorders. In
J. F. Goldberg & M. Harrow (Eds.), Bipolar disorders: Clinical course
and outcome (pp. 1–19). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric
Jamison, K. R. (1995). An unquiet mind: A memoir of moods and madness.
New York: Knopf.
Lam, D. H., Bright, J., Jones, S., Hayward, P., Schuck, N., Chisholm, D., &
Sham, P. (2000). Cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder—A pilot study
of relapse prevention. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24, 503–520.
Miklowitz, D. J., & Goldstein, M. J. (1997). Bipolar disorder: A familyfocused treatment approach. New York: Guilford Press.
Newman, C. F., Leahy, R. L., Beck, A. T., Reilly-Harrington, N. A., &
Gyulai, L. (2001). Bipolar disorder: A cognitive therapy approach.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Perry, A., Tarrier, N., Morriss, R., McCarthy, E., & Limb, K. (1999).
Randomised controlled trial of efficacy of teaching patients with bipolar disorder to identify early symptoms of relapse and obtain treatment. British Medical Journal, 318, 139–153.
Post, R. M., & Weiss, S. R. (1989). Sensitization, kindling, and anticonvulsants in mania. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 50(Suppl.), 23–30.
Scott, J., Garland, A., & Moorhead, S. (2001). A randomised controlled
trial of cognitive therapy for bipolar disorders. Psychological
Medicine, 31(3), 459–467.
Simpson, S. G., & Jamison, K. R. (1999). The risk of suicide in patients with
bipolar disorders. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(Suppl. 2), 53–56.
Body Dysmorphia 1
Melanie L. O’Neill and Maureen L. Whittal
Keywords: body dysmorphia, body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive–
compulsive disorder, exposure and response prevention
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a fixation or
preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance or, if
a physical defect or anomaly is present, the individual’s concern is clearly excessive (APA, 2000). Although prevalence
rates remain largely unknown, APA (2000) suggests that
BDD may range from under 5% to a high of 15% in medical/cosmetic settings. Individuals with BDD can focus on
flaws of the head and face such as hair thinning, acne, asymmetry, excessive hairiness, or the shape and size of body
parts including the eyes, mouth, head, buttocks, legs, or genitals. The concern may be limited to one or many areas and
can range from extremely specific to vague and diffuse
(APA, 2000).
Individuals with BDD frequently engage in repetitive
behaviors such as excessive grooming, exercise or dieting,
and reassurance seeking and present with avoidance behaviors
such as wearing hats all day long or being around mirrors
and fluorescent lighting. They are exceptionally distressed
by their symptoms, describe their fixations as “devastating,”
and often have poor insight. Work and social functioning
can suffer enormously due to the time and energy consumed
by the preoccupation. Severe BDD can lead to suicidal
ideation and attempts, repeated medical and dermatological
surgeries, and, in some cases, even self-surgery (APA,
Asking specific BDD diagnostic questions is crucial to
a complete assessment. The diagnosis is frequently missed
because clients tend to be reluctant to spontaneously disclose their symptoms (Castle & Phillips, 2002). Common
assessment instruments include semistructured clinical
interviews such as the Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Examination (BDDE; Rosen & Reiter, 1996), the structured
clinical interview for DSM-IV disorders with a BDD module (First, Spitzer, Gibbon, & Williams, 1996), and the
Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale modified for
assessing BDD (BDD-YBOCS; Phillips et al., 1997).
BDD is regularly associated with comorbid or secondary disorders, including major depression (approximately
60–80%), social phobia (lifetime rate of 38%), substance
use disorder (lifetime rate of 36%), and obsessive–
compulsive disorder (lifetime rate of 30%) (Phillips & Diaz,
1997). Individuals with BDD may hold their preoccupations
with a delusional intensity, which would warrant the added
diagnosis of delusional disorder, somatic type (APA, 2000).
However, recent theory suggests that adding the delusional
diagnosis has little value and contradicts current etiopathology and treatment response indications (Castle & Phillips,
Few randomized controlled treatment studies have
been conducted. Four trials of CBT for BDD indicated
significant levels of symptom reduction (e.g., improved or
very much improved) often leading to loss of diagnosis
(Butters & Cash, 1987; Rosen, Reiter, & Orosan, 1995;
Rosen, Saltzberg, & Srebnik, 1989; Veale et al., 1996). The
effect sizes for individual treatment ranged from 1.34 to
2.65 and from 1.62 to 2.26 for group treatment. Gains made
throughout treatment are typically maintained at 6-month
and 1-year follow-ups.
Body Dysmorphia 1
Treatment Guidelines
BDD treatment can be offered on an individual or small
group basis. Treatment is typically delivered between 8 and
12 weeks, with the session length ranging from 60 to 120
minutes. Treatment can also be delivered more intensively
with daily ERP sessions between 4 and 6 weeks. Rosen et al.
(1995) believe there may be additional effects with group
treatment including normalizing, direct and indirect encouragement, and the provision of impartial feedback about
perceived bodily flaws by fellow group members.
Introduction to BDD
The first component of treatment involves an introduction to the nature of BDD and factors that contribute to the
development and maintenance of the disorder. Veale et al.
(1996) collaboratively consider the possible impact of biological predispositions, early childhood experiences, and cultural
factors. Most clients can connect a number of factors contributing to the development and maintenance of the disorder.
A visual depiction of a BDD model, such as the one described
by Veale (2002), can be enormously helpful for clients in
thoroughly understanding their disorder.
Therapists can also highlight the impact of cognitions
and behavior on emotion and the role of avoidance in the
maintenance of the symptoms and the disorder (Wilhelm,
Otto, Lohr, & Deckersbach, 1999). For example, a woman
who is concerned about her long disjointed nose begins
avoid dating and developing friendships, thus preventing
herself from gathering disconfirming evidence. She may
also be experiencing intrusive self-defeating thoughts such
as “I look like Pinocchio,” which can alter one’s mood and
create feelings of depression and disgust. Those feelings
may lead to her engaging in depressed behaviors such as isolating herself from friends and loved ones. Selective attention and recall also plays a role in the maintenance of BDD
symptoms. Individuals with BDD selectively focus on their
distorted internal body image, assuming their image is an
accurate depiction, and conclude that others see this too
(Veale, 2002). For example, the woman concerned about her
long bumpy noise may only be seeing and remembering
women with small straight noses.
A thorough presentation of each treatment component
along with a collaborative discussion of the rationale should
be provided. Presenting this information early (preferably in
the first treatment session) aids understanding and processing of new information and will likely engage and motivate
clients. Clients may be cautious and hesitant of exposurebased treatments because of the anxiety evoked and their
typically lengthy avoidance history. Thoroughly and repeatedly discussing the rationale for ERP along with an emphasis on the gradual graded nature of exposure may help ease
anticipatory anxiety and reduce treatment dropouts.
Self-monitoring begins in the early stages of treatment
and can be incredibly helpful in facilitating a number of
objectives. Clients can be encouraged to use a daily body
image diary for recording relevant items. For example, Rosen
et al. (1995) recorded situations, body image thoughts or
beliefs, and the impact of these thoughts on mood and behaviors. The diary allows clients to increase their awareness of
BDD-related behaviors and thoughts and facilitates an understanding of the link between body image thoughts and the
impact on emotions and behavior. The diary can also highlight any particular triggers or precipitants that initiate or
aggravate BDD symptoms. In addition, the diary documents
gains made throughout treatment, which is encouraging and
reinforcing for clients (Veale, 2002). The self-monitoring
also sets the stage to begin cognitive restructuring with the
more damaging thoughts and BDD-related beliefs.
Targeting Appraisals and Beliefs
Cognitive restructuring is designed to correct irrational,
self-depreciating, or maladaptive cognitions and beliefs.
Clients are taught to identify dysfunctional BDD thoughts and
to record alternative thoughts, evidence, and rational responses
in their diaries. Veale (2002) suggests that cognitive restructuring is most helpful when working with beliefs about being
defective and the role that appearance plays in identity rather
than attempting to restructure beliefs like “I am excessively
hairy.” Rosen et al. (1995) state that some body dissatisfaction
is normative and may be challenging to eliminate completely,
even with individuals not exhibiting BDD concerns.
Clients may discount or distort information not consistent with their BDD-related belief systems and referential
thinking can play a significant role in the clinical picture
(Castle & Phillips, 2002). Clients often disregard positive
feedback about their appearance and magnify neutral or negative comments. Therapists can encourage clients to record
positive, negative, and neutral comments (both solicited and
unsolicited) made about their general physical appearance
and their particular BDD preoccupation. Behavioral experiments can also be helpful in testing assumptions about
appearance and identity. Therapists and clients can collaboratively design experiments such as soliciting feedback from
cosmetic staff in department stores about the client’s long
crooked nose or asking close family members about their
most engaging personality and physical traits.
82 Body Dysmorphia 1
An important aspect of targeting appraisals and personal
meaning is helping the client construct an alternative model or
story for consideration. Veale (2002) suggests the two models
include the client’s standard assumption, which typically
involves being ugly or defective, with the alternative story,
which suggests that excessive preoccupation with appearance
makes that fixation the most identifiable aspect of self. The
models are described as “What you see is what you get”
versus “What you see is what you have constructed.” This
alternate model is most helpful when presented in earlier sessions so clients are able to evaluate both models throughout
the course of treatment.
Exposure Hierarchy and Response Prevention
A hierarchy of graded imaginal and in vivo exposures
is collaboratively constructed in the early stages of treatment. For clients with BDD concerns, exposure therapy is
helpful in decreasing self-consciousness and body-related
anxiety and minimizing the avoidance of feared body image
situations (Rosen et al., 1995). Hierarchy items can be
adjusted by modifying situations with respect to familiarity
of people, physical proximity to others, and type of social
interaction (Rosen et al., 1995).
Exposure is initially therapist-assisted during sessions
with more hierarchy items being completed as homework as
the client progresses through treatment. Standard assignments include exposure to mirrors, extended social interactions with strangers or co-workers, and exercises designed to
accentuate the perceived flaw such as wearing little or no
makeup and avoiding hats or other camouflaging clothing.
For clients with minimal or no flaws, McKay et al. (1997)
used imaginal exposure to have clients exaggerate their perceived defect into a severe deformity and picture the negative
reaction of family and friends.
Response prevention is helpful in decreasing undesirable BDD-related behaviors such as mirror checking, skin
picking, or reassurance seeking (e.g., Are you sure my head
isn’t misshapen?). Veale (2002) suggests creating a compulsive behaviors hierarchy, particularly for one of the more
common difficulties, mirror gazing. Therapists should be
alert to both overt (e.g., a quick mirror or reflection check)
and covert (e.g., mental reassurances) BDD-related behaviors for targets of response prevention. There may also be
subtle BDD safety behaviors to target and eliminate during
exposures, such as turning one’s head away.
Relapse Prevention
The final aspect of BDD treatment is relapse prevention. Clients can list all of the interventions they learned
and discoveries about their beliefs and assumptions. The
therapist and client can collaboratively identify any gains
made throughout treatment, the interventions that facilitated
those gains, and discuss areas that continue to need attention. Clients should predict any potential stressors and future
difficulties that might arise and have contingency plans and
coping strategies in place. For example, a variety of stressful “red-flag” situations (e.g., rejection, changing jobs) that
can increase the client’s vulnerability to BDD symptoms
should be identified. Therapists may want to consider offering brief booster or telephone sessions into the follow-up
care plan for the year following treatment.
Despite earlier understandings of the disorder, BDD is
treatable and responsive to CBT-based interventions. Most
sufferers achieve significant symptom reduction, with many
individuals losing the diagnosis altogether. Further gains in
the field will depend on training treatment providers, which
will increase accessibility to CBT.
See also: Anorexia nervosa, Body dysmorphia 2, Bulimia nervosa,
Exposure therapy, Severe OCD
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual
of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Butters, J. W., & Cash, T. F. (1987). Cognitive–behavioral treatment of
women’s body-image dissatisfaction. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 55, 889–897.
Castle, D. J., & Phillips, K. A. (2002). Disorders of body image. Petersfield,
England: Wrightson Biomedical.
First, M. B., Spitzer, R. L., Gibbon, M., & Williams, J. B. W. (1996).
Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders-Patient
Edition (SCID-I/P, Version 2.0, 4/97 revision). Unpublished,
Biometrics Research Department, New York State Psychiatric Institute.
McKay, D., Todaro, J., Neziroglue, F., Campisi, T., Moritz, E. K., &
Yaryura-Tobias, J. A. (1997). Body dysmorphic disorder: A preliminary evaluation of treatment and maintenance using exposure with
response prevention. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35, 67–70.
Phillips, K. A., & Diaz, S. F. (1997). Gender differences in body dysmorphic disorder. Journal of Nervous Mental Disease, 185, 570–577.
Phillips, K. A., Hollander, E., Rasmussen, S. A., Aronowitz, B. R.,
DeCaria, C., & Goodman, W. K. (1997). A severity rating scale for
body dysmorphic disorder: Development, reliability, and validity of a
modified version of the Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.
Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 33, 17–22.
Rosen, J. C., & Reiter, J. (1996). Development of the body dysmorphic
disorder examination. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34, 755–766.
Rosen, J. C., Reiter, J., & Orosan, P. (1995). Cognitive–behavioral therapy
for body dysmorphic disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 63, 263–269.
Rosen, J. C., Saltzberg, E., & Srebnik, D. (1989). Cognitive behavior
therapy for negative body image. Behavior Therapy, 20, 393–404.
Body Dysmorphia 2
Veale, D. (2002). Cognitive behaviour therapy for body dysmorphic disorder.
In D. J. Castle & K. A. Phillips (Eds.), Disorders of body image
(pp. 121–138). Petersfield, England: Wrightson Biomedical.
Veale, D., Gournay, K., Dryden, W., Boocock, A., Shah, F., Willson, R., &
Walburn, J. (1996). Body dysmorphic disorder: A cognitive behavioral
model and pilot randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Therapy and
Research, 34, 717–729.
Wilhelm, S., Otto, M. W., Lohr, B., & Deckersbach, T. (1999). Cognitive
behavior group therapy for body dysmorphic disorder: A case series.
Behaviour Therapy and Research, 37, 71–75.
and (b) raise your aesthetic standards. There is evidence that
BDD sufferers typically engage in both of these behaviors,
and so the condition begins to become more understandable.
Patients are frequently unemployed or disadvantaged
at work, housebound, or socially isolated, and at higher risk
of suicide, self-harm, or DIY cosmetic surgery. There is frequent comorbidity with depression, social phobia, obsessive–
compulsive disorder, or a personality disorder (Veale,
Boocock et al., 1996). Not surprisingly, BDD patients can be
difficult to engage and treat.
Body Dysmorphia 2
David Veale
Keywords: body dysmorphic disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is characterized by a preoccupation with an “imagined” defect in one’s appearance or,
in the case of a slight physical anomaly, then the person’s
concern is markedly excessive (American Psychiatric
Association, 1994). The most common preoccupations are
with the nose, skin, or hair and other features on the face;
however, any part of the body may be involved and the preoccupation is frequently focused on several body parts simultaneously. Complaints typically involve perceived or slight
flaws on the face, asymmetrical or disproportionate body
features, thinning hair, acne, wrinkles, scars, vascular markings, pallor, or ruddiness of complexion.
BDD is a hidden disorder, with many patients not seeking help or not realizing there is any help for their condition.
When patients do seek help, they are more likely to consult a
dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon than a mental health professional (Phillips et al., 2000; Sarwer, Wadden, Pertschuk,
& Whitaker, 1998). When BDD patients seek help from mental health practitioners, they are often too ashamed to reveal
their main problem and present with symptoms of depression, substance abuse, or social phobia unless they are specifically questioned about symptoms of BDD. Patients may be
secretive because the condition is trivialized and they think
they will be viewed as vain or narcissistic. The key criterion
in the diagnosis of BDD is the preoccupation with imagined
or minor defects, which should last at least an hour a day
(Phillips, 1996). The diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV also
state that if a minor physical anomaly is present, then the sufferer’s concern must manifestly be excessive. Note that it is
possible to find minor physical anomalies on anyone you
care to examine if you (a) look closely and for long enough
Preliminary evidence for the efficacy of cognitive
behavior therapy (CBT) in BDD comes from two randomized controlled trials (RCT) (Rosen, Reiter, & Orosan, 1995;
Veale, Gournay et al., 1996). There are also several case
series of behavioral and cognitive therapy (Geremia &
Neziroglu, 2001; Gomez Perez, Marks, & Gutierrez Fisac,
1994; Marks & Mishan, 1988; Neziroglu & Yaryura Tobias,
1993; Wilhelm, Otto, Lohr, & Deckersbach, 1999). In the
first RCT, Rosen et al. (1995) randomly allocated 54
patients diagnosed as having BDD to either group CBT or a
waiting list. After treatment, 82% (22 out of 27 subjects) of
the CBT group were clinically improved and no longer met
the criteria for BDD compared to 7% (2 out of 27 subjects)
in the waiting list group. The subjects were, however, different from those described at other centers; for example,
they were all female, 38% were preoccupied by their weight
and shape alone, and they tended to be much less socially
avoidant and handicapped than BDD patients generally.
Veale et al. (1996b) randomly allocated 19 patients with BDD
to either CBT over 12 weeks or a waiting list and found a
50% reduction in the treated group on the main outcome
measure for BDD and no change in the waiting list group.
The main weaknesses of this study were the preponderance
of female subjects (90%); the lack of a nonspecific treatment
condition; the absence of any follow-up or measurement of
the conviction of belief on a standardized scale. Much therefore remains to be done in developing the effectiveness of
CBT for BDD and to demonstrate that CBT is superior to
any nonspecific therapy (for example, anxiety management)
or an alternative such as interpersonal psychotherapy. As
yet, there is no evidence for the use of CBT in children and
adolescents with BDD.
A detailed and accurate cognitive–behavioral assessment is an essential precursor to making a formulation and
84 Body Dysmorphia 2
helping the patient to engage in therapy. Patients are often
dissatisfied with multiple areas of their body. A patient can
be asked to complete a checklist of different parts of the
body and to say exactly what they believe is defective
about each part, how they think it needs to be altered, and
the degree of distress that it causes. A patient’s beliefs
about his or her appearance are likely to be based on spontaneous images (Osman et al., 2004). Compared to healthy
controls, BDD patients are more likely to rate the images
as significantly more negative, recurrent, and vivid. Images
of the “defect” also took up a greater proportion of the
whole image in BDD patients and was viewed from an
observer perspective (similar to social phobia). Images are
used by patients as evidence as to how they appear to others. They are associated with early memories such as being
teased and bullied at school or self-consciousness about
changes in appearance during adolescence or after cosmetic surgery.
The next step is to assess what the patient’s assumptions are about the “defects” or the image they experience.
What personal meaning does it have for him? What effect
does his failure to achieve the aesthetic standard he demands
have on his life? Patients may have difficulty in articulating
the meaning but a “downward arrow technique” can usually
identify such assumptions. After eliciting the most dominant
emotion associated with thinking about the defect, the therapist inquires about what is the most shameful (or other
emotion) aspect of the defect. For example, the patient
might believe that having a defective nose will mean that he
will end up alone and unloved. For another person, the
meaning of flaws in his facial skin is the feeling of disgust
at being dirty and the consequent fear of humiliation. It is
important to identify such assumptions as they, rather than
the immediate beliefs about the defect, are a focus of cognitive therapy and behavioral experiments. Some patients may
have many unconditional beliefs and a very global low selfesteem that require a more detailed assessment. Assessing
cognitions also involves determining the values of the individual and the degree to which they have become identified
with the self. In BDD, appearance is almost always the dominant and idealized value and the means of defining the self.
Other important values in some BDD patients may include
perfectionism, symmetry, and social acceptance which may
take the form of certain rules, for example, “I have to be perfect.” BDD patients implicitly view themselves as an aesthetic object. This refers to the extreme self-consciousness
and negative evaluation by self and others.
The aim of safety behaviors in BDD is usually to alter
or camouflage their appearance. Patients are especially
secretive about symptoms such as mirror gazing, which is at
the core of BDD (Veale & Riley, 2001). The main motivation for mirror gazing appears to be the hope each time that
they would look different; the desire to know exactly
how they look; a desire to camouflage themselves; and a
belief that they would feel worse if they resist gazing. BDD
patients are more likely to focus their attention on an internal
impression or feeling (rather than their reflection in the mirror) and on specific parts of their appearance. They may perform “mental cosmetic surgery” to change their body image
and to practice different faces to pull in the mirror. A
detailed assessment is required of exactly what the patient
does in front of a mirror and his motivation, as this will be
used in therapy and the construction of behavioral experiments to test out beliefs. Other reflective surfaces such as
the backs of CDs or shop windowpanes may also be used as
substitute mirrors though they are liable to distort further
body image. Patients may also check their appearance by
measuring their perceived defect, by feeling the contours of
the skin with their fingers, or by repeatedly taking photos of
or videotaping themselves. Other repetitive behaviors
include asking others to verify the existence of the defect or
whether they are suitably camouflaged; making comparisons of their appearance with others or with old photos of
self; excessive grooming of hair; excessive cleansing of the
skin; excessive use of makeup, facial peelers or saunas, and
facial exercises to improve muscle tone; beauty treatments
(for example, collagen injections for the lips); cosmetic surgery or dermatological treatments. There may also be
impulsive behaviors such as skin picking, which produce a
very brief sense of satisfaction or pleasure (similar to trichotillomania) followed by a sense of despair and anger.
Beliefs about being defective and the importance of
appearance to the self will drive varying degrees of social
anxiety and avoidance. Thus, depending on the nature
of their beliefs, patients will tend to avoid a range of public
or social situations or intimate relationships because of the
fear of negative evaluation of the imagined defects. Many
patients endure social situations only if they use camouflage
(for example, excessive makeup) and various safety behaviors. These are often idiosyncratic and depend on the perceived defect and cultural norms. Behaviors such as
avoidance of eye contact or using long hair or excessive
makeup for camouflage are obvious but others are subtler
Body Dysmorphia 2
and are more difficult to detect unless the patient is asked or
observed as to how they behave in social situations.
For example, a BDD patient preoccupied by his nose
avoided showing his profile in social situations and only
stood face on to an individual. A patient preoccupied by
“blemishes” under her eye wore a pair of glasses to hide the
skin under her eyes. Safety behaviors contribute to the
inability to disconfirm beliefs and further self-monitoring in
mirrors to determine whether the camouflage is “working.”
The self-focused attention will increase awareness of interoceptive information such as imagery and anxiety. This is
taken as evidence of a failure to achieve an aesthetic standard
and activates assumptions about the likelihood of rejection
or humiliation.
The very nature of BDD means that a therapist will
disagree with a patient’s description of the problem in terms
of the exact beliefs about appearance. However, both patient
and therapist can usually agree on a description of the problem as a preoccupation with their appearance leading to various self-defeating behaviors. It may be possible to agree
initially on goals such as stopping specific behaviors like
skin picking or to enter public situations that were previously
avoided. Here the implicit message is to help the patient
function and lead a fuller life despite their appearance and
aesthetic standards. At this stage, patients often have covert
goals of wanting to remain excessively camouflaged in public or of changing their appearance. It is preferable to ask
patients not to plan cosmetic surgery or dermatological treatment during therapy and to reconsider their desire for surgery
after they have recovered from BDD (or at least finished therapy). In patients who are unable to engage in therapy, it is
best to put the goals to one side and to concentrate on engaging the patient in a cognitive model. Detailed goals can be
negotiated later. Not all patients want “therapy.” It is very
important to determine the agenda of patients and whether
they have made the appointment voluntarily or whether
they have been coerced to see you by their relative or sent to
you by a surgeon. Some are too suicidal or lacking in motivation. Some may accept the offer of medication and this
may act as a holding operation while the therapist tries to
engage the patient in a psychological treatment.
Therapeutic engagement is helped by the credibility of
a clinician who has treated other patients and can talk about
the disorder knowledgeably. It is important to validate the
patient’s beliefs and not discount or trivialize them. The
clinician should search for and reflect on the evidence
collected by the patient for his or her beliefs (rather than
seek evidence against the belief he or she are defective) and the
factors that have the contributed to the development of those
beliefs. Patients have typically had the experience of teasing
about their appearance during childhood or adolescence.
The aim of therapy is then to normalize their experience and
help them to understand what the problem is and to update
their “ghosts from the past.” Therapists should avoid repeatedly reassuring patients that they look “all right” as it does
not fit with their experience and they have heard it many
times. Patients may be referred by a psychoeducational book
about BDD which is written for sufferers (Phillips, 1996) or
to meet other sufferers in a patient support group or national
charity of users with Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder
(which usually has a BDD section). Patients are often
extremely relieved and surprised to talk to other BDD
patients. Patients assume a model of “What You See Is What
You Get” in front of a mirror. An alternative model of “What
You See Is What You Feel” is presented because of selective
attention to specific aspects of their appearance and their body
image. Body image will depend more on their mood, early
memories, the meaning that they attach to their appearance,
and the expectations that they bring to a mirror. This leads to
a description of a cognitive–behavioral model for BDD
(Veale, 2004) and how a person with BDD becomes excessively aware of his or her body image by giving examples of
selective attention in everyday life. Motivational interviewing
can be used to focus on the consequences of patients’ preoccupation with an emphasis on occupational and social handicap. The therapist would ask the patient to suspend judgment
and to test the alternative cognitive– behavioral model for the
period of therapy. If the patient is open to accepting the possibility that they are basing judgments on their body image,
are unusually aware of their appearance, and set high standards, this might lead to a discussion of the prejudice model
of information processing (Padesky, 1993).
Another method of engagement in CBT is similar to
that described for hypochondriasis (Clark et al., 1998). A
patient is presented with two alternative theories to test out
in therapy. Theory “A” (that the patient has been following)
is that he is defective and ugly and he has tried very hard
to camouflage or change his appearance. Theory “B” to be
tested during therapy is that the problem is of excessive worrying about his body image and making his appearance the
most important aspect of his identity. Furthermore, the various safety behaviors used to camouflage or alter his appearance make the worrying about his body image worse.
Patients should have an individual formulation based on the
model, which emphasizes the cognitive processes and
behaviors that maintain the disorder. Once a patient is
86 Body Dysmorphia 2
engaged in therapy and willing to test out alternatives, the
therapist can choose from a variety of strategies. These
include (a) cognitive restructuring and behavioral experiments to test out assumptions, (b) motivational interviewing
and reverse role-play for the rigid values, (c) behavioral
experiments or exposure to social situations without safety
behaviors, (d) dropping of safety behaviors such as mirror
gazing, and (e) self-monitoring with a tally counter and
habit reversal for impulsive behaviors such as skin picking.
Sometimes patients are impossible to engage in either
CBT or pharmacotherapy and have to go through a long
career of unnecessary surgery, beauty therapies, dermatological treatment, or suicide attempts before seeking help from
a mental health professional. Patients should be advised that
there are always cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, and
beauty therapists willing to treat them and that BDD patients
report marked dissatisfaction with cosmetic surgery or dermatological treatments. Alternatively, even if the patient is
somewhat satisfied, the preoccupation moves to a different
area of the body so that the handicap remains the same
(Phillips, Grant, Siniscalchi, & Albertini, 2001; Veale, 2000).
Phillips, K. A., Grant, J., Siniscalchi, J., & Albertini, R. S. (2001). Surgical
and non psychiatric medical treatment of patients with body dysmorphic disorder. Psychosomatics, 42, 504–510.
Rosen, J. C., Reiter, J., & Orosan, P. (1995). Cognitive–behavioral body
image therapy for body dysmorphic disorder [published erratum
appears in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63(3),
437]. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63, 263–269.
Sarwer, D. B., Wadden, T. A., Pertschuk, M. J., & Whitaker, L. A. (1998).
Body image dissatisfaction and body dysmorphic disorder in 100
cosmetic surgery patients. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, 101,
Veale, D. (2004). Advances in a cognitive behavioral model of body dysmorphic disorder. Body Image, 1, 113–125.
Veale, D., Boocock, A., Gournay, K., Dryden, W., Shah, F., Willson, R.
et al. (1996). Body dysmorphic disorder. A survey of fifty cases.
British Journal of Psychiatry, 169, 196–201.
Veale, D., Gournay, K., Dryden, W., Boocock, A., Shah, F., Willson, R.
et al. (1996). Body dysmorphic disorder: A cognitive behavioural
model and pilot randomised controlled trial. Behaviour Research and
Therapy, 34, 717–729.
Veale, D., & Riley, S. (2001). Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ugliest
of them all? The psychopathogy of mirror gazing in body dysmorphic
disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39, 1381–1393.
Wilhelm, S., Otto, M. W., Lohr, B., & Deckersbach, T. (1999). Cognitive
behavior group therapy for body dysmorphic disorder: A case series.
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 71–75.
See also: Anorexia nervosa, Body dysmorphia 1, Bulimia nervosa,
Exposure therapy, Severe OCD
Thirty-three cases of body dysmorphic disorder in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent
Psychiatry, 38, 453–459.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Clark, D. M., Salkovskis, P. M., Hackmann, A., Wells, A., Fennel, M.,
Ludgate, J. et al. (1998). Two psychological treatments for hypochondriasis. A randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry,
173, 218–225.
Geremia, G., & Neziroglu, F. (2001). Cognitive therapy in the treatment of
body dysmorphic disorder. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 8,
Gomez Perez, J. C., Marks, I. M., & Gutierrez Fisac, J. L. (1994).
Dysmorphophobia: Clinical features and outcome with behavior therapy. European Psychiatry, 9, 229–235.
Neziroglu, F., & Yaryura Tobias, J. A. (1993). Exposure, response
prevention, and cognitive therapy in the treatment of body dysmorphic
disorder. Behavior Therapy, 24, 431–438.
Osman, S., Cooper, M., Hackman, M., & Vegle, D. (2004). Spontaneously
occuring images and early memories in persons with body dysmorphic
disorder. Body Image, 1, 113–125.
Padesky, C. A. (1993). Schema as self-prejudice. International Cognitive
Therapy Newsletter, 5/6, 16–17.
Phillips, K. (1996). The broken mirror—Understanding and treating body
dysmorphic disorder. New York: Oxford University Press.
Phillips, K. A., Dufresne, R. G., Jr., Wilkel, C. S. et al. (2000). Rate of body
dysmorphic disorder in dermatology patients. Journal of the American
Academy of Dermatology, 42, 436–444.
Bulimia Nervosa
Diane L. Spangler
Keywords: bulimia nervosa, eating disorders
Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) for bulimia nervosa
(BN) is part of a group of therapies that grew out of the initial work of Beck and colleagues which described a
cognitive–behavioral treatment for depression. Current CBT
interventions for BN are based on a cognitive–behavioral
model of the precipitation and maintenance of BN, and
attempt to systematically target the primary factors identified in that model.
Cognitive–behavioral conceptualizations of BN precipitation and maintenance are based on schema theory and on
dietary restraint theory. According to the theory, dysfunctional
beliefs about bodily appearance influence attention to and
interpretation of everyday stimuli resulting in overvaluation
Bulimia Nervosa
and manipulation of body weight and shape. BN-related dysfunctional beliefs occur in several domains, including (a)
body weight expectation, (b) meaning of body weight and
shape, and (c) food and eating pattern. In particular, persons
with BN often hold unrealistic expectations for how low
their own body weight should be, and believe that acquiring
a specific (usually thin) body appearance will result in a host
of desired consequences (e.g., increased interpersonal popularity and prowess, increased self-esteem, decreased negative emotion). Thus, obtaining the “ideal” body is viewed as
a principal strategy for achieving idiosyncratically defined
positive life outcomes and coping with or solving life problems. Dietary restriction is employed in an attempt to conform the body to “ideal” specifications. Dietary restriction
typically includes restricting how often food is eaten, how
much food is eaten, and what types of foods are eaten. This
restrictive eating pattern results in both physiological and
psychological deprivation, which increases susceptibility to
binge eating. Purging follows binge eating as an attempt to
compensate for the calories consumed during binge eating
and to reduce anxiety about predicted weight gain. Feelings
of lack of control, failure, and anger for breaking selfimposed dietary rules often follow the binge–purge episode,
which reinforces the desire to gain control, esteem, and
approval via attaining the idealized body. Lastly, a rededication to dietary restriction follows the binge–purge episode in
an attempt to regain a sense of self-control and self-esteem,
and as a behavioral recommitment to dysfunctional beliefs
about the “necessity” of an ideal body. This cycle of restriction–deprivation–bingeing–purging– negative self-view
repeats itself indefinitely resulting in the development of BN.1
CBT for BN was originally developed by Fairburn
(1981), and has continued to evolve (see Cooper, Todd, &
Wells, 2000; Fairburn, Marcus, & Wilson, 1993). Reduced
to its essence, CBT for BN seeks to eliminate excessive
dietary restriction and dysfunctional beliefs about the self,
body, and food, and to enhance cognitive flexibility,
problem-solving, and relapse prevention skills. To achieve
these ends, treatment is divided into three phases.
The current description focuses on purported proximal precipitating and
maintenance factors in BN. Some cognitive–behavioral theorists also discuss more distal etiologic factors that are thought to influence the development of dysfunctional body-related beliefs such as thin-ideal media, parental
body dissatisfaction, and peer group. Thus, the cognitive–behavioral model
can be viewed as being consistent with empirical literature documenting
such variables as risk factors for BN.
Phase 1
Phase 1 focuses on reducing excessive dietary restriction. During this phase, clients monitor their eating pattern
and food intake on a daily basis in order to identify the ways
in which they typically restrict and to identify any additional
triggers for binge eating or purging. Clients are then helped
to regularize their eating pattern by developing regimented
times for eating and by identifying activities that are incompatible with binge eating or purging to use at times when
they feel the urge to engage in either of these behaviors.
Clients are also educated about: (a) the ineffectiveness of
vomiting and laxative use in expelling calories and controlling weight, (b) the effects of dietary restriction on increased
binge eating and on metabolism, and (c) healthy body mass
index for their body. Clients are encouraged to weigh themselves once a week to test (unfounded) predictions that altering their restrictive eating pattern will result in weight gain.
Exposure-based interventions are also used during Phase 1
in the form of gradually incorporating moderate amounts of
feared or avoided foods into the client’s meals. Although
eating behaviors are the primary focus of Phase 1, cognitive
interventions that seek to identify and alter automatic
thoughts which either hinder regular eating (e.g., negative
predictions regarding change) or encourage binge eating
or purging (e.g., permissive thoughts) are also routinely
utilized during Phase 1.
Phase 2
Phase 2 primarily targets dysfunctional thoughts and
beliefs about the self and the meaning of the body. Clients
are encouraged to explicate their own definition of an ideal
body, their view of their departure from this ideal, and their
predictions about the consequences of obtaining this ideal.
Body exposure is also used both to identify dysfunctional
beliefs about current bodily appearance and to habituate to
current body appearance. Although initial CBT protocols for
BN emphasized the use of evidence-based interventions
to counteract dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs about the
body and self, more recent protocols incorporate a much
wider range of standard CBT restructuring techniques such
as cost–benefit analysis, core belief worksheets, downward
arrow, and behavioral experiments (see Cooper et al., 2000).
A second focus of Phase 2 is training in problem-solving
skills. The rationale for problem-solving training derives
from the assumption that persons with BN either believe that
obtaining their ideal body will solve life problems, or else
use binge eating and purging to cope with stressful situations and negative mood. Since such beliefs and behaviors
are evaluated and often refuted during Phase 2, problemsolving training is offered as a replacement strategy for
88 Bulimia Nervosa
addressing life problems. Other skills such as emotion regulation skills may also be taught and applied during Phase
2 on an as needed basis.
Phase 3
The main goal of Phase 3 is relapse prevention. During
this phase, progress is reviewed as are the methods used to
reduce and eliminate primary symptoms. Clients are encouraged to differentiate between a lapse (i.e., normal overeating) and a relapse (i.e., return of BN symptoms). Clients
create a relapse plan or list of things to do if they believe BN
symptoms are returning. The relapse plan is individualized
for each client based on his or her primary difficulties and
triggers, and on the interventions that were most useful during treatment. Phase 3 concludes with an exploration of
thoughts and feelings about treatment termination.
The efficacy of CBT for BN has been evaluated in nearly
30 controlled studies. The percentage reduction in binge eating and purging across all clients receiving CBT is typically
80% or more compared to virtually 0% reduction in wait-list
controls. Approximately 50% of those treated with CBT
report complete cessation of all binge eating and purging at
treatment termination. Large effect sizes for CBT are found
for both behavioral symptoms (e.g., binge frequency ⫽ 1.28)
and cognitive symptoms (e.g., eating attitudes ⫽ 1.35)
(Whittal, Agras, & Gould, 1999; see also Lewandowski,
Gebing, Anthony, & O’Brien, 1997). Furthermore, symptom
reduction and cessation are fairly well-maintained across time
with the majority of clients retaining therapeutic changes
1 year after treatment. The study with the longest follow-up
period found that two-thirds of clients treated with CBT had
no eating disorder at a 5-year posttreatment assessment
(Fairburn et al., 1995). Furthermore, CBT has effects on the
associated features of BN. In addition to reduction in binge
eating and purging, those treated with CBT show decreases in
dietary restraint, depression, and shape-weight concerns as
well as increases in social functioning and self-esteem.
In comparison to alternative forms of treatment for BN,
CBT has superior response rates. CBT has most often been
compared to antidepressant medication in the treatment of
BN. In a meta-analysis including 9 double-blind, placebocontrolled medication trials and 26 randomized CBT trials,
CBT was found to be significantly more effective than medication in reducing binge eating, purging, depression, and
weight-shape concerns (Whittal et al., 1999). In comparison
to alternative psychotherapies, CBT has been found to have
significantly higher response rates than supportive psychotherapy, behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy,
stress management, and nutritional counseling. The one
exception to this pattern of findings concerns interpersonal
psychotherapy (IPT): CBT and IPT show similar long-term
outcomes. However, in comparison to IPT, CBT is significantly more fast-acting and has significantly higher acute
response rates (Agras, Walsh, Fairburn, Wilson, & Kraemer,
2000). The rapid response to CBT for BN has now been documented in several studies which report that approximately
60–70% of the reduction in binge eating and purging occurs
within the first 6 sessions of CBT. For all of these reasons,
CBT is identified as the treatment of choice for BN in each
of the recent meta-analyses of BN treatment.
Although CBT is currently the most effective form of
treatment for BN with most clients exhibiting significant
reductions in BN symptoms following treatment, only
roughly 50% of clients treated with CBT are completely free
of BN symptoms in the long term. Given this rate of full
response, the need to improve the efficacy of CBT for BN
is clear especially since administering an alternative therapy
to those who do not initially respond to CBT for BN has, in
most instances, not resulted in treatment gains. Mechanism
of action research is a primary avenue for understanding
how CBT for BN works and thereby providing direction into
how to enhance CBT’s efficacy (Spangler, 2002).
Statements of hypothesized mechanisms of action in CBT
for BN are available (Spangler, Baldwin, & Agras, 2004;
Wilson, 1999; Wilson & Fairburn, 1993), but studies of the
mechanisms of action in CBT for BN are still in their
infancy. Of the few mechanism studies conducted, those
examining the role of the therapeutic alliance find that it is
not associated with changes in BN symptoms (Spangler
et al., 2004; Wilson, Fairburn, Agras, Walsh, & Kraemer,
2002). Spangler et al. (2004) found that therapist behavioral
interventions were the interventions most associated with
BN symptom change, whereas therapist relational interventions were most associated with client motivation for change
(but not actual symptom change). Continued research on the
mechanisms of action in CBT is needed.
Other theorists have suggested that an expansion of the
scope of CBT for BN may enhance its efficacy. Additional
treatment foci that have been suggested include incorporating a component that is focused on interpersonal schemas,
incorporating a well-defined component on body image
exposure, or incorporating a component that directly
addresses client negative affect. Indeed, several studies have
Bulimia Nervosa
documented that clients with high levels of negative affect
respond less well to CBT for BN than clients with lower levels of negative affect. Including additional components in
CBT for BN may, however, be premature until the mechanisms by which the current form of CBT has its effects have
been more clearly elucidated. Additionally, effectiveness
studies of the current (as well as any modified) form of CBT
for BN are needed to determine response rates to CBT in
typical practice (rather than research) settings.
Alternative forms of delivery of CBT for BN are also
of interest. Few therapists are well trained in CBT for BN,
making the accessibility of the treatment problematic. In an
effort to increase CBT availability, some have proposed a
stepped care model of delivery. This model proposes beginning BN clients at a level of care that requires the lowest
amount of provider resources (such as use of self-help manuals with occasional therapist phone contact) and then
adding more “steps” of care as symptom severity or nonresponse to “lower” steps of treatment warrant. Initial studies
of the use of CBT self-help materials for BN clients are
promising (Carter, 2002). However, how, when, and for
whom self-help materials are best integrated with current
CBT treatment for BN remain to be determined. Other
forms of delivery in need of further examination include
group treatment and shortened forms of CBT for BN.
See also: Anorexia nervosa, Body dysmorphia 1, Body dysmorphia 2, Dialectical behavior therapy for eating disorders
Agras, W. S., Walsh, B. T., Fairburn, C. G., Wilson, G. T., & Kraemer, H. C.
(2000). A multicenter comparison of cognitive–behavioral therapy and
interpersonal psychotherapy for bulimia nervosa. Archives of General
Psychiatry, 57, 459–466.
Carter, J. C. (2002). Self-help books in the treatment of eating disorders.
In C. G. Fairburn & K. D. Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity (2nd ed., pp. 358–361). New York: Guilford Press.
Cooper, M., Todd, G., & Wells, A. (2000). Bulimia nervosa: A cognitive
therapy programme for clients. London: Kingsley Publishers.
Fairburn, C. G. (1981). A cognitive–behavioral approach to the management of bulimia. Psychology and Medicine, 11, 707–711.
Fairburn, C. G., Marcus, M. D., & Wilson, G. T. (1993). Cognitive–behavioral
therapy for binge eating and bulimia nervosa: A comprehensive treatment
manual. In C. G. Fairburn & G. T. Wilson (Eds.), Binge eating: Nature,
assessment and treatment (pp. 361–404). New York: Guilford Press.
Fairburn, C. G., Norman, P. A., Welch, S. L., O’Connor, M. E., Doll, H. A.,
& Peveler, R. C. (1995). A prospective study of outcome in bulimia
nervosa and the long-term effects of three psychological treatments.
Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 304–312.
Lewandowski, L. M., Gebing, T. A., Anthony, J. L., & O’Brien, W. H.
(1997). Meta-analysis of cognitive–behavioral treatment studies for
bulimia. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 703–718.
Spangler, D. L. (2002). How does cognitive–behavioral therapy work?
Using structural equation modeling to pinpoint mechanisms and mediators of change. In T. Scrimali & L. Grimaldi (Eds.), Cognitive psychotherapy Toward a new millenium: scientific foundations and
clinical practice (pp. 161–164). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum
Spangler, D. L., Baldwin, S. A., & Agras, W. S. (in press). An examination
of the mechanisms of action in cognitive behavioral therapy for
bulimia nervosa. Behavior Therapy.
Whittal, M. L., Agras, W. S., & Gould, R. (1999). Bulimia nervosa: A metaanalysis of psychosocial and pharmacological treatments. Behavior
Therapy, 30, 117–135.
Wilson, G. T. (1999). Treatment of bulimia nervosa: The next decade.
European Eating Disorders Review, 7, 77–83.
Wilson, G. T., & Fairburn, C. F. (1993). Cognitive treatments for eating
disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 261–269.
Wilson, G. T., Fairburn, C. G., Agras, W. S., Walsh, B. T., & Kraemer, H.
(2002). Cognitive behavior therapy for bulimia nervosa: Time course
and mechanisms of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 70, 267–274.
applied to address both specific negative symptoms (e.g.,
anticipatory nausea, pain) as well as overall psychological
distress and quality of life.
Arthur M. Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu
Keywords: cancer, psychosocial oncology, problem-solving
During the past several decades, considerable medical
progress has been made in treating cancer. Many forms are
curable and there is a sustained decline in the overall death
rate from this set of diseases when assessing the impact on
the total population. Because of improvements in medical
science, more people are living with cancer than ever before.
However, psychosocial and emotional needs are frequently
overlooked by the traditional health care team, and despite
improved medical prognoses, cancer patients often continue
to experience significant emotional distress. For example,
compared to the general population, cancer patients experience a fourfold increase in the rate of depression. Other significant psychological problems include pain, anxiety,
suicide, delirium, body image difficulties, and sexual dysfunctions. Various psychological and physical symptoms
frequently occur as a function of the cancer treatment itself
(e.g., fear, nausea). Even for people who historically have
coped well with major negative life events, cancer and its
treatment greatly increase the stressful nature of even routine daily tasks (Nezu, Nezu, Felgoise, & Zwick, 2003).
In response to these significant negative consequences,
a variety of psychosocial interventions, including various
cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches, have been
Clinically, negative side effects of both emetogenic
chemotherapy and radiotherapy, common forms of medical
treatment for cancer, include anticipatory nausea and
vomiting. From a respondent conditioning conceptualization, this occurs when previously neutral stimuli (e.g., colors and sounds associated with the treatment room) acquire
nausea-eliciting properties due to repeated association with
chemotherapy treatments and its negative aftereffects.
Investigations conducted in the early 1980s (e.g., Burish &
Lyles, 1981) found progressive muscle relaxation, combined
with guided imagery, to be effective in reducing anticipatory
nausea and vomiting among samples of patients already
experiencing such symptoms. Systematic desensitization
has also been found to be an effective intervention for these
problems. Moreover, conducting CBT prior to receiving
chemotherapy has been found to prevent anticipatory nausea
and vomiting, as well as fostering improved posttreatment
emotional well-being.
CBT strategies that have been posited as potentially
effective approaches for the reduction of cancer-related pain
include relaxation training, guided imagery and distraction,
and cognitive coping and restructuring. Although there
have only been a few empirical investigations evaluating
such hypotheses, more recent research is underscoring the
92 Cancer
promise of such interventions. For example, Liossi and
Hatira (1999) recently compared the effects of hypnosis and
CBT as pain management interventions for pediatric cancer
patients undergoing bone marrow aspirations. Their results
indicated that both treatment protocols, as compared to a notreatment control condition, were effective in reducing pain
and pain-related anxiety.
CBT approaches are increasingly being evaluated as a
means to decrease psychological distress symptoms (e.g.,
depression, anxiety) among cancer patients, as well as to
improve their overall quality of life. This trend began with a
landmark study conducted by Worden and Weisman (1984)
in which they found an intervention package that included
training in problem-solving and relaxation skills to promote
effective coping and adaptation among newly diagnosed
cancer patients. Behavioral stress management strategies,
such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery,
have also been found to be effective in reducing symptoms
of emotional distress among cancer patients.
In general, with regard to enhancing cancer patients’
emotional well-being, the trend has been to evaluate the efficacy of multicomponent protocols that include a variety of
CBT strategies. For example, Telch and Telch (1986) found
a group-administered multicomponent CBT coping skills
training protocol, composed of relaxation and stress management, assertive communication, cognitive restructuring
and problem solving, management of emotions, and planning pleasant activities, to be superior to a supportive group
therapy condition. A landmark multicomponent CBT-based
investigation was conducted by Fawzy and his colleagues
(Fawzy et al., 1990) and included patients who were newly
diagnosed with malignant melanoma. The 6-week CBT
intervention was comprised of four components—health
education, stress management, problem-solving training,
and group support. At the end of the 6 weeks, patients
receiving the structured intervention began showing
reductions in psychological distress as compared to
“medical treatment as usual” control patients. However,
6 months posttreatment, such group differences became
very pronounced.
More recently, Nezu, Nezu, Felgoise, McClure,
and Houts (in press) published a study which found that:
(a) problem-solving therapy by itself was a robust treatment approach in decreasing psychological distress and
improving the quality of life of adult cancer patients, and
(b) including a patient-identified significant other (e.g.,
spouse, adult son or daughter) in treatment who served as a
“problem-solving” coach significantly enhanced positive
treatment effects as evidenced at 6-month and 1-year
follow-up evaluations.
Despite the literature documenting the efficacy of psychosocial interventions for cancer patients, a major obstacle
to the potential utilization of such protocols is accessibility.
In response to such barriers, various programs using the
telephone as a communication tool have been developed in
order to provide health education, referral information,
counseling, and group support. With regard to CBT interventions, for example, Allen et al. (2002) recently evaluated
the effects of a combined face-to-face and telephone
problem-solving-based intervention. In general, their results
provide support for the efficacy of such an approach in
reducing cancer-related difficulties for young breast cancer
The above brief review underscores the efficacy of
CBT for cancer patients with regard to reducing specific
psychological (e.g., depression, anxiety) and physical (e.g.,
anticipatory nausea and vomiting, pain) cancer-related
symptoms, as well as improving their overall adjustment
and emotional well-being. However, the question remains
as to whether such psychosocial-based therapies have any
impact on actual health outcome. In other words, do they
affect the course or prognosis of the disease itself? Possible
routes of impact of such interventions on the health of cancer patients include (a) improving patient self-care (e.g.,
reducing behavioral risk factors), (b) increasing patients’
compliance with medical treatment, and (c) influencing disease resistance regarding certain biological pathways, such
as the immune system.
To date, few studies, regardless of the theoretical orientation on which the psychosocial intervention is based,
have addressed this question directly. One example involves
the investigation conducted by Fawzy and his colleagues
(1993) with malignant melanoma patients noted previously.
Although this study was not originally designed to specifically assess differences in survival rates as a function of
differing treatment conditions, this research team did find
6 years later that the CBT group experienced longer survival
as compared to control participants, as well as a trend for
a longer period to recurrence for the treated patients.
In addition to the increased longevity associated with
their CBT intervention, Fawzy et al. (1993) provide some
evidence indicating that the possible mechanism of action
for this improved health might involve the immune system.
More specifically, in their study, at the end of the 6-week
intervention, those patients receiving the CBT protocol
evidenced significant increases in the percentage of large
granular lymphocytes. Six months posttreatment, this
increase in granular lymphocytes continued with increases in
natural killer cells also being evident. Although research
investigating the link between immunologic parameters
and psychosocial variables in cancer patients is in its nascent stage, and therefore can only be viewed as suggestive in
nature at this time, such a framework provides for an
exciting area for future research and a possible means of
explaining one pathway between behavioral factors and
cancer-related health outcome.
All of the above interventions are geared to impact
on health and mental health parameters after a person is
diagnosed with cancer. However, treatment strategies can
also affect behavioral risk factors, thus attempting to prevent
cancer to some extent. Some of the most important cancerrelated behavioral risk factors include smoking, alcohol,
diet, and sun exposure. Reviews of the relevant CBT treatment literature bases concerning the first three areas are
included in other sections of this encyclopedia and therefore
will not be repeated here. With regard to sun exposure,
some interventions have led to increased knowledge of skin
cancer and awareness of protective measures; however,
programs have had only limited success with increasing
preventive behaviors in at-risk groups.
Prevention strategies are also important for individuals
considered at high risk due to genetic and familial factors.
For example, a positive family history of breast cancer is an
important risk factor for breast cancer in women. As such,
first-degree relatives of women with breast cancer may also
be at risk for psychological distress. With this in mind,
Schwartz et al. (1998) evaluated a brief problem-solvingbased intervention as a means to reduce distress among
women with a first-degree relative recently diagnosed with
breast cancer. Results indicated that for participants who
regularly practiced the problem-solving techniques, their
cancer-specific distress was significantly reduced as compared to control participants and those treatment participants
only infrequently using the problem-solving skills.
Overall, research has amply demonstrated that a variety
of cognitive–behavioral interventions are effective in
reducing specific cancer-related physical (e.g., pain, nausea,
and vomiting) and emotional (e.g., depression, anxiety)
symptoms, as well as enhancing the overall quality of life
of cancer patients. More recently, using the telephone to
increase accessibility to such programs has also begun to
show promise. In addition to improving cancer patients’
emotional well-being, data exist suggesting that psychosocial interventions can also lead to improved survival by
affecting the course of the cancer itself. One biological
pathway that has been identified as a potential mechanism by
which this can occur is the immune system. However, the
literature providing evidence to support a link between
behavioral variables and health outcome as mediated by the
immune system is only in its infancy with regard to cancer.
Therefore, substantial additional research is necessary before
the nature of these relationships can be clearly elucidated.
Psychosocial interventions have also been developed for
at-risk groups (e.g., first-degree relative of a woman with
breast cancer) or people engaging in risky cancer-engendering
behaviors (e.g., excessive sun exposure) as a means of
reducing risk and preventing cancer.
See also: Caregivers of medically ill persons, Clinical health
psychology, Problem solving therapy—general
Allen, S. M., Shah, A. C., Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Ciambrone, D.,
Hogan, J., & Mor, V. (2002). A problem-solving approach to stress
reduction among younger women with breast carcinoma: A randomized controlled trial. Cancer, 94, 3089–3100.
Burish, T. G., & Lyles, J. N. (1981). Effectiveness of relaxation training in
reducing adverse reactions to cancer chemotherapy. Journal of
Behavioral Medicine, 4, 65–78.
Fawzy, F. I., Cousins, N., Fawzy, N. W., Kemeny, M. E., Elashoff, R., &
Morton, D. (1990). A structured psychiatric intervention for cancer
patients: I. Changes over time in methods of coping and affective
disturbance. Archives of General Psychiatry, 47, 720–725.
Fawzy, F. I., Fawzy, N. W., Hyun, C. S., Guthrie, D., Fahey, J. L., &
Morton, D. L. (1993). Malignant melanoma: Effects of an early
structured psychiatric intervention, coping and affective state on recurrence and survival 6 years later. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50,
Liossi, C., & Hatira, P. (1999). Clinical hypnosis versus cognitive behavioral training for pain management with pediatric cancer patients
undergoing bone marrow aspirations. International Journal of Clinical
and Experimental Hypnosis, 47, 104–116.
Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Felgoise, S. H., McClure, K. S., & Houts, P. S.
(2003). Project Genesis: Assessing the efficacy of problem-solving
therapy for distressed adult cancer patients. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 71, 1036–1048.
Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Felgoise, S. H., & Zwick, M. L. (2003).
Psychosocial oncology. In A. M. Nezu, C. M. Nezu, & P. A. Geller
(Eds.), Health psychology (pp. 267–292). New York: Wiley.
Schwartz, M. D., Lerman, C., Audrian, J., Cella, D., Garber, J., Rimer, B.,
Lin, T., Stefanek, M., & Vogel, V. (1998). The impact of a brief
problem-solving training intervention for relatives of recently
diagnosed breast cancer patients. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 20,
Telch, C. F., & Telch, M. J. (1986). Group coping skills instruction and supportive group therapy for cancer patients: A comparison of strategies.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 802–808.
94 Cancer
Worden, J. W., &Weisman, A. D. (1984). Preventive psychosocial intervention with newly diagnosed cancer patients. General Hospital
Psychiatry, 6, 243–249.
Baum, A., & Andersen, B. L. (Eds.) (2001). Psychosocial interventions for
cancer. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Jacobsen, P. B., & Hann, D. M. (1998). Cognitive–behavioral interventions.
In J. C. Holland (Ed.), Psycho-oncology (pp. 717–729). New York:
Oxford University Press.
Nezu, A. M., Lombardo, E., & Nezu, C. M. (in press). Cancer. In
A. R. Kuczmierczyk & A. Nikcevic (Eds.), A clinician’s guide to
behavioral medicine: A case formulation approach. London: BrunnerRoutledge.
Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Friedman, S. H., Faddis, S., & Houts, P. S.
(1998). Helping cancer patients cope: A problem-solving approach.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Caregivers of Medically Ill Persons
Stephanie H. Felgoise and Krista Olex
Keywords: medical illness, caregivers, chronic illness
Changes in the philosophy underlying the provision of
health care and medical technology have extended the lives
of patients with chronic illnesses and have resulted in
increased numbers of patients requiring in-home medical
care. Often, the responsibility of providing such care lies
with family members, also termed caregivers. Informal or
lay caregivers is operationally defined as those unpaid
carers who provide physical, practical, and emotional care
and support for a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness
(Harding & Higginson, 2003). Duties that had previously
been the responsibility of formally trained health care professionals are now performed by lay caregivers, essentially
rendering them members of the patient’s health care treatment team. Fairly recent estimates have indicated there are
over 52 million lay caregivers in the United States (Health
and Human Services, 1998). As such, caregivers have and
will continue to become a more prominent population
seeking services by cognitive and behavioral clinicians.
Historically, the study of caregiving has developed
within the context of caring for persons with schizophrenia
or dementia. Thus, until the rise in focus on clinical health
psychology and behavioral medicine, little attention had
been given to caregivers of medically ill persons, or differences between various caregiving populations. More
recently, variables affecting the well-being of caregivers of
patients with medical illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS,
traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and ALS have
been examined independently and in comparison to other
caregiver groups. Although limited, research findings suggest that the experiences of individuals caring for family
members with different medical and care needs may differ
significantly. Differences may occur due to patients’ rate of
disease progression, functional abilities, or palliative care
requirements, for example. Also, caregiver variables such as
age, coping abilities, relationship variables, and other factors may differ based on the demographics of persons likely
to contract specific diseases, or the age at which persons do
so. Lastly, differences are likely to be significant between
caregivers of chronically ill versus terminally ill care recipients in stressors, adjustment, and coping. However, few
studies actually make such direct comparisons. The literature offers much regarding caregiver needs assessments, but
generally lacks empirically tested interventions to match
these reported needs. Given this limitation in the literature,
several global statements can be made about caregiving and
interventions to aid individuals in this role.
Across groups, it is accepted that most caregivers face
multiple challenges and stressors, and therefore, many often
experience feelings of depression, anxiety, powerlessness,
role strain, guilt, and grief (Ruppert, 1996). Caregivers
struggle with juggling multiple roles (family, work, household) with their caregiving responsibilities and often do so
without adequate support. The psychological distress that
results when caregiving responsibilities exceed caregivers’
available resources has been defined throughout the literature as “caregiver burden.”
Caregiver stress, distress, and burden have negative
implications for individual caregivers’ health, and also for
the psychological and physical health and well-being of the
care recipients. Research has shown that caregiving stressors
can indirectly compromise caregivers’ immune functioning,
and also care recipients may receive inadequate or suboptimal care when caregivers are burdened or coping with stressors poorly. Consequently, understanding the stressors and
psychological aspects of providing care to loved ones is
important for caregivers and patients alike.
Research has also found that some caregivers
report increased meaning and satisfaction through this role.
For instance, couples may develop more emotional connection, intimacy, and trust, and reevaluation of existential
issues and spirituality may result in positive emotional wellbeing. Individuals experiencing these feelings may be less in
need of therapeutic intervention, but they too may benefit
Caregivers of Medically Ill Persons
from learning ways to enhance adaptive skills that may
serve to improve their overall quality of life in the face of
new challenges.
Given the inconclusive nature of the caregiving literature, application of cognitive–behavioral theory to working
with caregivers dictates the use of multidimensional, biopsychosocial assessments and interventions to devise services
based on individual or population needs. Specific attention to
cultural, spiritual, and religious beliefs, values, and practices
regarding illness, loss, family, and life meaning is critical.
Although relatively recent within the past 15 to 20 years
and few in number, cognitive–behavioral interventions have
been developed specific to various caregiving populations
(e.g., caregivers of patients with cancer, traumatic brain
injuries, spinal cord injuries, dementia, HIV/AIDS) to help
individuals adjust to the caregiving and personal challenges
that often arise. The literature suggests caregivers benefit
from individual, group, couples, and family interventions, or
a combination of treatment modalities. Decisions regarding
types of interventions to offer may depend on several factors: the relationship of the caregiver to the patient, accessibility of services, longevity of the caregiving role, type of
patient illness, individual needs and characteristics (i.e.,
coping skills, supports) of caregivers and care recipients.
Anecdotally, the biggest obstacle to participation in available clinical services seems to be related to limited time for
self or coverage for caring for the patient. Given the unique
difficulties caregivers have in arranging time to participate in office or hospital-based treatments, researchers are
investigating the feasibility and benefits of nontraditional
delivery of services (i.e., computer, telephone, home- or
community-based programs).
General behavioral target areas common to most
caregiving populations include increasing coping skills,
problem-solving skills, time management, prosocial and
health behaviors, relaxation, assertiveness, and communication skills. Cognitive targets may focus on decreasing maladaptive thoughts and beliefs in connection with feelings of
depression, anxiety, or guilt, and increasing positive coping
and self-efficacy or self-affirming statements. Services may
be structured as therapy, support, psychoeducation, respite,
self-enhancement, or a combination of these approaches.
Interventions may focus on interpersonal (social isolation,
competing work, family, and recreational demands) or
intrapersonal (finances, emotional and physical well-being,
changes in identity or future goals and expectations) variables, preexisting stressors or problems further complicated
by the caregiving role, symptom management, and grief and
loss issues. Contrary to many theorists’ and researchers’
hypotheses, qualitative research reveals that more often
caregivers’ distress is reportedly due to interpersonal and
familial stressors, rather than disease-related or instrumental
care activities (Elliott & Rivera, 2003) for some populations.
Cognitive–behavioral interventions for decreasing psychological distress and improving quality of life and general
well-being are described below.
Cognitive–behavioral interventions have been used
with caregivers to improve time management, coping, problem-solving skills, assertiveness, relaxation, positive experiences, and self-care, and to decrease distorted thought
processes regarding the caregiving experience. Regardless
of the specific technique or modality utilized, the fundamental goal of these interventions is to decrease distress and
to improve the caregiver’s ability to cope with the multifaceted caregiving challenges and role changes, improve their
sense of control, and overall quality of life. Many of these
interventions can be offered in individual, group, or family
modalities, and with or without the care recipient present,
depending on the nature of individual concerns.
Problem-Solving Training for Caregivers
The construct of social problem-solving has long been
of interest to researchers and clinicians, but has only been
specifically applied to the caregiver population within
the past decade. Problem-solving has been integral to the
application of cognitive–behavioral interventions to the
caregiver population (Toseland, Blanchard, & McCallion,
1995) and many of the problem-solving-based interventions
(i.e., Houts, Nezu, Nezu, & Bucher, 1996; Kurylo, Elliott, &
Schewchuk, 2001) are adaptations of Nezu and D’Zurilla’s
(1989) and Nezu, Nezu, Friedman, Houts, and Faddis’s
(1998) problem-solving therapy for social competence and
distressed cancer patients, respectively. Social problemsolving therapy has been extensively researched in whole
and in parts, according to basic science and clinical principles, as a theoretical model for understanding stress and
distress, as a clinical therapeutic intervention for many
populations, and in various adaptations (see D’Zurilla &
Nezu, 1999, for review).
The work of Nezu and D’Zurilla challenged the view
that problem-solving represents a form of problem-focused,
as opposed to emotion-focused, coping. Whereas problemfocused coping refers to attempts to change the problematic
situation in some way, emotion-focused coping refers to
attempts to manage the emotional distress that results from
the problem (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). According to
Nezu and D’Zurilla, social problem solving can include both
96 Caregivers of Medically Ill Persons
problem-focused and emotion-focused goals. Thus, problem-solving coping represents a set of strategies that can
help individuals change the nature of problematic situations,
one’s reactions to them, and often both.
Problem-solving interventions incorporate principles
of cognitive restructuring (challenging maladaptive thoughts
and irrational beliefs, strategies to increase self-efficacy),
techniques to counter maladaptive behavioral response
styles (avoidance, impulsiveness, carelessness), and specific
skill instruction to increase positive, systematic, and rational
thinking. Social problem-solving skills, according to
D’Zurilla, Nezu, and colleagues, include problem orientation variables and rational problem-solving skills. Problem
orientation variables describe a cognitive mind-set of how
individuals view problems in daily living, and their perceived ability to solve them. With respect to caregiving,
problem orientation refers to the caregiver’s view of the role
of caregiving, as well as the caregiver’s expectations for
meeting the demands of the role. For example, a caregiver
may view the role as being a burden, while another may
view the role as representing a challenge. These differences
with respect to problem orientation have implications for the
outcome of the problem-solving process, with a negative
problem orientation (e.g., “this is a burden”) contributing to
negative outcomes. The second process is problem-solving
proper, which refers to the actual process of devising a solution to the problem through rational and systematic means.
Four skills comprise this portion of the problem-solving
process: problem definition and formulation, generation of
alternatives, decision making, and solution implementation
and verification, and specific subsets of skills and techniques are taught within each of these components.
Although the therapeutic social problem-solving model
is structured, it is also flexible so as to be tailored to individual learning styles, with emphasis on specific target
problems, and can be applied as psychoeducational training
for prevention or intervention, or in conjunction with other
therapeutic strategies. Thus, its practical focus and flexibility makes this packaged intervention particularly well-suited
to many caregivers, who face daily problems and challenges
allowing for varying degrees of control. Houts et al. (1996)
modified the problem-solving therapy intervention, for
example, to develop the Prepared Family Caregiver conceptual model for caregivers of persons with cancer. This derivation uses the acronym “COPE” to emphasize creativity,
optimism, planning, and expert information, within the context of social problem solving and by use of these skills.
Similarly, Kurylo et al. (2001) developed Project FOCUS to
emphasize that “If you know the Facts and are Optimistic
and Creative, you can Understand the problem better and
Solve it effectively.” These models particularly attend to the
uncertainty often experienced by caregivers of medical
patients, and to using problem-solving strategies to decrease
this uncertainty and related distress, increase acquisition
of resources and support, and positive interactions with
medical staff.
Toseland and colleagues’ (1995) intervention for
caregivers of cancer patients represents the integration of
problem-solving skills training with other cognitive–
behavioral intervention strategies. Their intervention protocol, known as “Coping with Cancer,” is a six-session
program combining supportive therapy, coping skills training, and problem-solving training. The problem-solving
component involves training the caregivers in the use of
the steps of the problem-solving process, much like those
described by Nezu and D’Zurilla (1989). Within the context
of a supportive therapeutic relationship, an oncology social
worker helped caregivers take necessary steps to develop
and implement potential solutions to three problems identified by each caregiver as being the most distressing or pressing. Adaptive coping responses to those problems were also
discussed and reinforced when utilized. In sum, treatment
plans consisted of the following goals: reappraisal of problem situations, increasing the use of formal and informal
supports, and changing coping responses. Caregivers in the
control condition did not receive this problem-solving intervention, but were free to seek other forms of individual and
group interventions (e.g., marriage counseling and support
groups) offered by the oncology center. Outcome measures
of caregivers’ coping skills, burden levels, marital satisfaction, social supports, and emotional disturbances were
administered both prior to and after implementation of the
intervention. Despite caveats concerning the small sample
size of distressed caregivers used in data analysis, results of
the study indicated that the intervention was effective in
alleviating the distress experienced by this subset of participating caregivers. Those who were identified as being moderately burdened demonstrated significant improvement in
their ability to cope with problems following the intervention. Further, those who were identified as being moderately
distressed in terms of their marital adjustment demonstrated
significant improvements in physical, role, and social functioning following the intervention. No such improvement
was noted in their control group counterparts.
Cognitive Restructuring
Negative or maladaptive thoughts can be generated
by caregivers in response to the challenges and stressors
they face, thereby contributing to negative affective and
emotional states. For example, in a qualitative study investigating the psychological effects of lay caregiving in a
sample of 68 caregivers, Ruppert (1996) noted that guilt
was a common emotion experienced and expressed by the
Caregivers of Medically Ill Persons
caregivers in her sample. Ruppert cited examples of
thoughts beginning with phrases such as “I should have … ,”
“Why didn’t I … ,” or “If only I had … ” as being commonly
expressed by these caregivers. Ruppert also noted that the
caregivers made these statements despite being responsible,
conscientious, and fully involved in the care of their loved
ones. The cognitions that underlie feelings of guilt are
particularly amenable to cognitive restructuring. Other maladaptive cognitions expressed by caregivers may contribute
to feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, and depression.
Thus, cognitive restructuring techniques can be an integral
component of the cognitive–behavioral approach to the
treatment of caregiver distress.
Systematic Desensitization and Relaxation Training
Systematic desensitization and relaxation training
can be used with caregivers to decrease emotional and physical symptoms of stress, and can be especially important
for caregivers who are unable to leave the environment of
their caregiving role to engage in other stress reduction
activities. Cary and Dua (1999) utilized relaxation training,
systematic desensitization, and other cognitive–behavioral
procedures with a sample of caregivers of patients with
intellectual or physical disabilities. Two intervention groups
and one wait-list control group, each consisting of 12 caregivers, were formed. Participants in the self-instructional
training group were instructed in the use of visualization and
imagery techniques. Subsequently, self-instructional training occurred, which consisted of asking participants to
imagine a stressful situation and then to repeat a series of
positive self-statements. This procedure was repeated for
five situations identified by the participants to be highly
stressful. Caregivers in the systematic desensitization group
were initially instructed in the use of progressive muscle
relaxation. Once this technique had been learned, a standard
systematic desensitization procedure was used to help caregivers reduce their anxiety related to problematic situations
they encountered. Results of the study supported the efficacy of systematic desensitization and self-instructional
techniques in reducing the perceived stress of caregivers.
Compared to participants in the wait-list control condition,
those in the two treatment conditions demonstrated a significant reduction in perceived stress.
The stressors and demands associated with providing
care to a loved one with a debilitating or terminal illness
have been well-documented throughout the literature. There
is no question that the role of caregiver is one that can be
extremely challenging and can contribute to considerable
psychological distress on the part of the caregiver. Given
that there are over 52 million lay caregivers in the United
States (Health and Human Services, 1998), and that depression, anxiety, powerlessness, role strain, guilt, and grief are
common feelings experienced by caregivers, the need for
intervention is clear. While supportive and educational
group interventions have long been utilized with this population, caregivers are likely to have needs that are not sufficiently addressed by these types of interventions alone.
Thus, the need for more active, directive, goal-driven interventions has been recognized. As discussed in this article,
cognitive–behavioral interventions have been increasingly
used with the caregiver population to improve coping and
problem-solving skills, promote relaxation, enhance selfefficacy and quality of life, and decrease distorted thought
processes regarding the caregiving experience. While the
systematic investigation of the efficacy of these interventions represents a relatively recent undertaking, early
evidence certainly supports the application of cognitive–
behavioral therapy to the caregiver population.
Given the current status of the literature, a possible
future direction for research could be guided by acknowledgment of the heterogeneity of caregiving experiences. As
opposed to directing efforts toward discovering features of
caregiving that are common to all diseases and illnesses
and developing generalized, global interventions, it may
be more beneficial to develop an understanding of illnessspecific caregiving stressors and demands. Clinicians and
researchers are challenged to develop new ways to apply
cognitive and behavioral interventions and prevention
services to populations who are not usual consumers of psychological services, or who may not have the time or ability
to attend traditional outpatient treatments.
See also: Clinical health psychology
Bucher, J. A., Houts, P. S., Nezu, C. M., & Nezu, A. M. (1999). Improving
problem-solving skills of family caregivers through group education.
Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 16(3/4), 73–84.
Cary, M., & Dua, J. (1999). Cognitive–behavioral and systematic desensitization procedures in reducing stress and anger in caregivers for the
disabled. International Journal of Stress Management, 6(2), 75–87.
Elliott, T., & Rivera, P. (2003). Spinal cord injury. In A. Nezu, C. Nezu, &
P. Geller (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychology: Vol. 9.
Health psychology (pp. 415–435). New York: Wiley.
98 Caregivers of Medically Ill Persons
Harding, R., & Higginson, I. J. (2003). What is the best way to help caregivers in cancer and palliative care: A systematic literature review of
interventions and their effectiveness. Palliative Medicine, 17, 63–74.
Health and Human Services (1998, June). Informal caregiving:
Compassion in action. Washington, DC: Author.
Houts, P. S., Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., & Bucher, J. A. (1996). The
prepared family caregiver: A problem-solving approach to family
caregiver education. Patient Education and Counseling, 27, 63–73.
Kurylo, M., Elliott, T., & Schewchuk, R. (2001). FOCUS on the family
caregiver: A problem-solving training intervention. Journal of
Counseling and Development, 79, 275–281.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping.
New York: Springer.
Nezu, A. M., & D’Zurilla, T. J. (1989). Social problem-solving and negative affective states. In P. C. Kendall & D. Watson (Eds.), Anxiety and
depression: Distinctive and overlapping features (pp. 285–315). New
York: Academic Press.
Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Friedman, S. H., Houts, P. S., & Faddis, S.
(1998). Helping cancer patients cope: A problem-solving approach.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Ruppert, R. A. (1996). Psychological aspects of lay caregiving.
Rehabilitation Nursing, 21(6), 315–320.
Toseland, R. W., Blanchard, C. G., & McCallion, P. (1995). A problem
solving intervention for caregivers of cancer patients. Social Science
and Medicine, 40(4), 517–528.
D‘Zunilla, T. J., & Nezv, An (1999). Problem solving therapy: A social
competence approach to clinical intervention (2nd ed.). New York:
Elliott, T. R., & Rivera, P. (2003). The experience of families and their carers in health care. In S. Llewelyn & P. Kennedy (Eds)., Handbook of
clinical health psychology (pp. 61–77). New York: Wiley.
Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Friedman, S. H., Houts, P. S., & Faddis, S.
(1998). Helping cancer patients cope: A problem-solving approach.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT)—unlike some
other theoretical perspectives—is predicated on the notion
that targeted interventions are largely responsible for therapeutic improvement. As a result, CCFs play an important
role in CBT, because CCFs help therapists select appropriate interventions.
The cognitive therapy literature recommends including
the following elements in CCFs (Needleman, 1999; Persons,
Case Formulation
Lawrence D. Needleman
Keywords: case formulation, cognitive case formulation, cognitive
Cognitive case formulation (CCF) is the process of developing an explicit, individualized, and parsimonious understanding of the factors that caused and currently maintain a client’s
psychological problems. The formulation is an integration of
relevant disorder-specific cognitive models (e.g., Beck,
Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979; Beck et al., 1990); thorough,
empirically validated or theoretically derived assessment
methods; collaboration with clients; and clinical judgment.
Problem list
Stressors that precipitated the client’s chief
Core beliefs or schemas—longstanding, deeply held,
emotionally laden beliefs about self, others, and the
world that have a profound influence on behavior (e.g.,
“I’m a loser”; “People are only out for themselves”)
Other salient beliefs (e.g., conditional assumptions—
“If I work extremely hard at all times, I might not
fail”; implicit rules—“One should never show their
weaknesses”; beliefs about therapy—“Therapists
manipulate people for their own self-serving ends”)
Cognitive processes—rumination, avoidance, cognitive distortions, and explanatory style
Compensatory strategies—internal or external
coping responses performed to manage distress,
challenging circumstances or to achieve life goals.
They can be adaptive or maladaptive depending on
the context and flexibility of use. Some examples
of common maladaptive compensatory strategies
include experiential avoidance, social withdrawal,
maintaining a facade, self-sacrifice, addictions, and
behavioral responses to triggering situations. For
example, a client’s girlfriend was 30 minutes late
coming home. This triggered the automatic thought,
“Something terrible happened to her,” intense
anxiety, and frantic search efforts
Clients’ strengths—examples include the ability to
form healthy relationships, discipline, self-efficacy,
social support, and work skills
Learning history that contributed to the client’s
vulnerability to specific stressors (e.g., parent’s death
in early childhood resulting in intense distress when
confronted with interpersonal loss)
Maintaining mechanisms
Case Formulation
Because cognitive therapy theorists consider identifying and targeting maintaining mechanisms crucial to successful therapy, they are important components of the CCF
(e.g., Needleman, 2003). Some of the most common examples include: (a) schema-consistent appraisal of situations,
(b) skills deficits, (c) high levels of distress, which interfere
with effective problem solving, (d) reinforcing and punishing consequences of behavior, (e) valuing short-term over
long-term consequences, (f) avoidance, which prevents both
disproving maladaptive beliefs and desensitizing to triggering situations, (g) self-handicapping strategies that bolster
one’s self-concept, (h) self-fulfilling expectations,
(i) anxiety about change, ( j) feelings of hopelessness, and
(k) acquiescing to or overcompensating for core beliefs.
CCF proponents suggest that CCFs confer a variety
of benefits. First, formulations can help therapists select
effective interventions and tailor interventions to client
needs. Second, CCFs might increase clients’ optimism for
therapeutic improvement. For example, by illustrating that
clients’ problems are related to a small number of underlying themes, formulations might foster clients’ hope. CCFs
also can increase clients’ confidence in their therapists by
demonstrating therapists’ sophisticated understanding of
clients’ problems and by helping therapists to provide clients
with convincing rationales for interventions.
A third way CCFs might be beneficial is by helping
therapists predict and circumvent difficulties that arise in
therapy. For example, the formulation can increase therapists’ awareness of potentially derailing beliefs, attitudes, or
behavioral patterns (i.e., perfectionism, mistrust, rebelliousness, avoidance) early in therapy and address these issues, or
CCFs can help therapists appropriately modify treatment if
clients are not improving (Needleman, in press).
The cognitive therapy literature provides several
guidelines for the CCF process (Needleman, 1999; Persons,
1989). These guidelines suggest that therapists should base
CCFs on empirically validated and theoretically derived
assessment methods. In addition, the CCFs should result
from collaboration between therapist and client; the therapist
should elicit the client’s feedback about each element of the
individualized formulation. CCFs should be parsimonious,
including the fewest underlying beliefs and mechanisms
that can comprehensively explain clients’ behavior and
problems. The guidelines also suggest that the formulation is
a working model and an ongoing process throughout the
course of therapy. CCFs consist of interrelated, testable
In addition to the overall formulation, therapists should
continually microconceptualize, that is, attempt to remain
mindfully attuned to clients’ moment-by-moment experiences. Microconceptualizations, while informed by the
overall formulation, can help therapists refine their overall
understanding of clients’ experiences (Needleman, in press).
(In addition, therapists’ ongoing awareness allows them to
work with clients’ relevant experiences in the present.)
According to the cognitive therapy literature, therapists
should neither hold on to their CCFs too rigidly nor should
they modify the CCFs too easily (i.e., without sufficient justification). To decrease the likelihood of confirmatory bias,
therapists should search for evidence that refutes their model
and honestly consider alternate hypotheses to explain
clients’ behaviors. Also, the formulation process is bidirectional. Observation and assessment data lead to hypothesized mechanisms. These hypotheses can help therapists
generate predictions about clients’ in-therapy, extra-therapy,
and questionnaire response behaviors that, in turn, guide
further assessment.
The CCF process is the product of empirically based
and theoretically driven assessment, the cognitive model,
and clinical judgment. Therefore, the reliability and validity
of formulations depend on no less than the reliability and
validity of the CBT assessment methods used, the quality of
clinical judgment, and the validity of the cognitive model
itself. These are enormous topics, which cannot be covered
in depth here. This review is limited to studies addressing
the reliability of CCF and studies that compared individualized CBT based on CCFs with standardized CBT.
Developing methods for reliably generating formulations is important for advancing knowledge of CCF and presumably increasing the efficacy of cognitive therapy.
Persons and Bertagnolli (1999) investigated whether clinicians could correctly identify depressed clients’ overt problems and their underlying core beliefs. During CCF
workshops, 47 clinicians were trained in developing CCFs.
After brief training, workshop participants reviewed audiotapes and written transcripts of initial interviews of three
depressed female outpatients. Workshop participants were
asked to identify clients’ core beliefs and overt problems. To
assist participants in identifying overt problems, participants
100 Case Formulation
were provided with a specific list of problem domains.
Similarly, to help participants identify core beliefs, they
were given lists of adjectives for describing clients’ views of
self, others, and the world. Workshop participants identified
67% of patients’ overt problems. Regarding core belief ratings, individual clinicians showed poor interrater agreement,
with coefficients averaging 0.37. When core belief ratings
were averaged over five clinicians, interrater reliability
coefficients improved to 0.72.
Muran, Segal, and Samstag (1994) developed an
idiographic interview-based measure of self-schemas—a
crucial CCF component—using self-scenarios. Each selfscenario consisted of four components reflecting schema
structure: a triggering situation and cognitive, affective, and
behavioral responses. Schema components from each
client’s own self-scenarios and components from other
clients’ self-scenarios were presented in random order to
the client, his or her therapist, and a third-party observer for
ratings of clinical relevance. Reliability coefficients were
excellent. When averaged across clients on each separate
component, coefficients ranged from 0.90 (SD ⫾ 0.05) to
0.93 (SD ⫾ 0.04). In addition to showing excellent reliability, this research suggested that self-scenarios are clinically
relevant, have predictive validity, and are sensitive to change
in therapy. Thus, self-scenarios are a promising methodology for assessing self-schemas.
An alternative method for identifying elements of the
CCF is to use questionnaires or structured clinical interviews
having good psychometric properties. For example, the
Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (Weissman & Beck, 1978) identifies core beliefs in depression and has good psychometrics.
Individualized versus Standardized CBT
Within the field of CBT, there is a debate about whether
individualized CBT with CCF versus standardized CBT is
more effective. Traditionally, CBT has been individualized
and included functional assessments that—regardless of
diagnosis—identified the mechanisms that maintained
clients’ problems and targeted these mechanisms.
However, over the last two decades, CBT researchers
have developed many treatment manuals with proven effectiveness for use with particular psychiatric diagnoses. When
clinicians use these manuals for clients having the relevant
diagnoses, clients receive all the treatment components
included in the manual. That is, interventions are based primarily on diagnoses, not on functional assessments of the
clients’ problems. A question becomes which is more effective—standardized or individualized treatment?
In many common clinical situations, individualized
CBT based on a formulation is essential. Treating clients
who have comorbidity is one such situation. The literature
does not have guidelines regarding which of the possible
treatment manuals to use for clients with comorbid conditions or how to select the most salient treatment components
for these clients. Another common clinical situation where
individualized CBT is essential is for clients having psychological problems for which no empirically validated treatment manual yet exists. A third situation occurs when
therapy is not working. When clients are not improving,
therapists should refer to their formulation to determine
what factors are preventing their clients from benefiting
from treatment.
For clients having a circumscribed problem for which
an empirically validated treatment manual exists, the
question of individualized versus standard CBT is less
clear. Outcome studies have yielded inconsistent results.
For example, most studies of phobias have found that
standardized CBT is as effective or more effective than individualized CBT. Schulte, Kuenzel, Pepping, and SchulteBahrenberg (1992) randomly assigned 120 clients having
different kinds of phobias to one of three treatment groups:
(a) a standardized treatment group in which clients received
in vivo exposure and cognitive restructuring, (b) an individualized treatment group in which therapists had free
reign to use any CBT methods they deemed appropriate
based on a functional assessment, and (c) a yoked control
group (in this group, each client was randomly matched with
a client from the individualized treatment group and
received identical treatment to that client). Contrary to
expectations, the standardized group proved to be most
In explaining their findings, Schulte et al. (1992)
suggested that perhaps the standardized treatments are more
effective than individualized CBT for phobias because individuals with phobias are homogeneous with respect to maintaining mechanisms. Therefore, they are likely to respond
well to treatment that targets those mechanisms. In contrast,
many other disorders are less homogeneous. For similar reasons, many CBT theorists have argued that—unlike the prevailing diagnostic system—diagnostic categories should be
based on underlying maintaining mechanisms as opposed to
clustering symptoms.
Unlike studies of phobias, most studies comparing individualized to standardized CBT for clients having
major depression found that individualized treatment
improved outcome. For example, McKnight, Nelson, Hayes,
and Jarrett (1984), using an elegant treatment design, compared the effectiveness of interventions that matched
depressed clients’ specific skills deficits with interventions
that were mismatched. Based on pretreatment assessments,
the depressed clients in the study had (a) social skills
deficits, (b) cognitive deficits (i.e., irrational cognitions), or
(c) both types of deficits. All clients received four sessions
Case Formulation
of social skills training and four sessions of cognitive
restructuring. Following interventions that matched
depressed clients’ deficits, clients improved significantly
more in terms of both depression and the relevant deficit
than when receiving mismatched interventions (e.g., when
receiving social skills training, those with social skills
deficits improved more on both depression and social skills
than during the cognitive restructuring intervention). These
findings suggest that individualized CBT for depressed
clients can improve outcome.
In the debate between individualized and standardized
treatment, another perspective is that the difference between
standardized and individualized treatment appears to be a
false dichotomy. To optimize psychotherapy effectiveness,
many leading CBT researchers recommend that clinicians
individualize interventions from treatment manuals for each
client [see Special Series Going Beyond the Manual:
Insights from Experienced Clinicians, Cognitive and
Behavioral Practice, 10(1), 2003]. This represents a middle
ground between following treatment manuals in a lockstep
fashion and completely individualizing treatment.
Such an approach may confer the advantages of both
individualized and standardized approaches. On the one
hand, by using CCF, therapists could select the most salient
treatment components from relevant treatment manuals and
spare clients from unnecessary treatment components.
When implementing interventions, therapists could be
sensitive to clients’ needs, as well as creative and flexible.
On the other hand, from the standardized perspective,
therapists could limit their choices of interventions primarily to those that are components of relevant treatment manuals. Because these interventions are ones that are included
in empirically validated treatment approaches, using these
interventions with relevant client populations might lead to
higher success rates than if therapists were choosing from
the universe of possible interventions.
Figure 1 is a CCF diagram for a complex client having
several comorbid conditions. She had anorexia (without
body image disturbance) that—according to the formulation—was secondary to obsessive–compulsive disorder and
panic disorder. Her major depressive disorder was conceptualized as being the result of loss of reinforcement
Triggering Situation
“I need to eat”;
tries to eat.
Intrusive Automatic
Catastrophic Belief (i.e.,
misinterpretation of intrusion)
“Maybe someone put
something in this food.”
“Because I had this thought, there
must be a real danger of being
poisoned; I’m going to get sick!”
Hopelessness, low
Panic Attack
numbness; sweating;
fears of heart attack &
going crazy
Disorder-Maintaining Safety-Seeking
Behaviors (i.e., compensatory strategies)
Spends most of time trying
to get calm, lies down, takes
pulse, stays home or goes
out only with a safe person,
takes Klonopin.
Figure 1. Cognitive case formulation for a patient with co-morbid anorexia, panic, OCD, and severe major depressive disorder. (From Needleman, L.
(in press). Case conceptualization in predicting and responding to difficulties in cognitive therapy. In R. Leathy (Ed.), Overcoming resistance in cognitive therapy. New York: Guilford Press.)
102 Case Formulation
(as well as direct effects of starvation). Although this was
a complicated case, a graphically depicted CCF made selection of interventions fairly straightforward. To facilitate the
client’s weight gain early in therapy, interventions targeted
panic attacks, the belief that someone was attempting to
poison her, and food-related anxiety cues. After a year in
CBT, the client made marked progress. She was out of medical danger and her psychosocial adjustment had improved
See also: Applied behavior analysis, Behavioral assessment
Beck, A. T., Freeman, A., & Associates. (1990). Cognitive therapy of
personality disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, O. (1979). Cognitive
therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.
McKnight, D. L., Nelson, R. O., Hayes, S. C., & Jarrett, R. B. (1984).
Importance of treating individually assessed response classes in the
amelioration of depression. Behavior Therapy, 15, 315–335.
Muran, J. C., Segal, Z. V., & Samstag, L. W. (1994). Self-scenarios as
a repeated measures outcome measurement or self-schemas in shortterm cognitive therapy. Behavior Therapy, 25, 255–274.
Needleman, L. (1999). Cognitive case conceptualization: Guidebook for
practitioners. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Needleman, L. (2003). Case conceptualization in predicting and responding to therapeutic difficulties. In R. Leahy (Ed.), Overcoming resistance in cognitive therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
Persons, J. B. (1989). Cognitive therapy in practice: A case formulation
approach. New York: Norton.
Persons, J. B., & Bertagnolli, A. (1999). Interrater reliability of cognitive–
behavioral case formulations of depression: A replication. Cognitive
Therapy and Research, 23, 271–283.
Schulte, D., Kuenzel, R., Pepping, G., & Schulte-Bahrenberg, T. (1992).
Tailor-made versus standardized therapy of phobic patients. Advances
in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 14, 67–92.
Weissman, A., & Beck, A. T. (1978). Development and utilization of the
Dysfunctional Attitude Scale. Presented at the annual meeting of
the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Chicago.
Child Abuse
Esther Deblinger and Melissa K. Runyon
Keywords: child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, posttraumatic
stress disorder, parenting, cognitive–behavioral therapy
Child maltreatment is a highly prevalent public health
problem that results in short- and long-term emotional and
behavioral consequences for children and their families.
Based on recent statistics reported by the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), 879,000 substantiated cases were reported to child protective service
agencies across 50 states in 2000 (USDHHS, 2002) with
10% (88,000) of these cases being related to child sexual
abuse (CSA) and 19% (167,000) being related to child
physical abuse (CPA).
These alarming statistics are most likely an underestimate given that these numbers are based on narrow
definitions of abuse and only on those children who are
abused by a caretaker. Other surveys, such as the National
Incidence Study-3 (NIS-3; Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996),
have categorized CSA more broadly as the exploitation,
involvement, or exposure of children, to age-inappropriate
sexual behavior by older or “more powerful” peers or adults,
for purposes of sexual gratification. CPA has also been
more broadly defined as physical punishment administered
by caregivers if either the Harm (sustained injury) or
Endangerment standard (at-risk for injury) were met as a
result of being hit by a hand or object, kicked, thrown,
shaken, burned, stabbed, or choked. Indeed, studies utilizing
these broader definitions have yielded higher rates of child
sexual and physical abuse (see Finkelhor, 1994; Finkelhor &
Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994). For example, the NIS-3 study
reported incidence rates of 9 and 4.4 per 1000 children for
CPA and CSA, respectively (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996).
Although CSA occurs in all educational, socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups (Wyatt & Peters, 1986),
there are factors associated with an increased risk for experiencing such abuse. Based on reported prevalence and
incidence rates, females are at greater risk than males to
experience CSA, particularly in cases of intrafamilial abuse.
Regardless of the child’s gender, CSA has been associated
with living with a surrogate parent, experiencing significant
family conflict (Finkelhor, 1993) or exhibiting behavioral or
developmental disabilities (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000).
Multiple factors have been identified in the literature
as being associated with an increased risk for a CPA
(see Black, Heyman, & Smith-Slep, 2001). For example,
anecdotal reports and statistics based on reports to child protective services perpetuate the myth that a young, single
woman with a low socioeconomic status from an ethnic
minority population may be at greater risk for engaging in
CPA. To the contrary, research involving nationally representative samples have not demonstrated significant relationships between severe child–parent physical abuse and
age of perpetrator, marital status, parent gender, or socioeconomic status (Chaffin, Kelleher, & Hollenberg, 1996).
Investigations examining the relationship between CPA and
ethnic group have yielded variable results (see Black et al.,
2001). This variability is most likely related to professionals
being more likely to report child abuse and child protective
service workers being more likely to investigate cases
Child Abuse
involving lower-income minority groups. Parental depression has been identified as the strongest risk factor (Chaffin
et al., 1996) and parental abuse history was also associated
with perpetrating CPA (see Black et al., 2001).
Empirical and clinical studies have documented a wide
range of emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal difficulties, ranging from mild to severe, that are exhibited by children who have experienced CPA and/or CSA. The impact on
children can be similar regardless of the type of abuse suffered. Child victims commonly report emotional responses
such as anger, hostility, guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression
(e.g., Kendall-Tacket, Williams, & Finkelhor, 1993;
Pelcovitz et al., 1994). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
has also been documented among children who have
suffered abuse (Ackerman, Newton, McPherson, Jones, &
Dykman, 1998; Pelcovitz et al., 1994).
Children who have suffered CPA and/or CSA may
exhibit immediate and long-term behavioral responses that
increase their risk for victimizing others or being revictimized themselves. For example, children who experience CPA
frequently display aggressive behavior, poor social problemsolving skills and communication skills, as well as lower
levels of empathy and sensitivity toward others (e.g., Dodge,
Bates, & Pettit, 1990; Salzinger, Feldman, Hammer, &
Rosario, 1993). In fact, children who suffer CPA are more
likely than their nonabused peers to alienate themselves
from other children (Salzinger et al., 1993) by responding in
a retaliatory manner during their interactions with peers
which they tend to interpret as hostile (Dodge, Pettit, &
Bates, 1994). These negative behaviors may escalate across
the life span resulting in a chronic pattern of negative
relationships with others. For instance, a history of CPA has
been associated with criminal behavior in adolescents
(Herrenkohl, Egolf, & Herrenkohl, 1997) and adults
(Widom, 1989), abusive or coercive behaviors in dating relationships (Wolfe, Wekerle, Reitzel-Jaffe, & Lefebvre, 1998).
During adulthood, children who suffered CPA are at
increased risk of being battered by a partner (see Kaner,
Bulik, & Sullivan, 1993) and abusing their own children
(Crouch, Milner, & Thomsen, 2001).
While children who have suffered CSA are less likely
to engage in physically aggressive behaviors, inappropriate
sexualized behavior has been reported in the literature for
child victims of all ages (Beitchman et al., 1992) and may be
directed toward other children and adults alike. It is notable
that a majority of child victims do not develop a longstanding pattern of offending behaviors that persist into adulthood. However, research has provided evidence suggesting
that CSA increases one’s risk for suffering sexual dysfunctions, substance abuse difficulties, suicidal behaviors as well
as revictimization experiences in adulthood (Arata, 2000;
Dube et al., 2001). These studies suggest that child abuse not
only has an immediate negative psychological impact on
children, but may lead to psychosocial difficulties that persist into adulthood and potentially impact the victims’ adult
relationships, as well as the next generation of children.
A number of protective factors have been identified
that may buffer children from the negative effects of child
abuse and may explain the variability in symptom development in child victims. Numerous investigations, for example, have documented the powerful influence of the
reactions and adjustment of parents on children’s outcomes
following abuse (Cohen & Mannarino, 1996a; Deblinger,
Steer, & Lippmann, 1999; Kelly, Faust, Runyon, & Kenny,
2002). With respect to child-specific traits, a number of
studies have demonstrated that negative general and abusespecific attributions are related to anxious and depressive
symptoms in children who have suffered CPA or CSA
(Brown & Kolko, 1999; Cohen & Mannarino, 1996a;
Runyon & Kenny, 2002). These studies support the notion
that children’s perceptions about the abuse, themselves, others, and the world mediate the development of postabuse
Given the evidence that the above parental and cognitive factors may importantly influence outcomes for children who have suffered abuse, cognitive–behavioral therapy
(CBT) seems well suited for the treatment of this population. First, CBT interventions can be applied to children as
well as their parents. This is important, because as noted
above, enhanced parental responses and support appear to
facilitate a child’s recovery and thus reduce his/her risk of
suffering ongoing difficulties. In addition, CBT’s focus on
targeting and correcting dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs
may help to alter the problematic attributions that often lead
to more negative outcomes.
It should also be noted that CBT is applicable to a wide
array of symptom difficulties which is crucial given the significant and highly diverse psychosocial reactions presented
by survivors of childhood abuse. In fact, CBT is intended to
be individually tailored to suit the specific therapeutic needs
of each child and family. In addition, the collaborative
nature of the therapist–client relationship in the context of
CBT may be particularly beneficial when working with
this population of parents and children. The cognitive–
behavioral therapist listens and educates, sharing specific
rationales underlying cognitive–behavioral interventions
and encouraging collaboration in the implementation of
treatment. This type of empathic and empowering therapist–
client relationship in and of itself may be healing and
restorative for children and parents who may feel out of control and who may have limited influence over child protection and legal decisions that are being made on their behalf.
It is also noteworthy that cognitive–behavioral interventions, perhaps, because of their active and structured
104 Child Abuse
nature, have been found to be appealing to and effective with
diverse minority populations (Paniagua, 1994). This is critically important because, as noted earlier, child abuse
impacts children from all ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Finally, recent research suggests that child abuse may
not only lead to severe and sometimes chronic psychosocial
difficulties, but the aftereffects may also lead to changes in
brain functioning and development (DeBellis et al., 1999).
Thus, not only is it important for children who are suffering
abuse to be identified and protected, it is also critical for
them to receive demonstrably effective interventions as
early as possible in their development.
Recent reviews of the treatment outcome literature in
the area of CSA find that cognitive–behavioral models have
the strongest empirical support for the effective treatment of
PTSD and related difficulties in this population (Cohen,
Berliner, & March, 2000; Saunders, Berliner, & Hanson,
2003). One such model manualized by Deblinger and Heflin
(1996) conceptualizes the development, maintenance, and
treatment of psychological difficulties of children who have
suffered sexual abuse by integrating learning theory, particularly the influence of conditioning, modeling, and contingencies in the environment, with the importance of
cognitive, affective, and physiological influences. This CBT
model incorporates specific interventions that are designed
to target the psychosocial processes that may be responsible
for the maintenance and exacerbation of abuse-related difficulties long after the abuse has ended. These interventions
include: education about sexual abuse and healthy sexuality,
coping skills training, gradual exposure and processing of
traumatic memories and reminders, body safety skills training, and parenting skills training. The treatment approach
involves the participation of the child and nonoffending
parent in individual therapy sessions that ultimately build
toward joint parent–child sessions as well as family sessions
when appropriate.
A series of randomized controlled trials have documented the efficacy of abuse-focused CBT approaches utilized with children who have suffered sexual abuse. These
studies have established the superior effectiveness of CBT
interventions, as compared to the passage of time, nondirective supportive therapy, and standard community care, in
terms of treating children’s PTSD symptoms, depression,
social competence, abuse-related fear, general behavior
problems as well as age-inappropriate sexual behaviors
(Cohen & Mannarino, 1996b, 1998; Deblinger, Lippmann,
& Steer, 1996; King et al., 2000). In addition, recent findings have demonstrated that children’s significant improvements in response to CBT interventions have been
maintained over a 2-year follow-up period (Deblinger et al.,
1999). Abuse-focused CBT delivered in group format has
also been found to be more efficacious than educational
support groups with respect to the amelioration of parental
abuse-specific distress and the learning and retention of
body safety skills in very young survivors of sexual abuse
(Deblinger, Stauffer, & Steer, 2001). Finally, a recently
completed two-site treatment outcome investigation, involving a large and diverse sample of children who suffered sexual abuse as well as other traumas, replicated the findings of
earlier studies further documenting the superior benefits
of abuse-focused CBT as compared to a client-centered
treatment approach for both the children and their nonoffending parents (Cohen, Deblinger, Mannarino, & Steer,
2003). These studies have not only established the direct
benefits of CBT interventions with children who have suffered sexual abuse, but the findings have highlighted the
value of involving the nonoffending parent in the child’s
treatment in terms of both alleviating parental distress and
enhancing children’s outcomes.
The empirical literature is more limited in terms of the
treatment of children who have suffered physical abuse.
However, there have been a significant number of studies
that have examined the treatment of punitive parents. These
studies have demonstrated the efficacy of a variety of CBT
interventions with this population of parents, including child
management skills training, stress management skills training, as well as a combination of these interventions (see
Runyon, Deblinger, Ryan, & Kolar, in press). The research
on interventions for parents seems to reflect the practice in
the field which often focuses on the parents’ difficulties with
much less attention given to the psychosocial needs of
children who have suffered physical abuse. Although a few
studies have examined the treatment of children who have
suffered CPA, most of these investigations were not randomized controlled trials and/or did not focus on children
with documented histories of CPA (Oates & Bross, 1995). In
fact, there appears to be only one randomized controlled
trial in which therapies designed for at-risk or physically
abusive parents as well as their children were examined. The
findings of this study demonstrated that as compared to
those receiving standard community care, families assigned
to CBT or family therapy demonstrated greater improvements on measures of child externalizing behavior problems, parental distress, abuse risk, family conflict and
cohesion as well as children’s levels of anxiety and depression. CBT, however, was more effective than the other two
conditions for reducing parental anger and the use of physical punishment (Kolko, 1996). Since this study, there has
been increased emphasis on the integration of the treatment
of parents and children in families in which physical abuse
has taken place (Runyon et al., in press). Runyon et al. (in
press) describe a CBT treatment protocol for children and
families at risk for physical abuse that incorporates elements
Child Abuse
from empirically supported CBT models for sexually
abused children (Deblinger & Heflin, 1996), as well as from
CBT models designed for families in which physical abuse
(Donohue, Miller, Van Hasselt, & Hersen, 1998; Kolko,
1996; Kolko & Swenson, 2002) or domestic violence
(Runyon, Basilio, Van Hasselt, & Hersen, 1998) occurs.
Although the proposed model in its entirety has not been
evaluated with children and families at risk for CPA, the
individual CBT components have been effective in addressing many of the psychological and behavioral difficulties
exhibited by physically abused children and their parents
(see Runyon et al., 2004).
In sum, although researchers examining alternative
treatments have established the value of cognitive–behavioral
interventions particularly for children who have suffered sexual abuse, there remain many questions to be answered. The
field would greatly benefit from further research examining
the impact and treatment of the aftereffects of all forms of
family violence. Moreover, it will be important to establish
the transportability of proven CBT interventions for this population to community settings including urban, suburban, and
rural environments. In addition, specific information identifying “active ingredients,” optimal “dosage,” preferred and/or
more efficacious formats (i.e., individual, group, or family),
as well as differential treatment responses as a function of
developmental stage, coping style, and other child, family,
and cultural characteristics would greatly enhance our ability
to individually tailor treatment and optimize outcomes for all
children and their families.
See also: Children—behavior therapy, PTSD—childhood, Sex
offending, Treatment of children
Ackerman, P. T., Newton, J. E. O., McPherson, W. B., Jones, J. G., &
Dykman, R. A. (1998). Prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder and
other psychiatric diagnoses in three groups of abused children (sexual,
physical, and both). Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 759–774.
Arata, C. M. (2000). From child victim to adult victim: A model for predicting sexual revictimization. Child Maltreatment, 5, 28–38.
Beitchman, J. H., Zucker, K. J., Hood, J. E., daCosta, G. A., Akman, D., &
Cassavia, E. (1992). A review of the long-term effects of child sexual
abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 16, 101–118.
Black, D. A., Heyman, R. E., & Smith-Slep, A. M. (2001). Risk factors for
child physical abuse. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 6, 121–188.
Brown, E. J., & Kolko, D. J. (1999). Child victims’ attributions about being
physically abused: An examination of factors associated with symptom severity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 311–322.
Chaffin, M., Kelleher, K., & Hollenberg, J. (1996). Onset of physical abuse
and neglect: Psychiatric, substance abuse, and social risk factors from
prospective community data. Child Abuse and Neglect, 20, 191–203.
Cohen, J. A., Berliner, L., & March, J. S. (2000). Treatment of children and
adolescents. In E. B. Foa, T. M. Keane, & M. J. Friedman (Eds.),
Effective treatments for PTSD (pp. 106–138). New York: Guilford Press.
Cohen, J. A., Deblinger, E., Mannarino, A. P., & Steer, R. (2003). A multisite, randomized controlled trial for sexually abused children with
PTSD symptoms. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Cohen, J. A., & Mannarino, A. P. (1996a). Factors that mediate treatment outcome in sexually abused preschool children. Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35, 1402–1410.
Cohen, J. A., & Mannarino, A. P. (1996b). A treatment outcome study for
sexually abused preschool children: Initial findings. Journal of the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35, 42–50.
Cohen, J. A., & Mannarino, A. P. (1998). Interventions for sexually abused
children: Initial treatment outcome findings. Child Maltreatment, 3,
Crouch, J. L., Milner, J. S., & Thomsen, C. (2001). Childhood physical
abuse, early social support, and risk for maltreatment: Current social
support as a mediator of risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and
Neglect, 25, 93–107.
DeBellis, M. D., Baum, A., Birmaher, B., Keshavan, M. S., Eccard, C. H.,
Boring, A. M. et al. (1999). Developmental traumatology part I:
Biological stress systems. Biological Psychiatry, 45, 1259–1270.
Deblinger, E., & Heflin, A. (1996). Treating sexually abused children and
their nonoffending parents: A cognitive–behavioral approach.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Deblinger, E., Lippmann, J., & Steer, R. (1996). Sexually abused children
suffering posttraumatic stress symptoms: Initial treatment outcome
findings. Child Maltreatment, 1, 310–321.
Deblinger, E., Stauffer, L. B., & Steer, R. (2001). Comparative efficacies of
supportive and cognitive–behavioral group therapies for young children who have been sexually abused and their non-offending mothers.
Child Maltreatment, 6, 332–343.
Deblinger, E., Steer, R. A., & Lippmann, J. (1999). Two-year follow-up
study of cognitive behavioral therapy for sexually abused children suffering post-traumatic-stress symptoms. Child Abuse and Neglect, 23,
Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (1990). Mechanisms in the cycle
of violence. Science, 250, 1678–1683.
Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (1994). Effects of physical
maltreatment on the development of peer relations. Development and
Psychopathology, 6, 43–55.
Donohue, B., Miller, E. R., Van Hasselt, V. B., & Hersen, M. (1998). An
ecobehavioral approach to child maltreatment. In V. B. Van Hasselt &
M. Hersen (Eds.), Handbook of psychological treatment protocols for
children and adolescents (pp. 279–358). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Chapman, D. P., Williamson, D. F.,
& Giles, W. H. (2001). Childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and
the risk of attempted suicide throughout the span: Findings from the
adverse childhood experiences study. Journal of the American
Medical Association, 286, 3089–3096.
Finkelhor, D. (1993). Epidemiological factors in the clinical identification
of child sexual abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 17, 67–70.
Finkelhor, D. (1994). Current information on the scope and nature of child
sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 4, 31–53.
Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as victims of
violence: A national survey. Pediatrics, 94, 413–420.
Herrenkohl, R. C., Egolf, B. P., & Herrenkohl, E. C. (1997). Preschool
antecedents of adolescent assaultive behavior: A longitudinal study.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 67, 422–432.
Kaner, A., Bulik, C. M., & Sullivan, P. F. (1993). Abuse in adult
relationships of bulimic women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 8,
Kelly, D., Faust, J., Runyon, M. K., & Kenny, M. C. (2002). Behavior problems in sexually abused children of depressed and non-depressed
mothers. Journal of Family Violence, 17, 107–116.
106 Child Abuse
Kendall-Tackett, K. A., Williams, L. M., & Finkelhor, D. (1993). Impact of
sexual abuse on children: A review and synthesis of recent empirical
studies. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 164–180.
King, N. J., Tonge, B. J., Mullen, P., Myerson, N., Heyne, D., Rollings, S.
et al. (2000). Treating sexually abused children with post-traumatic
stress symptoms: A randomized trial. Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 1347–1355.
Kolko, D. J. (1996). Individual cognitive–behavioral treatment and
family therapy for physically abused children and their offending
parents: A comparison of clinical outcomes. Child Maltreatment, 1,
Kolko, D. J., & Swenson, C. (2002). Assessing and treating physically
abused children and their families: A cognitive–behavioral approach.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Oates, R. K., & Bross, D. C. (1995). What have we learned about treating
child physical abuse? A literature review of the last decade. Child
Abuse and Neglect, 19, 463–473.
Paniagua, F. A. (1994). Assessing and treating culturally diverse clients:
A practical guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Pelcovitz, D., Kaplan, S., Goldenberg, B., Mandel, F., Lehane, J., &
Guarrera, J. (1994). Post-traumatic stress disorder in physically
abused adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and
Adolescent Psychiatry, 33, 305–312.
Runyon, M. K., Basilio, I., Van Hasselt, V. B., & Hersen, M. (1998). Child
witnesses of interparental violence: Child and family treatment. In
V. B. Van Hasselt & M. Hersen (Eds.), Handbook of psychological
treatment protocols for children and adolescents (pp. 203–278).
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Runyon, M. K., Deblinger, E., Ryan, E., & Kolar, R. (2004). An overreview
of child physical abuse: Developing an integrated parent–
child approach. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse: A Review Journal, 5,
Runyon, M. K., & Kenny, M. (2002). Relationship of attributional style,
depression, and post-trauma distress among children who suffered
physical or sexual abuse. Child Maltreatment, 7, 254–264.
Salzinger, S., Feldman, R. S., Hammer, M., & Rosario, M. (1993). The
effects of physical abuse on children’s social relationships. Child
Development, 64, 169–187.
Saunders, B. E., Berliner, L., & Hanson, R. F. (Eds.). (2003). Child physical and sexual abuse: Guidelines for treatment (Final Report: January
15, 2003). Charleston, SC: National Crime Victims Research and
Treatment Center.
Sedlak, A. J., & Broadhurst, D. D. (1996). Executive summary of the Third
National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for
Children and Families, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect,
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Sullivan, P. M., & Knutson, J. F. (2000). Maltreatment and disabilities: A
population-based epidemiological study. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2002). National Center
on Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Maltreatment, 2000: Reports from
the States for the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems.
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Widom, C. S. (1989). Child abuse, neglect, and violent criminal behavior.
Criminology, 27, 251–271.
Wolfe, D. A., Wekerle, C., Reitzel-Jaffe, D., & Lefebvre, L. (1998). Factors
associated with abusive relationships among maltreated and nonmaltreated youth. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 61–85.
Wyatt, G. E., & Peters, S. D. (1986). Methodological considerations in
research on the prevalence of child sexual abuse. Child Abuse and
Neglect, 10, 241–251.
Deblinger, E., & Heflin, A. (1996). Treating sexually abused children and
their non-offending parents: A cognitive–behavioral approach.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Kolko, D. J., & Swenson, C. (2002). Assessing and treating physically
abused children and their families: A cognitive–behavioral approach.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Runyon, M. K., Deblinger, E., Ryan, E., & Kolar, R. (in press). Cognitive–
behavioral treatment of child physical abuse: Developing an integrated
parent–child approach. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse: A Review
Children—Behavior Therapy
Laura D. Seligman and Thomas H. Ollendick
Keywords: behavior therapy, children and adolescents, cognitive
behavior therapy, developmental issues, evidence-based practice
The roots of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for
children are inextricably intertwined with the roots of CBT
more broadly. Like CBT with adults, CBT for children grew
out of two schools of thought—both embedded in experimental psychology; namely, learning theory and cognitive
First proposed by John Watson in the 1920s, the focus
of learning theory and early behaviorism was on overt or
observable behaviors rather than inferred processes thought
to regulate those behaviors (e.g., ego defenses) that had been
the focus of treatments for children in vogue at that time.
Although Watson is considered the father of behaviorism, it
was one of his students, Mary Cover Jones, who was among
the first to apply behavioral principles to the treatment of
children. Specifically, Cover Jones used modeling and exposure procedures to treat a child’s fear of rabbits. Early
behavioral applications for children were later expanded to
treatments for disorders such as enuresis, stuttering, and
other habit problems.
Behavioral therapies for youth are based on the premise that children learn maladaptive behaviors in the same
way they learn adaptive behaviors. More specifically, learning occurs because behavior results in a reward or punishment (operant or instrumental conditioning) or because of
associations between stimuli (classical conditioning).
Whereas behavioral theory was considered quite controversial at first, growing discontent with psychoanalysis and
humanistic or Rogerian therapy, the prevailing therapies, led
Children—Behavior Therapy
to some degree of acceptance by the early 1960s and certainly in the 1970s. However, around this time, behavioral
theory itself underwent change in that cognition and its role
in both producing and maintaining behaviors was recognized. This evolution occurred for several reasons. First,
Albert Bandura developed a social learning theory, an
expansion of behavioral theory that suggested that people
could learn behavior through indirect experiences (vicarious
conditioning) as well as direct ones (direct conditioning).
In other words, a child could learn a new behavior or might
be more or less likely to exhibit a behavior after observing
someone else (i.e., a model) exhibit the behavior and witness the consequences of that behavior. Bandura’s social
learning theory integrated cognitive constructs, such as
expectations and intentions, with behavioral theory and
observable behaviors. Additionally, around this same time,
Aaron “Tim” Beck and Albert Ellis began developing cognitive therapies that focused not on external stimuli but on
the individual’s perceptions, thoughts, and beliefs about
those stimuli. Although somewhat controversial even to this
day, these therapies were soon integrated with behavioral
therapies to form cognitive–behavior therapy. Several early
studies documented the utility of these principles with children and Donald Meichenbaum was among the first to
incorporate them in his pioneering book published in 1977,
Cognitive–Behavior Modification. Subsequently, Thomas
Ollendick and Jerome Cerny explicated these principles
more broadly in their book, Clinical Behavior Therapy with
Children, published in 1981 and, more recently, Philip
Kendall has expanded and promulgated these principles,
particularly so in his edited book, Child and Adolescent
Therapy, published in 2000.
to the overwhelming representation of CBTs for children on
the list of empirically supported treatments (see below).
Additionally, CBT for children is focused on the here
and now rather than oriented toward uncovering historical
antecedents of maladaptive behavior or thought patterns.
Treatment goals are often operationalized and parents and
youth seeking treatment are asked to consider the types of
changes they are hoping to see result from treatment.
Progress is monitored throughout treatment using objective
indicators of change, such as monitoring forms and rating
CBT for children emphasizes a skills building
approach; as a result, it is often action-oriented, directive,
and frequently educative in nature. Also for this reason,
CBT typically includes a homework component in which
the skills learned in treatment are practiced outside the therapy room. Moreover, given the focus of behavioral theory on
the context of the behavior, treatments for children often
incorporate skills components for parents, teachers, and
sometimes even siblings or peers. Because the focus is on
teaching the child and his or her family and teachers the
skills necessary to effectively cope with or eliminate the
child’s symptoms, the child and significant others become
direct agents of change. In effect, they function as “co-therapists.” Therefore, CBT is designed to be time-limited and
relatively short term, rarely extending beyond 6 months of
active treatment. More recently, however, some CBTs for
children have started to incorporate spaced-out “booster sessions” that extend over a longer period of time to ensure
maintenance and durability of change.
The major factors distinguishing CBT for children
from other psychosocial interventions for youth are their
focus on maladaptive learning histories and erroneous or
overly rigid thought patterns as the cause for the development and maintenance of psychological symptoms and
disorders. However, several other central tenets differentiate
CBT from other treatments for children.
Not surprisingly, given CBT’s foundations in experimental psychology, CBT has at its core a commitment to
the scientific process. In practical terms this implies that
testable hypotheses derived from cognitive–behavioral theory are subjected to rigorous study. This is most amply
demonstrated today by the endorsement of many cognitive–behavioral psychologists for the empirically supported
treatments movement. Undoubtedly, the scientific standards
applied in the development of CBTs for children contribute
Relative to other treatment approaches, CBT for
children has received strong empirical support. Today CBTs
are applied to a wide range of childhood problems and
disorders including anxiety and phobic disorders, depressive
disorders, aggressive and disruptive behavior problems, substance abuse and eating disorders, as well as pediatric or
medical concerns (e.g., coping with painful medical procedures, enuresis, and irritable bowel syndrome). Although
reviews clearly highlight the need to develop more and better empirically supported treatments for youth, CBTs for
children and adolescents stand out in that they have led the
way in doing so. For example, a recent review of the empirically supported treatment literature finds support for CBTs
in the treatment of anxiety disorders and phobic disorders,
conduct disorder/oppositional defiant disorder, chronic pain,
depression, distress due to medical procedures, and recurrent abdominal pain (Chambless & Ollendick, 2001). In
addition, behavior therapy or components of behavior
108 Children—Behavior Therapy
therapy were found to be effective in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, encopresis, enuresis,
obesity, obsessive–compulsive disorder, recurrent headache,
and the undesirable behaviors (e.g., self-injury) associated
with pervasive developmental disorders. A growing body of
research is addressing the mechanisms of change in these
therapies as well as questions about the applicability of
these treatments to a variety of clinical settings and populations (i.e., the moderators of change).
As noted above, CBT requires that participants are
active both in session and outside of session. Among the
activities typically required is the completion of betweensession homework assignments. Oftentimes homework
assignments require the child and/or parent to engage in or
focus on some unpleasant activities or thoughts. For example, a child who is afraid of dogs might be required to practice approaching a small dog or he/she might be asked to
monitor the thoughts he/she has when seeing a dog during
the walk to school. Although active engagement in the therapy process and particularly completion of homework
assignments may also be an issue for adults, it can be
especially problematic for children. Because children are
typically referred to treatment by parents, teachers, or physicians and are rarely self-referred, motivation for treatment
may be an issue that needs to be addressed early in treatment. Developmental issues may also become important in
increasing motivation and compliance in that young children
may find the link between CBT and symptom improvement
difficult to understand or the cognitive tasks required in
some treatments may be difficult for a young child to undertake. For this reason, CBT for children and adolescents is
often slightly different, in terms of both the specific tasks
and rationale given.
The degree of parental participation in CBT may also
vary as a function of the child’s developmental level.
Although parental participation is typically involved in CBT
for younger children, less parental participation is routinely
solicited with adolescents. Of course, parental involvement
may also vary as a result of the specific disorder or problem
behavior being treated. For example, although parents often
play an adjunctive or “assistive” role in treatments for
internalizing disorders, most research suggests that parent
training, rather than individual treatment focused on work
with the child, is the most effective treatment for some
externalizing disorders. The role of the parents in CBT for
children is different from that expected in more traditional
therapies for children and, as such, parents may come to
CBT expecting to have little or no involvement with the
treatment process. Since it is rarely the case that parents
are not involved at all in their child’s treatment, orientation to this aspect of the CBT treatment model is very
important to ensure that all involved parties are working
To a certain degree these statements can also be applied
to the involvement of other significant people and systems in
the child’s life—such as teachers and other school personnel, siblings, peers, and, in the case of interventions for
medically related disorders, medical personnel. In fact,
some CBTs may focus almost exclusively on changing the
child’s environment, requiring significant behavioral
changes on the part of the individuals who interact with the
child on a daily basis. Therefore, CBT therapists often
function as consultant to the individuals within the systems
targeted for change. Similarly, CBT is increasingly being
applied in community-type interventions for children (e.g.,
school interventions to decrease violence).
Although some CBTs are already modified depending
on the developmental level of the child being treated,
one challenge currently facing CBT practitioners and
researchers is how to more fully integrate developmental
theory with cognitive–behavioral theory. Similarly, it
remains to be seen to what extent individual and family
characteristics such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status,
and religion demand modification in CBTs for children. As
research continues to establish the effectiveness of a growing number of CBTs for children, additional efficacy studies
as well as studies examining moderators of effectiveness
will need to be conducted.
Understanding why CBT for children works and
whether the mechanisms are the same for adults and children will also be an important challenge to meet with
studies testing mediational models as well as studies that
break down current CBT treatment packages to isolate the
necessary and sufficient components. Lastly, as we find
more effective treatments, we must focus our energies on
whether these same types of interventions or modified forms
of CBT can be effective in preventing as well as ameliorating psychological disorders and symptoms in youth.
See also: Aggressive and antisocial behavior in youth, Anxiety—
children, Play therapy, Social cognition in children and youth,
Suicide—child and adolescent, Treatment of children
Chronic Pain
Chambless, D. L., & Ollendick, T. H. (2001). Empirically supported psychosocial interventions: Controversies and evidence. Annual Review
of Psychology, 52, 685–716.
Kendall, P. C. (Ed.). (2000). Child and adolescent therapy (2nd ed.).
New York: Guilford Press.
Meichenbaum, D. H. (1977). Cognitive–behavior modification. New York:
Plenum Press.
Ollendick, T. H., & Cerny, J. A. (1981). Clinical behavior therapy with
children. New York: Plenum Press.
Chronic Pain
Carrie Winterowd, Aaron Beck, and
Dan Gruener
Keywords: pain, chronic pain
Everyone has been in pain at some point in his or her life.
However, unrelieved chronic pain is perhaps one of the most
challenging problems faced by health care consumers as
well as practitioners and providers. It is estimated that
75–80 million people in the United States suffer from some
sort of chronic pain, at an annual cost of $65–70 billion
(Tollison, 1993). There are a number of personal, social, and
environmental consequences of having unrelieved, chronic
pain (see Gatchel & Turk, 1999) that may be very difficult
for clients to deal with including physical suffering, emotional distress, negative thoughts, behavioral problems (e.g.,
inactivity, seeking attention), and psychosocial stress
(e.g., life role changes, relationship issues, legal problems).
Given these experiences, psychological interventions are
important for clients who have chronic pain.
Behavioral therapy approaches with the chronic pain
population were introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Fordyce (1976) was one of the pioneers who applied operant
conditioning with chronic pain clients and their families.
Note. Significant portions of this manuscript have been excerpted from
Winterowd, C., Beck, A., & Gruener, D. (in press). Cognitive therapy with
chronic pain patients. New York: Springer. Copyright 2003 by Springer
Publishing Company.
Many behavioral therapy programs for pain management
combine behavioral techniques in treating pain, for example,
classical and operant conditioning, relaxation training,
biofeedback, communication training, and problem solving.
Cognitive–behavioral approaches with chronic pain
clients were introduced in the 1980s, with continued refinements over the past two decades. Turner (1982) and Turk,
Meichenbaum, and Genest (1983) were among the first pain
researchers to apply cognitive–behavioral principles with
the chronic pain population. More recently, Beck’s cognitive
therapy approach with chronic pain clients has been presented (Winterowd, Beck, & Gruener, 2003).
Beliefs and attitudes are very important in managing
physical illnesses and conditions such as chronic pain.
Chronic pain clients tend to have specific thoughts and
beliefs about their pain as well as the impact of pain on their
lives. For example, they might be distressed about their ability to be engaged in activities, their relationships with others, their work and family roles, and their sense of identity,
given their chronic pain condition. It is not uncommon for
these thoughts and beliefs to have negative, unrealistic, and
potentially catastrophic qualities. For example, a chronic
pain client might think, “The pain has taken my life. I can’t
get beyond this pain. God must be punishing me for my
sins.” Catastrophizing thoughts about pain have been associated with pain, psychological distress, and perceived disability (see reviews by Boothby, Thorn, Stroud, & Jensen,
1999; Sullivan et al., 2001).
How people act or behave can also influence their
physical health. Chronic pain clients may behave or act in
specific ways when they are in pain, for example, wincing,
lying down, complaining, and taking pain medication, otherwise known as “pain behaviors” (Fordyce, 1976). Chronic
pain and the physical limitations related to it can lead to a
number of potentially troublesome behaviors, including
inactivity, social withdrawal and isolation, overeating,
complaining, and frequent office visits to physicians.
Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses these
aspects of pain management: the importance of realistic,
healthy beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in reducing the
emotional and physical suffering associated with pain.
Clients learn to view pain as a dynamic, multifaceted experience involving sensory perceptions, thinking patterns,
affective responses, and behaviors, given their environmental contexts (e.g., level of support and cultural/societal
attitudes toward pain).
Therapy is geared toward identifying any emotional,
cognitive, behavioral, physiological, and/or environmental
(e.g., family, social, cultural, and societal) difficulties that
might be influencing clients’ experience of pain. Although it
is rare for clients to become pain free, CBT teaches clients
how to cope with their pain and enhance their functioning in
110 Chronic Pain
various life roles. Below are some of the components of
most CBTs with chronic pain clients.
Therapists typically conduct a thorough intake interview prior to the start of therapy, to obtain a clear picture of
the client’s presenting problems and history, including a
thorough assessment of his or her pain (including its location, duration, intensity, frequency, fluctuations, the client’s
descriptions of it, “triggers” and “alleviators” [what makes
the pain worse or better], the client’s emotions, thoughts,
and behaviors when in pain, personal coping efforts, the
associated physical limitations and other consequences of
pain [e.g., role limitations, financial and/or legal difficulties], other psychosocial stressors that affect pain [e.g., personality, relationship issues, environment], medical/health
care history including how the pain condition developed,
types of treatments received for pain, pain medications prescribed). Questionnaires can be administered to assess
clients’ pain experiences (e.g., Behavioral Assessment of
Pain), personality styles (see Gatchel & Weisberg, 2000),
mood states (e.g., BDI-II, BAI, BHS, Pain Anxiety
Symptom Scale), cognitions (e.g., Survey of Pain Attitudes),
and behaviors (e.g., Coping Strategies Questionnaire, Illness
Behavior Inventory, observations). See Turk and Melzack
(2001) for a detailed account of pain assessment measures
and procedures available.
Pain levels are also assessed at the beginning of each
therapy session (i.e., “How would you rate your pain since
our last session on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain
at all and 10 being the worst possible pain?”).
personal, social, and environmental influences or stressors
in our lives, including our individual characteristics, our
personality styles, physical limitations, relationships with
others, medical care, and life roles, as well as aspects of
our physical environment (e.g., weather and climate).
Cognitive Quad
People can have negative, unrealistic thoughts and
beliefs about their pain (e.g., “My pain is untreatable,”
“I shouldn’t have pain all of the time”), themselves (e.g.,
“I am powerless,” “I am vulnerable,” “I shouldn’t be so
needy”), their personal world (including their relationships
with others and life roles; “My doctors don’t care about
my pain,” “People will criticize me”), and their future (e.g.,
“I am doomed to be pain-ridden”) given their chronic pain
Pain–Distress Cycle
Our negative, unrealistic thoughts about pain and other
life events can have a significant and negative impact on
how we perceive pain sensations, how we feel emotionally,
and what we do when we are in pain. When we think negatively, we are more likely to feel emotionally distressed,
which can result in (1) muscle tension, making the pain even
worse, and (2) a hyperaroused state in the nervous system
(e.g., sympathetic), activating more pain messages in our
body (e.g., peripheral and central nervous system), leading
to more pain. When we think negatively, we are also more
likely to engage in self-defeating behaviors, such as inactivity, social isolation, or overreliance on pain medication,
which can affect the pain.
Throughout the course of therapy, the client’s
presenting problems are conceptualized from a cognitive–
behavioral framework.
Therapy sessions focus on helping the client learn
(1) cognitive restructuring skills (i.e., identifying, evaluating, and modifying negative automatic thoughts and beliefs)
related to pain and emotional distress, (2) relaxation techniques (i.e., deep abdominal breathing, progressive muscle
relaxation, hypnosis, and/or biofeedback) and other behavioral strategies (e.g., pain and activity monitoring, distraction, assertiveness training), and (3) problem-solving skills
to cope with pain and other psychosocial stressors. The
course of CBT typically starts with a focus on pain management and then moves to other concerns or issues (assuming
pain management is the primary goal of therapy). The
primary target for change is clients’ negative, unrealistic
cognitions about pain, the consequences of having pain,
and other life stresses. Therapists also help clients identify
Cognitive–behavioral Model of Pain
Negative, unrealistic thoughts, images, and beliefs
about pain and other life events can have a significant and
negative impact on the experience of pain sensations,
moods, behavior (e.g., isolation, disturbed sleep), and other
adverse physiological sensations. How people act or behave
can also influence their moods, thoughts, and physical
health. In fact, pain includes not only physiological sensations, but also our emotions, behaviors, and thoughts; all of
these experiences are interrelated. Pain also includes the
Chronic Pain
behaviors that exacerbate pain and stress and teach clients
new coping strategies as well as adaptive, healthy behaviors.
select a solution, implement it, and evaluate its effectiveness
in resolving the problem.
Behavioral Interventions
Behavioral approaches to pain management refer to
skills such as relaxation training, pain monitoring, activity
scheduling and monitoring, distraction techniques,
assertiveness training, and problem solving. To provide
some immediate relief from pain, the client can be taught a
series of relaxation techniques early in therapy, including
deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and
relaxing different muscle groups in the body), guided
imagery (e.g., imagining a safe place, a place that is free
from pain and stress; beach or nature scenes), hypnosis (e.g.,
imagining relaxation moving into different parts of the
body), and/or biofeedback.
The purpose of pain monitoring is to see how the
client’s pain varies over time and by activity. The client
learns how to track pain, so that he or she becomes more
aware of how often the pain occurs, what his or her experience of pain is like, and factors that may affect it both
positively and negatively. Clients’ participation and involvement in daily activities can have a direct bearing on their
pain and their moods. The purpose of activity monitoring is
to assess how active the individual client is and to assess his
or her level of mastery (e.g., sense of accomplishment)
or pleasure when participating in activities. Activity scheduling may be recommended if the client is too active or
Distraction techniques help clients shift their focus of
attention away from their pain and other bodily sensations,
which is usually a temporary solution to pain management.
Clients can learn to distract themselves from their pain by
turning their attention and focus toward their environment,
for example, describing their surroundings or engaging in
pleasurable activities (e.g., watching their favorite TV show,
talking with a friend).
Sometime, during the course of therapy, clients learn
assertiveness training skills. Learning how to communicate
openly and directly without offending others is a very
important skill for this client population given the number of
health care professionals involved in their care. In addition,
other people may not understand how clients experience
pain and how it affects them. Therefore, communicating
these experiences to others helps chronic pain clients feel
more supported and understood than before.
Problem-solving strategies are typically used when a
client’s thoughts or beliefs about his or her pain or other life
events are indeed true, or when the client is ready to take
some behavioral action in resolving a problem. Clients learn
how to identify key problems, brainstorm possible solutions,
Cognitive Interventions
Therapists help clients identify, evaluate, and modify
automatic thoughts, images, and beliefs about pain.
Restructuring Automatic Thoughts about Pain
Negative automatic thoughts often accompany fluctuations in pain intensity and moods. However, these thoughts
are not always in our immediate awareness. A variety of
events or experiences can “trigger” negative self-talk or
imagery, for example, the onset of pain, elevations in pain
levels, negative mood states, lack of a clear-cut diagnosis,
lack of social support, and financial problems, to name a
few. Once these situations are identified, therapists can
explore how clients are feeling at the time—both physiologically (e.g., pain intensity and location) and emotionally—
followed by an exploration of their thoughts. The
experienced cognitive–behavioral therapist will use a variety
of questions to identify and evaluate negative automatic
thoughts about pain with clients (i.e., guided discovery).
Automatic thought records are used to identify, evaluate,
and modify negative thoughts about pain. The client is asked
to identify his or her hottest negative thought about pain
from journal entries, viewing it as a hypothesis or hunch
instead of a fact, and begin to evaluate it.
Clients learn that there are identifiable types of errors
in thinking (i.e., cognitive distortions) that negatively impact
their pain and moods. For example, clients may focus exclusively on the negative aspects of pain, how horrible it is, and
how it prevents them from doing the things they want to
do in their lives. They may blame themselves for their pain
condition or feel punished for having pain.
To further evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of negative automatic thoughts about pain, the client learns to
explore evidence for and against these thoughts. As part of
the evaluation process, the client may be asked to imagine
the worst, best, and most realistic scenarios assuming the
negative thoughts are true, to assess the helpfulness of these
thoughts by using the advantages/disadvantages analyses,
and to identify what he or she would tell a friend who had
the same thought. Alternative thoughts are developed in
session based on this review of the evidence.
Once clients have developed their skills in using the
automatic thought record, they can be asked to conduct
behavioral experiments to test the validity and helpfulness
of their negative thoughts about pain.
112 Chronic Pain
Imagery Work
Chronic pain clients can have very vivid, catastrophic
images about their pain and its consequences. There are four
general types of images clients have: (1) images of the pain
itself, (2) images of oneself in pain, (3) images of how people will interact with or relate to them given their pain, and
(4)images of the future with pain (Winterowd et al., in
press). Once images are identified, the goal is to teach
clients how to respond to them. Clients learn to take charge
of their image by stopping them, redirecting them, or changing or responding to images in some way. For example, the
client could be asked to put images to his or her pain experience and is asked to change the image in some way as
though he or she were the director of that image.
identify alternative core beliefs. The same core belief may
be further modified using imagery (e.g., go back to memories of the past that “support” the core belief ).
At the end of therapy, the therapist and client review
what has been learned over the course of therapy and what
the client needs to continue to work on after therapy is over
(i.e., self-help plan). Follow-up booster sessions are scheduled in 1 to 3 months to see how the client is coping with his
or her pain and current life events.
Restructuring Core Beliefs about Pain
Once clients have mastered how to deal with automatic
thoughts (i.e., self-talk and imagery), they can work on their
core beliefs about their pain. Clients learn that automatic
thoughts, or thought and images about pain and life events
at a particular moment (e.g., “This pain is too much to
bear”), are related to deeper underlying beliefs, known as
intermediate (i.e., rules: “There should be a cure for my
pain”; attitudes: “It’s horrible that the doctors can’t find
a cure for my pain”; assumptions: “If I have pain, then I will
be doomed to a life of despair and suffering”) and core
beliefs (i.e., basic beliefs people have about their pain, themselves, their world, and their future; “I am helpless,” “I am
pain-ridden”). These underlying beliefs may have developed
in childhood or later in life when they developed their
chronic pain condition and/or experienced significant
Pain beliefs often center on themes of loss (e.g.,
“I can’t do things the way I used to”), danger (e.g., “The
pain never ends”), or entitlement (“My doctors are supposed
to find a cure”). Core beliefs about self, world, and future
are typically related to themes of helplessness, inadequacy,
dysfunction, disconnection, and social worthlessness
(Winterowd et al., in press).
The client is asked for historical information about
how these core beliefs developed as well as their function
and purpose. The core belief worksheet (Beck, 1995) can be
introduced to explore historical evidence for and against a
core belief that is troubling the client. The therapist and
client review this evidence, identify possible errors or distortions, and consider other information that they had not
considered before. Reframes (alternative explanations) are
developed in response to the evidence that the core belief
is true. Rational–emotive role-plays might be incorporated
to help the client explore the core belief further as well as
There is firm evidence in the research literature that
both cognitive–behavioral and behavioral treatments are
superior to no-treatment control conditions on a variety of
outcomes (e.g., reducing pain levels, use of pain medications,
negative thoughts, extent of physical disability as well as
enhancing pain control, psychological adjustment, physical
functioning and health status and psychosocial functioning)
and these effects are maintained at follow-up for a variety of
chronic pain clients (see meta-analysis studies by Morley,
Eccleston, & Williams, 1999, and van Tulder et al., 2000).
In addition, multidisciplinary pain treatment programs that
incorporated CBT and behavioral therapy approaches were
significantly more successful than unimodal treatment or notreatment controls (see meta-analysis studies by Cutler et al.,
1994, and Flor, Fydrich, & Turk, 1992).
Overall, it appears that the cognitive–behavioral
approach has a positive additive effect to active treatments
(e.g., medications, physical therapy, and medical treatments)
for chronic pain clients (in treating pain, cognitive
appraisals, and pain behavior problems; see meta-analysis
study by Morley et al., 1999). However, for chronic low
back pain clients, this did not appear to be the case (see
meta-analysis by van Tulder et al., 2000).
In summary, CBT has strong empirical support as an
effective treatment for chronic pain clients. More research is
needed to explore whether cognitive therapy or behavior
therapy is superior with chronic pain clients in general and
for what types of problems or outcomes. In addition, the
benefits of adding CBT to active treatments for chronic pain
clients, especially low back pain clients, demand further
Chronic Pain
Some of the criticisms of the research on CBT or
behavioral therapy with chronic pain clients include the
intraparticipant variability in chronic pain conditions, small
sample sizes, attrition, the short-term nature of the therapy
(see Keefe & Van Horn, 1993; Parker, Iverson, Smarr, &
Stucky-Ropp, 1993), and the use of primarily Caucasian
samples in these studies. In addition, CBT methods vary
considerably from study to study (i.e., lack of uniformity in
therapy protocols; different models and techniques emphasized). Therefore, what is meant by CBT may be unique to
each study and may not represent a coherent theoretical
model of treatment. Clients’ adherence to treatment is an
important consideration when conducting these types of
studies because it can influence outcomes. A better understanding of which interventions are most effective for which
types of clients with chronic pain may provide researchers
and clinicians with more answers about what really works in
CBT with this population.
Future directions in CBT with chronic pain clients
could include the incorporation of additional approaches to
the current theoretical model, for example, the stages of
motivation to change model (motivational interviewing),
acceptance-based interventions (see McCracken & Turk,
2002), schema therapy, and multicultural counseling interventions. More attention will be given the therapist factors
(e.g., individual characteristics [age, gender, race], personality, commitment, optimism, and flexibility) that interact
with client factors (e.g., individual characteristics, personality, motivation to change, acceptance of their chronic pain
condition) in promoting positive changes for chronic pain
clients. More research will explore the effectiveness of
CBT with chronic pain clients in other settings besides multidisciplinary pain treatment centers, and with more diverse
groups of chronic pain clients. The wave of the future will
be therapists providing cognitive–behavioral pain management services in primary care, specialist, and private practice settings. Future directions in practice will focus more on
(1) the training of physicians and other health care professionals in CBT principles to promote better relationships
with their clients and to enhance referral relationships with
these professionals, and (2) outreach programming on pain
prevention and pain management to people at the local,
state, national, and international levels.
There are resources for readers who are interested in
cognitive–behavioral and behavioral therapy applications
with chronic pain populations (e.g., Blanchard & Andrasik,
1985; Jamison, 1996; Winterowd, Beck, & Gruener, in
press), as well as self-help books for chronic pain clients
(e.g., Catalano & Hardin, 1996; Caudill, 2002; Jamison,
1996). There are also a number of professional organizations committed to the topic of chronic pain and pain
treatments, such as the American Pain Society and the
International Association for the Study of Pain.
See also: Biopsychosocial treatment of pain
Beck, J. (1995). Cognitive therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: Guilford
Blanchard, E., & Andrasik, F. (1985). Management of chronic headaches:
A psychological approach. New York: Pergamon Press.
Bonica, J. (1953). The management of pain. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.
Boothby, J., Thorn, B., Stroud, M., & Jensen, M. (1999). Coping with pain.
In R. Gatchel & D. Turk (Eds.), Psychosocial factors in pain: Critical
perspectives (pp. 343–359). New York: Guilford Press.
Catalano, E., & Hardin, K. (1996). The chronic pain control workbook
(2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Caudill, M. (2002). Managing pain before it manages you (rev. ed.).
New York: Guilford Press.
Cutler, R., Fishbain, D., Rosomoff, H., Abdel-Moty, E., Khalil, T., &
Rosomoff, R. (1994). Does nonsurgical pain center treatment of
chronic pain return patients to work? A review and meta-analysis
of the literature. Spine, 19, 643–652.
Flor, H., Fydrich, T., & Turk, D. (1992). Efficacy of multidisciplinary pain
treatment centers: A meta-analytic review. Pain, 49, 221–230.
Fordyce, W. (1976). Behavioral methods for chronic pain and illness.
St. Louis: Mosby.
Gatchel, R., & Turk, D. (Eds.). (1999). Psychosocial factors in pain:
Critical perspectives. New York: Guilford Press.
Gatchel, R., & Weisberg, J. (2000). Personality characteristics of
patients with pain. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Jamison, R. (1996a). Learning to master your chronic pain. Sarasota, FL:
Professional Resource Press.
Jamison, R. (1996b). Mastering chronic pain: A professional’s guide to
behavioral treatment. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press.
Keefe, F., & Van Horn, Y. (1993). Cognitive–behavioral treatment of
rheumatoid arthritis pain. Arthritis Care and Management, 6, 213–222.
McCracken, L., & Turk, D. (2002). Behavioral and cognitive–behavioral
treatment for chronic pain: Outcome, predictors of outcome, and treatment process. Spine, 27, 2564–2573.
Morley, S., Eccleston, C., & Williams, A. (1999). Systematic review and
meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of cognitive behaviour
therapy and behaviour therapy for chronic pain in adults, excluding
headache. Pain, 80, 1–13.
Parker, J., Iverson, G., Smarr, K., & Stucky-Ropp, R. (1993).
Cognitive–behavioral approaches to pain management in rheumatoid
arthritis. Arthritis Care and Research, 6, 207–212.
Sullivan, M., Thorn, B., Haythornwaite, J., Keefe, F., Martin, M.,
Bradley, L. et al. (2001). Theoretical perspectives on the
relation between catastrophizing and pain. Clinical Journal of Pain,
17, 52–64.
114 Chronic Pain
Tollison, C. (1993). The magnitude of the pain problem: The problem in
perspective. In R. Weiner (Ed.), Innovations in pain management:
A practical guide for clinicians (Vol. 1, pp. 3–9). Orlando: Paul M.
Deutsch Press.
Turk, D., & Gatchel, R. (Eds.). (2002). Psychological approaches to pain
management: A practitioner’s handbook (2nd ed.). New York:
Guilford Press.
Turk, D., Meichenbaum, D., & Genest, M. (1983). Pain and behavioral
medicine: A cognitive–behavioral perspective. New York: Guilford
Turk, D., & Melzack, R. (2001). Handbook of pain assessment (2nd ed.).
New York: Guilford Press.
Turner, J. (1982). Comparison of group progressive-relaxation training and
cognitive–behavioral group therapy for chronic low back pain. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 757–765.
van Tulder, M., Ostelo, R., Vlaeyen, J., Linton, S., Morley, S., & Assendelft,
W. (2000). Behavioral treatment for chronic low back pain. Spine, 26,
Winterowd, C., Beck, A., & Gruener, D. (2003). Cognitive therapy with
chronic pain clients. New York: Springer.
Clinical Health Psychology
Barbara A. Golden and
Stephanie H. Felgoise
Keywords: clinical health psychology, illness, behavioral medicine,
Cognitive–behavioral theories and principles offer a natural
fit for the practice of psychology as it interfaces with
medicine. Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely
accepted as the therapeutic modality of choice for working
with medical patients for promotion of health and wellbeing, prevention, assessment, and treatment of illness. This
article aims to provide an introduction to clinical health psychology and the practice of CBT within this field, including
training requirements, problems addressed by the clinical
health psychologist, the biopsychosocial model of illness,
assessment and interventions, and empirical support for the
use of CBT in the medical setting.
“Clinical health psychology” is the discipline of
psychology that, perhaps, best represents psychologists’
contributions to the field of behavioral medicine. The
American Psychological Association formally recognized
the specialty of clinical health psychology within the
practice of professional psychology by recording the
following definition in 1997:
Clinical Health Psychology applies scientific knowledge of
the interrelationships among behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social and biological components in health and disease
to the promotion and maintenance of health; the prevention,
treatment and rehabilitation of illness and disability; and the
improvement of the health care system. The distinct focus of
Clinical Health Psychology is on physical health problems.
The specialty is dedicated to the development of knowledge
regarding the interface between behavior and health, and to
the delivery of high quality services based on that knowledge to individuals, families and health care systems.
Theoretically, clinical health psychologists could ascribe to
any theoretical orientation; however, cognitive–behavioral
theories, principles, and therapy-outcome research have
been most represented in the behavioral medicine literature
when prescriptive interventions have been offered. The
clinical applications in this article are limited to CBT and
clinical health psychology.
In addition to its roots in psychology, clinical health
psychology has its place among other social sciences.
Biological, cognitive, affective, social and psychological
bases of health and disease are bodies of knowledge that,
when integrated with the knowledge of biological, cognitive–
affective, social and psychological bases of behavior,
constitute the distinctive knowledge base of Clinical Health
Psychology. This includes a broad understanding of biology,
pharmacology, anatomy, human physiology and pathophysiology, and psychoneuroimmunology. Clinical health psychologists also have knowledge of how learning, memory,
perception, cognition, and motivation influence health
behaviors, are affected by physical illness/injury/disability,
and can affect response to illness/injury/disability. Knowledge of the impact of social support, culture, physician–
patient relationships, health policy and the organization of
health care delivery systems on health and help-seeking is
also fundamental as is knowledge of diversity and minority
health issues, individual differences in coping, emotional
and behavioral risk factors for disease/injury/disability
human development issues in health and illness, and the
impact of psychopathology on disease, injury, disability and
treatment. (APA, 1997)
When working with physicians, it is important to recognize and practice within our boundaries of competence.
Psychology has largely relied on self-regulation for determining competency, ethical practice, and qualifications for
working with special populations (Belar et al., 2001). As
such, there are few guidelines or enforced credentialing
options to ensure appropriate training for psychologists who
Clinical Health Psychology
wish to specialize in this field. The American Board of
Professional Psychology offers certification in Clinical
Health Psychology, although there is a small subset of psychologists who have sought this certification in comparison
to the numbers of psychologists practicing in this area.
Therefore, clinical psychologists are encouraged to selfevaluate their knowledge, training, and experience commensurate with best practice recommendations for clinical
health psychology, as established by leading experts in the
field (Belar et al., 2001). Specifically, individuals should
determine if they are knowledgeable and experienced in the
following aspects of health, disease, and behavior, when
considering working with particular patient populations:
biological bases; cognitive–affective bases; social bases;
developmental and individual bases; interactions among
biological, cognitive–affective, social bases, and developmental bases of health, disease, and behavior, and their
interactions with the environment; empirically supported
clinical assessment and treatment relating to the specified
problems; roles and functions of other health professionals
who will be working with patients on health, illness, and
behavioral matters; sociopolitical features of the health care
system; health policy issues; distinctive legal, ethical, and
professional issues relating to health, the particular disease(s), and behavior (Belar et al., 2001). The need for this
extensive self-evaluation becomes evident in review of the
scope of practice for clinical health psychologists, including
assessment and treatment.
The clinical health psychologist may be called on to
deal with many problems in research and practice: psychological factors secondary to a disease/illness or injury,
somatic presentations of a psychological problem, psychophysiological disorders, psychological and behavioral
aspects of medical procedures, behavioral risk factors for
Growing attention has been paid to the influence of
health behaviors, which may prevent or exacerbate chronic
illness. Advances in the physiology of stress and its role in
the development of physical disorders combined with
behavioral change have influenced our management of
chronic illness. Research demonstrating the preoperative
psychological state (anxiety, depression, coping styles)
influencing the postoperative outcomes of surgery encouraged the use of brief, structured psychosocial interventions
for surgery patients. All of this evidence points to the imperative need to assess and treat patients with medical illness
from a biopsychosocial perspective.
The biopsychosocial model of health and illness
reflects a mind–body relationship that has reemerged in the
last 25 years as a more integrated approach. The biomedical
model has been criticized due to its simplicity and reduction
of all medical conditions to single etiology. It fails to accommodate the increasing role of psychological and social
factors as major sources of morbidity and mortality. Engel
(1977) suggested that a biopsychosocial view is more appropriate. The biopsychosocial model suggests:
All illness affects people on multiple levels
(biological, emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, and
These different levels interact with each other to produce a clinical outcome.
Multiple factors influence reporting of symptoms
(e.g., health beliefs, access to health care, reactions
of physicians/family).
Somatic expressions of psychological distress are
An effective intervention for a patient must begin with a
biopsychosocial assessment, and is recommended to be multimodal and multimethod in format. Belar and Deardorff
(1995) propose targets of assessment by four domains of
information (biological, affective, cognitive, and behavioral)
and four units of assessment (patient, family, health care
system, and sociocultural context). This model for clinical
services has been combined with a model related to psychological services in health care developed by the APA
Workgroup on the Expanding Role of Psychology in
Healthcare (1998) to provide a range of clinical services on
several different levels with a wide range of health problems.
The clinical health psychologist should try to understand the patient’s current status, change since onset of the
illness, and patient’s history. The assessment should include
identification of problem areas and also consider assets and
resources of the patient and the environment. This same
model can be used in consideration of behavior change for
improvement of quality of life, prevention of illness, and
promotion of well-being.
Basic demographics of the patient and the patient’s
illness or condition should be the first point of information.
The physiological symptoms, risk factors, history and prognosis, and treatment procedures are evaluated in consideration
116 Clinical Health Psychology
of biological targets. The patient’s affective targets include
assessment of the patient’s current mood, and information
about the patient’s feelings about the illness, treatment,
health care, and support network among other information.
The influence of the patient’s cognitive functioning including general intelligence, knowledge, attitudes, perceived
threat, and control of the illness are a critical part of the
assessment. Evaluation of health beliefs, religious values
and spirituality, and cultural norms is critical for optimal
patient care.
Assessment of behavioral targets such as the patient’s
functional abilities, self-care, and occupational and recreational functioning are critical to the comprehensive evaluation. Attention to other behavioral targets is warranted
regarding the patient’s current and past health habits and
health care utilization, compliance behaviors, and potential
behavioral obstacles to successful treatment.
Often overlooked in the traditional medical assessments, the clinical health psychologist should assess the
environment of the patient: family, health care system, and
sociocultural environment. For example, what are the family
economic resources, how does the family feel about the
patient’s illness, what are the perceptions and/or attitudes of
the family, and has the family made any changes in their
behavior as a result of the illness?
Evaluation of the patient’s environment necessitates the
following inquiries. What are the patient’s relationships with
the health care team? The setting of the health care provider
and the interventions being considered should be examined
and explained. How do members of the team feel about the
patient and the patient’s illness? Do the health care providers
have an understanding and experience in the treatment of the
illness? Do the behaviors of the health care system encourage easy access? In addition, sociocultural variables that
may affect treatment and care include the work schedule
flexibility, and social and financial resources.
Treatment and Intervention
Clinical health psychologists have a full range of therapeutic interventions available, but the medical setting can
be challenging. The range of medical and psychological
problems seen in health care requires training as a generalist with the ability to investigate and problem-solve in an
interdisciplinary nature. Psychologists use individual therapy as a common intervention, but in addition, family therapy, group therapy, and interventions for the health care
team are often used in the medical setting. All interventions
should follow the biopsychosocial targets of the concerns
reviewed during the assessment. The use of CBT is widespread in health care settings including strategies to reduce
the risk of developing an illness, improving illness
outcomes, and improving quality of life and the emotional
health of patients.
Behavioral interventions to modify risk factors such as
smoking, obesity, and risky sexual behaviors are recommended as good practice in medical settings. Variables such
as personality, stress, negative emotions, and impaired social
systems are important factors to consider with the risk of
developing an illness. CBT has shown improvement for
physical inactivity (Dubbert, 2002), smoking cessation
(Compas, Haaga, Keefe, Leitenberg, & Williams, 1998), and
HIV risk behaviors (Kelly & Kalichman, 2002; NIH, 1997).
Improving illness outcomes includes targeting behaviors and psychosocial variables that improve adherence to
medical interventions, helping patients to adopt lifestyles
to medical regimens, reduction of stress, and enhancement
of social support. Research supports a multicomponent CBT
intervention for coronary heart disease with reduction of
recurrent cardiac events compared with usual care (Ornish
et al., 1998). Cognitive–behavioral stress management
(CBSM) including illness education, relaxation, cognitive
restructuring, and provision of social support offers promising results. Brief CBT has been effective in the reduction
of depression for patients in medical settings (Coyne,
Thompson, Klinkman, & Nease, 2002; Lustman, Griffith,
Kissel, & Clouse, 1998).
Increasing functioning and improving overall quality
of life includes improvement of emotional, social, occupational, and financial wellness of patients and families. CBT
has been used to manage symptoms; for example, the reduction of pain and nausea in cancer patients (Compas et al.,
1998), the treatment of migraine and tension headaches
(Holroyd, 2002), and multicomponent CBT (i.e., relaxation,
cognitive restructuring, coping skills training, and goal setting) are effective for improving pain, physical activity, and
psychological distress for patients with arthritis (Compas
et al., 1998; Keefe et al., 2002). CBSM seems to enhance
emotional functioning, coping abilities, and/or quality of
life for patients with HIV and the effects of depression were
mediated by increased cognitive coping and social support
in a sample of HIV-positive gay men (Lutgendorf et al.,
1998). Problem-solving therapy has also been empirically
shown to improve quality of life, reduce distress, increase
sense of control (Nezu, Nezu, Felgoise, & McClure, 2003),
and decrease caregiver burden (Elliott & Rivera, 2003) for a
variety of medical populations (see D’Zurilla & Nezu, 1999,
for a review).
Given that CBT originated within the unitary discipline
of psychology, criticisms regarding practice and theory
Cognitive Distortions
suggest psychologists have much work yet to be done to
help bridge the gaps between this discipline and others.
Future directions for the field of clinical health psychology
include increasing other health professionals’ awareness of
the need to address psychological factors associated with
chronic illnesses, continuing research in areas of prevention,
consultation, behavioral modification, and clinical treatment, and expanding patient-, setting-, and communityfocused multidisciplinary research and practice. Lastly, with
continuing change and rising costs in the health care system,
clinical health psychologists are challenged to further support and defend the cost-effectiveness of empirically supported psychological treatment for medical illnesses,
enhancement of emotional well-being, and improved quality
of life.
See also: Caregivers of medically ill persons, Medically
unexplained symptoms, Somatization, Terminal illness
American Psychological Association. (1997). Archival Description of
Clinical Health Psychology as a Specialty in Professional Psychology.
Minutes of the Council of Representatives Meeting, August 1997.
Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychological Association. (1998). Report of the Workgroup on the
Expanding Role of Psychology in Healthcare. Washington, DC: Author.
Belar, C. D., & Deardorff, W. W. (1995). Clinical health psychology in
medical settings: A practitioner’s guidebook. Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association.
Belar, C. D., Brown, R. A., Hersch, L. E., Hornyak, L. M., Rozensky, R. H.,
Sheridan, E. P., Brown, R. T., & Reed, G. W. (2001). Self-assessment
in clinical health psychology: A model for ethical expansion of
practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32(2),
Compas, B. E., Haaga, D. A., Keefe, F. J., Leitenberg, H., & Williams, D. A.
(1998). Sampling of empirically supported psychological treatments
from health psychology: Smoking, chronic pain, cancer, and bulimia
nervosa. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 89–112.
Coyne, J. C., Thompson, R., Klinkman, M. S., & Nease, D. E., Jr. (2002).
Emotional disorders in primary care. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 70, 798–809.
Dubbert, P. M. (2002). Physical activity and exercise: Recent advances and
current challenges. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
70, 526–536.
D’Zurilla, T. J., & Nezu, A. M. (1999). Problem-solving therapy: A social
competence model. New York: Springer.
Elliott, T. R., & Rivera, P. (2003). The experience of families and their
carers in health care. In S. Llewelyn & P. Kennedy (Eds.), Handbook
of clinical health psychology (pp. 61–80). New York: Wiley.
Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for
biomedicine. Science, 196, 129–136.
Holroyd, K. A. (2002). Assessment and psychological management of
recurrent headache disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 70, 656–677.
Keefe, F. J., Smith, S.J., Buffington, A. L., Gibson, J., Studts, J. L., &
Caldwell, D. S. (2002). Recent advances and future directions in the
biopsychosocial assessment and treatment of arthritis. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 640–655.
Kelly, J. A., & Kalichman, S. C. (2002). Behavioral research with HIV/
AIDS primary and secondary prevention: Recent advances and future
directions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70,
Lustman, P. J., Griffith, L. S., Kissel, S. S., & Clouse, R. E. (1998).
Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression in type 2 diabetes
mellitus: A randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine,
129, 613–621.
Lutgendorf, S. K., Antoni, M. H., Ironson, G., Starr, K., Costello, N.,
Zuckerman, M., Klimas, N., Fletcher, M.A., & Schneiderman, N.
(1998). Changes in cognitive coping skills and social support during
cognitive behavioral stress management intervention and distress
outcomes in somatic HIV seropositive gay men. Psychosomatic
Medicine, 60, 204–214.
National Institutes of Health. (1997). NIH consensus statement:
Interventions to prevent HIV risk behaviors. Bethesda, MD: U.S.
Public Health Service.
Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Felgoise, S. H., & McClure, K. (2003). Problemsolving therapy for cancer patients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 71, 1036–1048.
Ornish, D., Scherwitz, L. W., Billings, J. H., Brown, S. E., Gould, K. L., &
Merritt, T. A. (1998). Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280,
Cognitive Distortions
Carrie L. Yurica and Robert A. DiTomasso
Keywords: cognitive distortions, cognitive errors, cognitive biases,
cognitive processing, distorted thinking, thinking errors, cognitive
schemata, heuristic thinking, cognitive processing errors
Cognitive distortions were originally defined by Beck
(1967) as the result of processing information in ways that
predictably resulted in identifiable errors in thinking. In his
work with depressed patients, Beck defined six systematic
errors in thinking: arbitrary inference; selective abstraction;
overgeneralization; magnification and minimization; personalization; and absolutistic, dichotomous thinking. Years
later, Burns (1980) renamed and extended Beck’s cognitive
distortions to ten types: all-or-nothing thinking; overgeneralization; mental filter; discounting the positive; jumping
to conclusions; magnification; emotional reasoning; should
statements; labeling; and personalization and blame.
Additional cognitive distortions, defined by Freeman and
118 Cognitive Distortions
DeWolf (1992) and Freeman and Oster (1999), include:
externalization of self-worth; comparison; and perfectionism. Most recently, Gilson and Freeman (1999) identified
eight other types of cognitive distortions in the form of
fallacies: fallacies of change; worrying; fairness; ignoring;
being right; attachment; control; and heaven’s reward.
The conceptual framework of cognitive therapy is
structured on the notion that an individual’s subjective
assessment of early life experience shapes and maintains
fundamental beliefs (schemas) about self (Beck, 1970,
1976). In support of, or in defense against, early schemas,
secondary beliefs develop and function as rules or assumptions about the self and the world. These beliefs define
personal worth, are associated with emotions, and develop
further into learned, habitual ways of thinking (Beck, Rush,
Shaw, & Emery, 1979; Ellis & Grieger, 1986). Habitual
ways of thinking function to support core beliefs and
assumptions by generalizing, deleting, and/or distorting
internal and external stimuli, thus creating cognitive distortions. Cognitions and, specifically, cognitive distortions
have been identified as playing an important role in the
maintenance of emotional disorders.
Researchers have developed various information processing models in an attempt to understand the processing of
cognitive information. Kendall (1992) proposed a cognitive
taxonomy model with a description of the relevant aspects
of cognition involved in the creation of cognitive distortions.
Kendall’s taxonomy includes the following features: cognitive content; cognitive process; cognitive products; and cognitive structures. These features form the overall cognitive
structure that serves to filter certain cognitive processes.
Cognitive distortions reside within the domain of cognitive
Within the realm of cognitive processes, Kendall made
distinctions between processing deficiencies and processing
distortions. Deficient processing occurs when a lack of
cognitive activity results in an unwanted consequence. Distorted processing occurs when an active thinking process
filters through some faulty reasoning process resulting in an
unwanted consequence. The difference is failure to think
versus a pattern of thinking in a distorted manner (Kendall,
1985, 1992).
Finally, Kendall (1992) also suggested that more accurate perceptions of the world do not necessarily lead to more
successful mental health or behavioral adjustment.
Cognitive distortions skewed in an overly positive direction
tend to be functional, and benefit the individual in maintaining positive mental health (although a “too positive” view
might be interpreted as narcissism).
The opposite may also occur. In studies of depressed
and nondepressed students, Alloy et al. (1999) reported that
depressed subjects were more accurate in their perceptions
and judgments as compared to nondepressed subjects,
a phenomenon called “depressive realism.” Subsequent
research was less endorsing of this phenomenon, and
researchers have concluded the process of distortion is more
complex than merely perception (Ingram, Miranda, & Segal,
Within the fields of cognitive and social psychology,
other information processing systems have been developed
that suggest theories for the formation of cognitive distortions (e.g., Berry & Broadbent, 1984; Hasher & Zacks,
1979; Nisbett & Wilson, 1977; Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977).
In addition, developmental psychologists have suggested
thinking or distorting processes may develop from learned
behavior, while evolutionary psychologists (Gilbert, 1998)
have suggested the development of an evolutionary information processing system over time that has led to a “better
safe than sorry” processing approach.
Axis I Disorders
Cognitive distortions were originally identified in
patients with depression. Since then, clinicians have
expanded their identification and treatment of cognitive
distortions to many other disorders (DiTomasso, Martin, &
Kovnat, 2000; Freeman, Pretzer, Fleming, & Simon, 1990,
2004; Freeman & Fusco, 2000; Wells, 1997). Further,
cognitive distortions have been found to play a role in sexual dysfunction (Leiblum & Rosen, 2000), eating disorders
(Shafran, Teachman, Kerry, & Rachman, 1999), sex
offender behavior (McGrath, Cann, & Konopasky, 1998),
and gambling addictions (Delfabbro & Winefield, 2000;
Fisher, Beech, & Browne, 1999). In addition to the identification of cognitive distortions in Axis I disorders, distortions
appear to play an important role in Axis II disorders.
Axis II Disorders
Cognitive distortions have been identified in patients
diagnosed with personality disorders. Freeman et al. (1990,
2004) have identified dichotomous thinking as a primary
distortion in patients with Dependent Personality Disorder.
Layden et al. (1993) have identified several cognitive
distortions used by patients with Borderline Personality
Disorder. Similarly, use of cognitive distortions by patients
with Histrionic Personality Disorder (dichotomous thinking,
jumping to conclusions, and emotional reasoning), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (magnification of self, selective
abstraction, minimization of others), and Obsessive–
Compulsive Personality Disorder (magnification, “should”
statements, perfectionism, and dichotomous thinking) have
Cognitive Distortions
been documented in the clinical literature (Beck, Freeman,
et al., 1990; Beck, Freeman, Davis, et al., 2004).
Typical distortions include:
Arbitrary Inference/Jumping to Conclusions. The process of drawing a negative conclusion, in the absence of
specific evidence to support that conclusion (Beck et al.,
1979; Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “I’m really going
to blow it. What if I flunk?” (Burns, 1989).
Catastrophizing. The process of evaluating, whereby
one believes the worst possible outcome will or did occur
(Beck et al., 1979; Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999). Example:
“I better not try because I might fail, and that would be
awful” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
Comparison. The tendency to compare oneself
whereby the outcome typically results in the conclusion that
one is inferior or worse off than others (Freeman & DeWolf,
1992; Freeman & Oster, 1999). Example: “ I wish I were as
comfortable with women as my brother is” (Freeman &
DeWolf, 1992).
Dichotomous/Black-and-White Thinking. The tendency
to view all experiences as fitting into one of two categories
(e.g., positive or negative; good or bad) without the ability
to place oneself, others, and experiences along a continuum
(Beck et al., 1979; Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999; Freeman &
DeWolf, 1992). Example: “I’ve blown my diet completely”
(Burns, 1989).
Disqualifying the Positive. The process of rejecting or
discounting positive experiences, traits, or attributes (Burns,
1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “This success experience was
only a fluke” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
Emotional Reasoning. The predominant use of an emotional state to form conclusions about oneself, others, or
situations (Beck et al., 1979; Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999;
Freeman & Oster, 1999). Example: “I feel terrified about
going on airplanes. It must be very dangerous to fly” (Burns,
Externalization of Self-Worth. The development and
maintenance of self-worth based almost exclusively on how
the external world views one (Freeman & DeWolf, 1992;
Freeman & Oster, 1999). Example: “My worth is dependent
on what others think of me” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
Fortunetelling. The process of foretelling or predicting
the negative outcome of a future event or events and believing this prediction is absolutely true for oneself (Burns,
1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “I’ll never, ever feel better”
(Burns, 1989).
Labeling. Labeling oneself using derogatory names
(Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999; Freeman & DeWolf, 1992).
Example: “I’m a loser” (Burns, 1989).
Magnification. The tendency to exaggerate or magnify
either the positive or negative importance or consequence of
some personal trait, event, or circumstance (Burns, 1980,
1989, 1999). Example: “I have the tendency to exaggerate
the importance of minor events” (Yurica & DiTomasso,
Mind Reading. One’s arbitrary conclusion that someone is reacting negatively, or thinking negatively toward
him/her, without specific evidence to support that conclusion (Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “I just know that
he/she disapproves” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
Minimization. The process of minimizing or discounting the importance of some event, trait, or circumstance
(Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “I underestimate the
seriousness of situations” (Yurica & DiTomasso, 2001).
Overgeneralization. The process of formulating rules
or conclusions on the basis of limited experience and applying these rules across broad and unrelated situations (Beck
et al., 1979; Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “It doesn’t
matter what my choices are, they always fall flat” (Freeman
& Lurie, 1994).
Perfectionism. A constant striving to live up to some
internal or external representation of perfection without
examining the evidence for the reasonableness of these perfect standards, often in an attempt to avoid a subjective
experience of failure (Freeman & DeWolf, 1992; Freeman &
Oster, 1999). Example: “Doing a merely adequate job is
akin to being a failure” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
Personalization. The process of assuming personal
causality for situations, events, and reactions of others when
there is no evidence supporting that conclusion (Beck et al.,
1979; Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999; Freeman & DeWolf, 1992).
Example: “That comment wasn’t just random, it must have
been directed toward me” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
Selective Abstraction. The process of exclusively
focusing on one negative aspect or detail of a situation, magnifying the importance of that detail, thereby casting the
whole situation in a negative context (Beck et al., 1979;
Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999). Example: “I must focus on the
negative details while I ignore and filter out all the positive
aspects of a situation” (Freeman & Lurie, 1994).
“Should” Statements. A pattern of internal expectations or demands on oneself, without examination of the reasonableness of these expectations in the context of one’s
life, abilities, and other resources (Burns, 1980, 1989, 1999;
Freeman & DeWolf, 1992). Example: “I shouldn’t have
made so many mistakes” (Burns, 1989).
Cognitive–behavioral clinicians commonly use selfreport measures such as a thought record (e.g., Thought
120 Cognitive Distortions
Record, Persons, Davidson, & Tompkins, 2001; Daily
Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts, Beck et al., 1979) to
identify automatic thoughts, underlying schema, and cognitive distortions.
Successful use of the thought record depends on a
number of factors: the clinician’s willingness to use this
tool; the clinician’s knowledge about how to use this tool to
help the patient identify cognitive distortions; the ability of
the patient to consciously access and write down his/her
automatic thoughts; the ability of the patient to see this as a
valuable tool; and the willingness of the patient to use the
thought record outside of session. Persons and colleagues
(2001) identified other drawbacks to this tool such as: difficulty in eliciting automatic thoughts from patients; reluctance by patients to use the thought record in session; beliefs
by patients that it is not helpful; and noncompliance with
homework assignments to complete thought records.
Despite these limitations in clinical practice, results from
randomized clinical trials have demonstrated support for the
value of the thought record in the treatment of depressed
patients as a tool for identifying and changing dysfunctional
thinking (Craighead, Craighead, & Ilardi, 1998; DeRubeis &
Crits-Christoph, 1997).
A review of available measures of cognitive distortions
reveals five clinical instruments designed to measure the
general construct of cognitive distortion within the cognitive
therapy literature: the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (DAS,
Weissman, 1979; Weissman & Beck, 1978), Cognitive Error
Questionnaire (CEQ, Lefebvre, 1981), Automatic Thoughts
Questionnaire (ATQ, Hollan & Kendall, 1980), Cognitive
Distortion Scale (CDS, Briere, 2000), and Inventory of
Cognitive Distortions (ICD, Yurica & DiTomasso, 2001).
Cognitive distortion instruments have been used in
research around the world. The DAS-A is the most widely
used instrument in research studies around the world and
measures the dysfunctional attitudes of depressives (Chen
et al., 1998; Leyland & Teasdale, 1996; Marton & Kutcher,
1995; Oei-Tan & Yeoh, 1999; Ohrt & Thorell, 1999; Otto,
Favia, Penava, & Bless, 1997; Wertheim & Poulakis, 1992;
Zaretsky, Fava, Davidson, & Pava, 1997). The DAS-A has
been translated into several languages, including a Swedish
version (Ohrt & Thorell, 1999) and a Chinese version (Chen
et al., 1998).
The ATQ has been used in conjunction with the DAS
(Weissman, 1979) in other countries to measure cognitive
distortions in panic disorder (Ohrt, Sjodin, & Thorell, 1999)
and the difference in cognitive–behavioral therapy for medicated and nonmedicated groups (Oei-Tan & Yeoh, 1999).
Further, the ATQ was extended beyond adult populations to
assess depressive cognitions in children (Kazdin, 1990).
Research findings indicate the CEQ distinguished
between depressed and nondepressed older adults (Scogin,
Hamblin, & Beutler, 1986), and depressed and nondepressed pain patients (Smith, O’Keeffe, & Christensen,
1994). In an effort to examine the role of depression in
rheumatoid arthritis patients, Smith, Peck, Milano, and
Ward (1988) adapted the CEQ to include symptomatology
for rheumatoid arthritis. The internal consistency of the
modified CEQ was high (Cronbach’s alphas ⫽ .92 and .90
for RA and general scales, respectively).
The use of cognitive distortion instruments in clinical
settings could serve a number of functions: (1) provide an
efficacious method for identifying patients’ major forms of
distorted thinking, (2) identify patients’ use of particular
types of distortions for particular diagnoses, (3) provide an
educational tool geared toward improving patients’
metacognitive skills, (4) help understand the role cognitive
distortions play in maintaining dysfunctional cognitive,
emotional, and behavioral patterns, and (5) provide the clinician with a clinical tool for use as pre-, post-, and interval
test to track changes in patients’ distorted thinking patterns.
Assessment of cognitive distortions will undoubtedly
continue into the future in an effort to more accurately qualify and quantify specific cognitive distortions. Continued
assessment of this cognitive construct is important for several reasons. First, cognitive distortion assessment is necessary for case conceptualization, treatment planning, and
implementation of treatment techniques and patient involvement. Second, additional clinical information is needed
concerning the interactions of various cognitive processes.
Third, assessment and subsequent treatment of cognitive
distortions will likely lead to symptom relief in immediate
and longer-term time frames. Fourth, assessment may
Cognitive Distortions
provide insight into disorder-specific cognitive constructs.
Finally, research-based measures of cognitive distortions
can provide the field with more effective tools to measure
the cognitive construct of cognitive distortions.
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., & Francis, E. L. (1999) Do negative cognitive styles confer vulnerability to depression? Current Directions in
Psychological Science, 8, 128–132.
Beck, A. T. (1970). Cognitive therapy: Nature and relation to behavior
therapy. Behavior Therapy, 1, 184–200.
Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and emotional disorders. New York:
International Universities Press.
Beck, A. T., Freeman, A., & Associates. (1990). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
Beck, A. T., Freeman, A., Davis, D., & Associates. (2004). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive
therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Berry, D. C., & Broadbent, D. E. (1984). On the relationship between task
performance and associated verbalized knowledge. Quarterly Journal
of Experimental Psychology: Human Experimental Psychology, 36A,
Brewin, C. R. (1996). Theoretical foundations of cognitive–behavior therapy
for anxiety and depression. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 33–57.
Briere, J. (2000). Cognitive Distortion Scales professional manual. Odessa,
FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Burns, D. (1980). Feeling good. New York: Morrow.
Burns, D. (1989). The feeling good handbook. New York: Morrow.
Burns, D. (1998). Why are depression and anxiety correlated? A test of tripartite model. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 461–473.
Burns, D. (1999). The feeling good handbook (2nd. ed.). New York:
Chen, Y., Xu, J., Yan, S., Xian, Y., Li, Y., Chang, X., Llang, G. T., & Ma, Z.
(1998). A preliminary study of the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale.
China: Chinese Mental Health, 12, 265–267.
Delfabbro, P. H., & Winefield, A. H. (2000). Predictors of irrational thinking in regular slot machine gamblers. The Journal of Psychology, 134,
DiTomasso, R. A., Martin, D. M., & Kovnat, K. D. (2000). Medical patients
in crisis. In F. M. Dattilio & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive–behavioral
strategies in crisis intervention (pp. 1–23), New York: Guilford Press.
Dobson, K. S., & Breiter, H. J. (1982). Cognitive assessment of depression:
Reliability and validity of three measures. Journal of Abnormal
Psychology, 92, 107–109.
Ellis, A., & Grieger, R. M. (Eds.). (1986). Handbook of rational emotive
therapy. New York: Springer.
Fisher, D., Beech, A., & Browne, K. (1999). Comparison of sex offenders
to nonoffenders on a selected psychological measures. International
Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 43,
Freeman, A., & DeWolf, R. (1990). Woulda, coulda, shoulda. New York:
Freeman, A., & DeWolf, R. (1992). The 10 dumbest mistakes smart people
make and how to avoid them. New York: HarperCollins.
Freeman, A., & Fusco, G. (2000). Treating high arousal: Differentiating
between patients in crisis and crisis prone patients. In F. M. Dattilio &
A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive behavioral strategies in crisis intervention. New York: Guilford Press.
Freeman, A., & Lurie, M. (1994). Depression: A cognitive therapy approach—
a viewer’s manual. New York: Newbridge Professional Programs.
Freeman, A., & Oster, C. (1999). Cognitive behavior therapy. In M. Hersen
& A. S. Bellack (Eds.), Handbook of comparative interventions for
adult disorders (2nd ed., pp. 108–138). New York: Wiley.
Freeman, A., Pretzer, J. C., Fleming, B., & Simon, K. (1990). Clinical
applications of cognitive therapy. New York: Plenum Press.
Hasher, L., & Zacks, R. T. (1979). Automatic processing of fundamental
information. The case of frequency of occurrence. American
Psychologist, 29, 1372–1388.
Hollan, S. D., & Kendall, P. C. (1980). Cognitive self-statements in depression: Development of an automatic thoughts questionnaire. Cognitive
Therapy and Research, 4, 383–395.
Ingram, R. E., Miranda, J., & Segal, Z. V. (1998). Cognitive vulnerability to
depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Kazdin, A. E. (1990). Evaluation of the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire
negative cognitive processes and depression among children.
Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 2, 73–79.
Kendall, P. C. (1992). Healthy thinking. Behavior Therapy, 23, 1–11.
Kessler, R. C., McGonagle, K. A., Zhoa, S., Nelson, C. B., Hughes, M.,
Eshleman, S. et al. (1994). Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSMIII psychiatric disorders in the United States. Results from the National
Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 8–19.
Lefebvre, M. F. (1981). Cognitive distortion and cognitive errors in
depressed psychiatric and low back pain patients. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49, 517–525.
Leiblum, S. R., & Rosen, R. C. (Eds.). (2000). Principles and practice of
sex therapy (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Leyland, S., & Teasdale, J. D. (1996). Depressive thinking: Changes in
schematic mental models of self and world. Psychological Medicine,
2, 1043–1051.
McGrath, M., Cann, S., & Konopasky, R. (1998). New measures of defensiveness, empathy, and cognitive distortions for sexual offenders against
children. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment, 10, 25–36.
Marton, P., & Kutcher, S. (1995). The prevalence of cognitive distortion in
depressed adolescents. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 20,
Mineka, S., Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1998). Comorbidity of anxiety and
unipolar mood disorders. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 377–412.
Nisbett, R., & Wilson, T. (1977). The halo effect. Evidence for unconscious
alteration of judgements. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 35, 250–256.
Oei-Tan, P. S., & Yeoh, A. (1999). Pre-existing antidepressant medication
and outcome of group cognitive–behavioral therapy. Australian and
New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 33, 70–76.
Ohrt, T., & Thorell, L. H. (1999). Ratings of cognitive distortion in major
depression: Changes during treatment and prediction outcome. Nordic
Journal of Psychiatry, 21, 239–244.
Otto, M. W., Fava, M., Penava, S. J., Bless, E. et al. (1997). Life event,
mood, and cognitive predictors of perceived stress before and after
treatment for major depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 21,
Persons, J. B., Davidson, J., & Tompkins, M. A. (2001). Essential components of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. Washington,
D.C: American Psychological Association.
Scogin, F., Hamblin, D., & Beutler, L. (1986). Validity of the Cognitive
Error Questionnaire with depressed and nondepressed older adults.
Psychological Reports, 59(1), 267–272.
Schneider, W., & Shiffrin, R. (1977). Controlled and automatic human
information processing: Detection, search, and attention. Psychological Review, 84, 1–66.
122 Cognitive Distortions
Shafran, R., Teachman, B. A., Kerry, S., & Rachman, S. (1999). A cognitive distortion associated with eating disorders: Thought-shape fusion.
British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38, 167–179.
Smith, T. W., Christensen, A. J., Peck, J. R., & Ward, J. R. (1994). Cognitive
distortion, helplessness, and depressed mood in rheumatoid arthritis:
A four year longitudinal analysis. Health Psychology, 13, 213–217.
Weissman, A. N. (1979). The Dysfunctional Attitude Scale validation study.
Dissertation Abstracts, 40(3-B), 1389–1390.
Weissman, A. N., & Beck, A. T. (1978). Development and validation of
the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale: A preliminary investigation. Paper
presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research
Association, Toronto.
Wertheim, E. H., & Poulakis, Z. (1992). The relationship among the
General Attitude Scale, other dysfunctional cognition measures,
and depressive or bulimic tendencies. Journal of Rational Emotive and
Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 10, 219–233.
Yurica, C. L. (2002). Inventory of Cognitive Distortions: Development and
validation of a psychometric test for the measurement of cognitive
distortions. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Philadelphia College of
Osteopathic Medicine.
Yurica, C. L., & DiTomasso, R. (2001). Inventory of Cognitive Distortions
(ICD). In Inventory of Cognitive Distortions: Development and
validation of a psychometric test for the measurement of cognitive
distortions. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Philadelphia College of
Osteopathic Medicine.
Zaretsky, A. E., Fava, M., Davidson, K. G., & Pava, J. D. (1997).
Are dependency and self criticism risk factors for major depressive
disorders? Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 42, 291–297.
Cognitive Vulnerability
John H. Riskind and David Black
Keywords: cognitive vulnerability, cognitive bias, beliefs, cognitive
Cognitive vulnerabilities are faulty beliefs, cognitive biases,
or structures that are hypothesized to set the stage for later
psychological problems when they arise. They are in place
long before the earliest signs or symptoms of disorder first
appear. These vulnerabilities are typically purported to create specific liabilities to particular psychological disorder
after individuals encounter stressful events, and to maintain
the problems after their onset. Only by addressing these
vulnerabilities can long-term therapeutic improvements
be maintained, and the risk of recurrences or relapse be
reduced. Before further reviewing the roles of cognitive
vulnerability concepts in cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT),
it is necessary first to briefly describe several components of
the CBT model as a whole.
According to CBT, each disorder is associated with
particular cognitive content (e.g., Beck, 1976). To illustrate
with specific examples, the particular cognitive content of
anxiety is associated with an overarching theme of vulnerability to the threat of future harm, whereas the particular
cognitive content of depression is associated with the theme
of past “loss.” Each disorder’s particular cognitive content
is elaborated in the typical “automatic,” stream-ofconsciousness images and thoughts, as well as in the underlying cognitive schemas used as frameworks for selecting,
processing, coding, and interpreting relevant information.
Individuals who are prone to disorders have typically developed maladaptive schemas that cause their ongoing thought
processes to be distorted and subsequent actions to be dysfunctional. Maladaptive schemas distort information processing and generate cognitive biases (e.g., biased memory
and attention for certain stimuli at the expense of others).
The cognitive model of psychopathology in CBT
conceptualizes each distinct syndrome or form of psychological problem in terms of its particular cognitive content.
This concept, known as the “cognitive content specificity”
hypothesis, helps to account for the differences between
each particular syndrome or disorder. The particular
ideational themes, automatic thoughts, schematic biases,
and so on, in each disorder, provide a way of sensibly understanding the links between the phenomenology and symptoms in each disorder and its cognitive underpinnings.
A corollary of the cognitive model of psychopathology
in CBT is that each specific disorder is associated with particular cognitive vulnerabilities. These are hypothesized to
be characterized in content-specific schemas, including sets
of disorder-relevant maladaptive beliefs, which represent
maladaptive generalizations extracted from previous experience. Past developmental experiences (e.g., early emotional
abuse) or negative life events (e.g., severe personal illness)
lead individuals to develop maladaptive concepts, attitudes,
beliefs, or mental rules, for interpreting experiences relevant
to their problems. For example, highly depression-prone
individuals have often learned to construe personal mistakes
as failures and indicators of irreversible personal defects.
Cognitive vulnerabilities are hypothesized to increase the
probability that the individuals will develop future disorders
when exposed to future stressful events (e.g., future mistakes or failures may lead to depression). The term cognitive
vulnerability refers to those cognitive characteristics of
people (such as maladaptive beliefs, attributional patterns,
thought processes, schemas) that increase the likelihood
they will develop future disorders or problems.
In the clinical setting, identifying the cognitive vulnerabilities, or mechanisms for the psychological problems, is
part of a clinical practitioner’s cognitive case conceptualization in CBT, and often anchored in the careful identification
Cognitive Vulnerability
of specific, recurring themes in the patient’s images and
ideation. The practitioner can also identify these cognitive
vulnerabilities by using measures of dysfunctional attitudes,
attributional patterns, or other possible cognitive vulnerability mechanisms. Addressing the automatic thoughts and
images in therapy sessions helps the patient to attain immediate symptomatic relief. To produce durable improvement,
the practitioner needs to identify and modify the cognitive
vulnerabilities (schemas, cognitive biases, beliefs) that put
the patient at risk for the psychological problem.
Today, most investigators recognize that most individuals who are exposed to precipitating stressful events do
not develop clinically significant psychological disorders.
Moreover, the specific disorder that emerges for different
individuals is not determined just by the stressful event
alone (i.e., precipitating stresses do not just occur in conjunction with any one clinical disorder), and is hypothesized
to depend on their particular cognitive vulnerabilities
(Riskind & Alloy, in press). In CBT, cognitive vulnerabilities are hypothesized to help account for not only who is
vulnerable to developing disorders (e. g., individuals with
a particular cognitive style) and when (e.g., after a stress),
but to which disorders they are vulnerable (e.g., depression,
anxiety disorder, eating disorder).
In cognitive theory, cognitive vulnerability factors are
considered potential antecedent causes (distal causes) that
operate toward the beginning of the temporal sequence, distant in time from the first occurrence (or reoccurrence) of
the disorder (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989; Alloy,
Abramson, Raniere, & Dyller, 1999). Proximal cognitions
(such as specific thoughts or images) are typically produced
when people interpret the meaning of stressful events in
terms of their cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., maladaptive
beliefs). Proximal cognitive and emotional responses may
lead to compensatory or defensive behaviors (such as physical avoidance, worry, or thought suppression) that in turn
can reciprocally reinforce or support the continuation of
maladaptive beliefs or other cognitive vulnerabilities.
Several methodological considerations are critical when
evaluating theory and research on cognitive vulnerabilities
(Alloy et al., 1999). Research on cognitive vulnerability
factors requires the use of prospective, longitudinal designs
in which cognitively vulnerable individuals without symptoms are followed over time. Only such longitudinal designs
provide convincing evidence that a hypothesized vulnerability factor temporally precedes the initial onset of a disorder,
or that it precedes future episodes or relapses of the disorder.
Such designs also permit the researcher to test whether the
hypothesized vulnerability factor is more than just a transient
state-manifestation or consequence of the changing symptoms of the disorder.
In a perfect test of a hypothesized cognitive vulnerability factor, a full experimental design would be used in which
participants are assigned on a purely random basis to different experimental conditions of manipulated cognitive
vulnerability (e.g., high versus low) and level of stress
(high versus low). For example, some people would be
experimentally induced to have a cognitive vulnerability to
depression, and then months or years later would be experimentally exposed to a precipitating stressful event. As such
experimental manipulation studies are normally almost
impossible as well as unethical to implement when studying
cognitive vulnerability, researchers almost inevitably rely on
other research designs, including prospective, analogue, and
cross-sectional correlational research designs (Alloy et al.,
Despite containing some elements of experimental
control (i.e., there is at least one experimental manipulation), quasi-experimental designs are not true experiments
because they do not assign participants on a random basis to
one of the key independent variables (i.e., the “quasi-experimental variable”). For example, individuals are not randomly assigned to high-risk (cognitively vulnerable) and
low-risk (nonvulnerable) groups but are “self-selected” to
the groups. Because these cognitive vulnerability groups can
differ on more than the selected characteristic, one may
also be inadvertently selecting individuals for neuroticism,
gender, or other psychopathology that is correlated with the
particular cognitive vulnerability.
Analogue studies (which can use laboratory animals or
nonclinical human participants as proxies for actual clinical
patients) can sometimes have value for testing parts of cognitive vulnerability theories. For example, experimental
manipulations in animal analogue studies have been used to
test potential causal variables featured in the learned helplessness model of depression in humans.
Cross-sectional (case control) studies can be seen
as preliminary tests or sources of hypotheses of potential
vulnerability factors, but cannot rule out the possibility that
scores on vulnerability measures are simply correlates, or
consequences of the disorder, rather than antecedents or
prior vulnerabilities to the disorder (Lewinsohn, Steinmetz,
Larson, & Franklin, 1981).
124 Cognitive Vulnerability
In retrospective studies, participants who currently
suffer from an episode or symptoms of a disorder are asked
to recall information about their cognitive vulnerabilities (or
past stresses) before their first episodes. The major scientific
shortcoming of such designs is that a participant’s recall can
be influenced by forgetting, cognitive biases, or even the
disorder itself. For example, depressed individuals who are
asked to recall past life experiences might exhibit biased
recall of stressful events or past dysfunctional attitudes as a
consequence of their current depressive moods.
Overall, prospective or longitudinal designs provide
the best way to test the merits of hypothesized cognitive
vulnerability factors, and the most preferred of these designs
is the behavioral high-risk design. In this kind of design, the
researcher selects participants who are presently nondisordered because they possess behavioral (or cognitive) characteristics hypothesized to make them vulnerable to
developing a particular disorder in the future. The researcher
then follows these “high-risk” participants prospectively,
along with a comparison group of individuals who score low
on the hypothesized risk factor. Behavioral high-risk designs
allow one to establish the precedence and stability of the
hypothesized cognitive vulnerability factor in individuals
who do not presently possess the disorder of interest.
On the basis of these features, prospective designs can
help to establish both the vulnerability factor’s temporal
precedence and independence from symptoms (Alloy et al.,
1999). An additional reason to prefer prospective studies is
that “high-risk” participants have not yet ever experienced
the clinical disorder. Although other kinds of research
designs are not as convincing, they can provide supplemental evidence for purported cognitive vulnerabilities (Riskind
& Alloy, in press).
Two current researchers, Lauren Alloy and Lyn
Abramson, have played a major role in spearheading the use
of behavioral high-risk designs of cognitive vulnerability.
Their Temple–Wisconsin Cognitive Vulnerability to
Depression (CVD) Project is more advanced in testing
prospective designs than any comparable program of vulnerability research in other disorders, and is an exemplary
program of cognitive vulnerability research. In the case of
other disorders (e.g., anxiety, eating disorders), research has
moved more slowly—but is speeding up.
The Temple–Wisconsin CVD Project (Alloy et al.,
1999, 2003) has provided strong evidence for cognitive vulnerability models. The prospective findings from the CVD
Project are particularly exciting as they seem to be the first
and most clear-cut demonstration that cognitive vulnerabilities (negative cognitive styles) put people at higher risk for
full clinically significant depressive disorders as well as suicidality. The CVD Project has tested both Beck’s cognitive
model, which hypothesizes that dysfunctional attitudes
create a susceptibility to later depression, and the hopelessness model of depression (Abramson et al., 1989), which
proposes that individuals who attribute negative life events
in terms of internal, stable, and global causes are at more
risk for depression. Results from the first 2 –12 years of
follow-up in the CVD Project indicate that these negative
cognitive styles predict prospectively both first onsets and
recurrences of depressive disorders (Alloy et al., 1999,
2003), controlling for initial levels of depression at the start
of the prospective study. Notably, the effect of cognitive vulnerability to depression in conferring higher vulnerability to
later psychological problems was limited to depression, and
no differences were found in the likelihood of first onsets of
anxiety or other psychiatric disorders. The findings of the
CVD project provide especially strong support for the general concept of cognitive vulnerability because the project
used a rigorous prospective research design that controls for
prior history of depression.
Given this evidence for cognitive vulnerability to
depression, it is important to study cognitive vulnerability to
anxiety and other disorders. There has been some research
on anxiety sensitivity (the belief that symptoms of anxiety
themselves have threatening physical and social consequences). Some longitudinal studies have provided evidence
that anxiety sensitivity may be a vulnerability factor in panic
disorder (see Schmidt & Woolaway-Bickel, in press, for a
Similarly, research has found that cognitive vulnerability (a negative cognitive style) called “looming vulnerability” (Riskind, Williams, Gessner, Chrosniak, & Cortina,
2000) functions as a danger schema for the processing of
threat information, and increases the probability that individuals will develop future anxiety and worry symptoms,
but not depression. The concept of looming vulnerability
refers to an anxiety-provoking cognitive style characterized
by a pattern of generating and maintaining images and
mental scenarios of rapidly unfolding and intensifying
Recent cognitive vulnerability research has examined developmental antecedents as well as informationprocessing correlates and personality correlates of
hypothesized cognitive vulnerability factors (Alloy &
Abramson, 1999). Consistent with hypotheses generated
by cognitive theory, there is evidence that cognitive vulnerabilities are associated with particular patterns of developmental antecedents (e.g., parenting, attachment) and
information-processing (e.g., memory) biases associated
Cognitive Vulnerability
with disorders such as depression (Ingram & Ritter, 2000)
and anxiety (Riskind et al., 2000).
Consistent with cognitive theory, some important findings on cognitive vulnerability to depression indicate that
such vulnerabilities are modified by CBT but not by pharmacological intervention. In contrast, scores for automatic
thoughts are likely to abate with depression without reference to whether depression is treated by CBT or pharmacology (Hollon, 2003). Similar studies are needed of the effects
of CBT on cognitive vulnerabilities for other psychological
treatments. Such research offers the promise to clinical
practitioners of better identifying specific mechanisms that
help to maintain psychological problems and create a susceptibility for first and repeated episodes of disorders. This
can lead to more refined treatment strategies in the future.
Finally, knowledge of cognitive vulnerability research provides the practitioner with direction for understanding lack
of progress in treatment, or of subsequent relapse, even
though the practitioner has addressed automatic thoughts.
Unless the underlying mechanisms are altered (e.g., the
depressive attributional style or dysfunctional attitudes, the
anxiety sensitivity), patients’ disturbing ideation is likely to
persist or recur in the face of future precipitating stress.
See also: Cognitive vulnerability to depression
Cognitive vulnerability research can be considered to
play an important role in providing empirical support of the
theoretical underpinnings of CBT, but it is important for
cognitive vulnerability researchers to show the relevance of
their research to cognitive assessment and treatment outcome evaluation in clinical practice. Demonstrating that
CBT decreases patients’ scores on cognitive vulnerabilities
to depression, and that posttreatment on cognitive vulnerabilities are predictive of risk of relapse can go far in this
direction. A past criticism of studies testing the cognitive
vulnerability hypothesis is that the findings may be supportive of the alternative hypothesis that negative cognitive
styles are a consequence or “scar” left by the past episodes
of psychological problems rather than the hypothesis that
negative cognitive styles provide vulnerability to depression. This criticism is now addressed by the CVD project
and other prospective studies.
Another criticism of cognitive vulnerability research is
that most of the work has concentrated on depression. As
noted, cognitive vulnerability research on factors involved
in risk of future anxiety, eating disorders, or schizophrenia
is in need of further development, particularly in terms of
high-risk, behavioral designs.
General knowledge of cognitive vulnerability research
has practical benefits for the clinical practitioner. The legitimacy of cognitive therapy is supported by empirical evidence, not just on treatment outcome, but on the background
principles and assumptions of a cognitive perspective to
psychological problems. Cognitive vulnerability research
comprises an important component of this basic scientific
evidence. A second benefit is that cognitive vulnerability
research offers the future hope for more efficacious
Abramson, L. Y., Metalsky, G. I., & Alloy, L. B. (1989). Hopelessness
depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological
Review, 96, 358–372.
Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (1999). The Temple–Wisconsin Cognitive
Vulnerability to Depression (CVD) project: Conceptual background,
design and methods. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 13,
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Raniere, D., & Dyller, I. (1999). Research
methods in adult psychopathology. In P. C. Kendall, J. N. Butcher, &
G. N. Holmbeck (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in clinical
psychology, (2nd ed., pp. 466–498). New York: Wiley.
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Whitehouse, W. G., Hogan, M. E.,
Panzarella, C., & Rose, D. T. (2003). Prospective incidence of first
onsets and recurrences of depression in individuals at high and low
cognitive risk for depression. Manuscript under editorial review.
Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders.
New York: International Universities Press.
Hollon, S. D. (2003). Does cognitive therapy have an enduring effect?
Cognitive Therapy and Research, 27, 71–75.
Ingram, R. E., & Ritter, J. (2000). Vulnerability to depression: Cognitive
reactivity and parental bonding in high-risk individuals. Journal of
Abnormal Psychology, 109, 588–596.
Riskind, J. H., & Alloy, L. B. (in press). Cognitive vulnerability to
emotional disorders: Theory, design, and methods. In L. B. Alloy &
J. H. Riskind (Eds.), Cognitive vulnerability to emotional disorders.
Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Riskind, J. H., Williams, N. L., Gessner, T., Chrosniak, L. D., & Cortina, J.
(2000). The looming maladaptive style: Anxiety, danger, and
schematic processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
79, 837–852.
Schmidt, N. B., & Woolaway-Bickel, K. (in press). Cognitive vulnerability
to panic disorder. In L. B. Alloy & J. H. Riskind (Eds.), Cognitive
vulnerability to emotional disorders. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Whitehouse, W. G., Hogan, M. E.,
Tashman, N. A., Steinberg, D. L., Rose, D. T., & Donovan, P. (1999).
Depressogenic cognitive styles: Predictive validity, information
126 Cognitive Vulnerability
processing and personality characteristics, and developmental origins.
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 503–531.
Alloy, L. B., & Riskind, J. H. (Eds.). (in press). Cognitive vulnerability to
emotional disorders. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Ingram, R. E., Miranda, J., & Segal, Z. V. (1998). Cognitive vulnerability to
depression, New York: Guilford Press.
Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression
Lauren B. Alloy and Lyn Y. Abramson
Keywords: depression, vulnerability, negative cognitive styles,
Dysfunctional attitudes—A set of attitudes characterized by
the belief that one’s happiness and self-worth depend on
being perfect or on others’ approval
Hopelessness—The expectation that desired outcomes will
not occur or that negative outcomes will occur combined
with the expectation that there is nothing one can do to
change this situation
Inferential feedback—Communications from other people
regarding the causes and consequences of stressful events in
a person’s life
Negative inferential style—A tendency to attribute negative
life events to stable (persisting over time) and global (widespread) causes, to catastrophize about the consequences of
negative life events, and to infer that the occurrence of a
negative event means that one is flawed or worthless
Negative self-schemata—Organized memorial representations of prior knowledge about the self that guide the perception, interpretation, and memory of information relevant
to the self
Rumination—An emotion-regulation strategy involving
perseverative self-focus that is recursive and persistent
Stress-reactive rumination—The tendency to ruminate in
response to stressful life events
Vulnerability—A predisposition to an illness or disorder
Two women are fired from their jobs at the same firm.
One becomes seriously depressed; the other one suffers only
mild discouragement. Why are some people vulnerable to
depression whereas others never seem to become depressed?
From the cognitive perspective, the way people typically
interpret or understand events in their lives, or their cognitive styles, importantly affects whether or not they become
depressed. Two major cognitive theories of depression, the
hopelessness theory (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989)
and Beck’s (1987) theory, are vulnerability–stress models,
in which variability in people’s susceptibility to depression
following stressful life events is understood in terms of differences in cognitive styles that affect how those events are
According to the hopelessness theory (Abramson et al.,
1989), people who exhibit a negative inferential style, characterized by a tendency to attribute negative life events to
stable (persisting over time) and global (widespread) causes
(“it will last forever and affect everything I do”), to catastrophize about the consequences of negative life events,
and to infer that the occurrence of a negative event means
that they are flawed or worthless, are vulnerable to depression when they experience stressful events. Individuals who
exhibit such an inferential style should be more likely than
those who do not to make negative inferences regarding the
causes, consequences, and self-implications of any stressful
event they encounter, thereby increasing the likelihood that
they will develop hopelessness, the proximal cause of
episodes of depression—particularly the subtype of “hopelessness depression.”
Similarly, in Beck’s (1987) theory, negative selfschemata revolving around themes of inadequacy, worthlessness, and loss are hypothesized to contribute vulnerability to
depression. These negative self-schemata are often represented as a set of dysfunctional attitudes in which one’s happiness and self-worth depend on being perfect (“If I fail
partly, it is as bad as being a complete failure”) or on others’
approval (“I am nothing if a person I love doesn’t love me”).
When they experience negative events, people who hold such
dysfunctional attitudes are hypothesized to develop negatively biased perceptions of their self, personal world, and
future (hopelessness), which then lead to depression.
Do negative cognitive styles actually increase people’s
vulnerability to depression? Recent prospective studies have
obtained considerable support for the cognitive vulnerability
hypothesis (see Alloy et al., 1999). In the Temple–
Wisconsin Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression (CVD)
Project (Alloy et al., 1999), nondepressed college freshmen,
with no other mental disorders, were selected to be at
hypothesized high risk (HR) or low risk (LR) for depression
Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression
based on the presence versus absence of negative cognitive
styles. These cognitively HR and LR freshmen were followed every 6 weeks for 2 –12 years and then every 4 months
for an additional 3 years with self-report and structured
interview assessments of stressful life events, cognitions,
and psychopathology.
More than half of the CVD Project sample had no prior
history of clinical depression. Among these participants, the
HR freshmen were more likely than the LR freshmen to
develop a first onset of major depression, minor depression,
and hopelessness depression during the first 2 –12 years of
follow-up and these risk group differences were maintained
even when initial depressive symptoms were controlled
(Alloy et al., 1999). What about those participants who,
though nondepressed at the outset of the study, did have a
prior history of clinical depression? This subsample allows
a test of whether the cognitive vulnerability hypothesis
holds for recurrences of depression, which is important
given that depression usually is a recurrent disorder. Among
participants with past depression, HR freshmen were more
likely than LR freshmen to develop recurrences of major,
minor, and hopelessness depression, and these differences
were also maintained when initial depressive symptoms
were controlled (Alloy et al., 1999). Thus, negative cognitive styles provided risk for both first onsets and recurrences
of clinically significant depression, suggesting that similar
processes may, at least in part, underlie the first and subsequent episodes of depression.
Among the entire CVD Project sample, HR participants were also more likely than LR participants to develop
suicidality, ranging from suicidal thinking to actual suicide
attempts, during the follow-up, even when prior history of
suicidality and other risk factors for suicidality were controlled (Abramson et al., 1998). Moreover, the association
between cognitive vulnerability and the prospective development of suicidality was completely mediated by hopelessness. That is, only those participants who became
hopeless about their futures developed suicidality during the
follow-up period.
According to the cognitive theories of depression,
people with negative cognitive styles are vulnerable to
depression in part because they perceive and recall information about stressful events that has negative implications
for themselves. Thus, we (see Alloy et al., 1999) examined
whether our nondepressed HR participants did, in fact,
process information about themselves more negatively than
LR participants, based on a Self-Referent Information
Processing (SRIP) Task Battery administered at the outset of
the CVD Project. Consistent with prediction, we found
that relative to LR participants, HR participants showed
greater endorsement, faster processing, and better recall
of negative depression-relevant stimuli involving themes
of incompetence, worthlessness, and low motivation.
They were also less likely to process positive depressionrelevant stimuli than were LR participants. Similar negative
biases in information processing about the self have been
obtained among nondepressed individuals who have recovered from a past depression when their cognitive vulnerability is activated by a negative mood state. These findings are
significant because they indicate that negatively biased
information processing previously shown to be characteristic of depressed individuals also occurs among cognitively
vulnerable nondepressed individuals. Moreover, such negatively biased information processing also predicted onsets of
major, minor, and hopelessness depressive episodes during
the 2 –12 -year follow-up of the CVD Project in combination
with cognitive HR status.
Robinson and Alloy (2003) hypothesized that individuals who exhibit negative cognitive styles and who also
tend to ruminate about these negative cognitions in response
to the occurrence of stressful life events (“stress-reactive
rumination”) may be especially vulnerable to depression.
Rumination is an emotion-regulation strategy involving perseverative self-focus that is recursive and persistent.
Robinson and Alloy (2003) reasoned that negative cognitive
styles provide the negative content, but that this negative
content is more likely to lead to depression when it is “on
one’s mind” and recursively rehearsed than when it is not.
Consistent with this hypothesis, they found that negative cognitive styles and stress-reactive rumination measured at
Time 1 of the CVD Project did indeed interact to predict
onsets of major depression and hopelessness depression during the 2 –12 -year follow-up period. HR participants who were
also high in stress-reactive rumination were more likely to
develop major and hopelessness depression episodes than HR
participants who did not tend to ruminate or LR participants
regardless of their levels of stress-reactive rumination.
The CVD Project results are important because they
provide the first and clearest demonstration that negative
cognitive styles, information processing, and rumination,
or for that matter, any psychological vulnerability factor,
confer vulnerability to full-blown, clinically significant
depressive episodes. This is noteworthy because a criticism
of the cognitive theories of depression is that they apply
only to mild depression. In the case of the participants
with no prior history of depression, these findings provide
especially strong support for the cognitive vulnerability
hypothesis because they are based on a truly prospective
test, uncontaminated by prior history of depression.
If negative cognitive styles do confer vulnerability to
depression, then it is important to understand how these
128 Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression
styles develop. In the CVD Project, we also studied HR and
LR participants’ parents as well as the participants’ early
developmental experiences (Alloy et al., 2003). Our findings
suggest several potential antecedents of negative cognitive
styles. Mothers of HR participants had greater histories of
depression than mothers of LR participants. This could
occur due to shared genetic risk for depression or to learning of negative cognitive styles from parents. Children’s
cognitive styles may develop in part through modeling of
their parents’ cognitive styles or through parental inferential
feedback regarding the causes and consequences of negative
events in the child’s life. In the CVD Project, mothers of HR
individuals had more dysfunctional attitudes, but not more
negative inferential styles, than mothers of LR individuals,
even after controlling for the mothers’ levels of depressive
symptoms. Fathers’ cognitive styles did not differ for HR
and LR participants (Alloy et al., 2003). Similarly, other
studies have obtained only limited support for the modeling
hypothesis (see Alloy et al., 2003, for a review).
In contrast, studies have provided more consistent
support for the hypothesis that negative inferential feedback
from parents and others may contribute to children’s development of negative cognitive styles (Alloy et al., 2003).
For example, in the CVD Project, according to both participants’ and parents’ reports, mothers and fathers of HR individuals provided more negative attributional (stable, global)
and consequence feedback for negative events in their
child’s life than did the parents of LR individuals. Moreover,
parents’ inferential feedback predicted their child’s likelihood of developing a depressive episode during the 2.5-year
follow-up, mediated in part by the child’s cognitive risk
status (Alloy et al., 2003).
In addition to parental inferential feedback, negative
parenting practices may also contribute to the development
of cognitive vulnerability to depression. In particular, a
parenting style involving lack of emotional warmth and negative psychological control (criticism, intrusiveness, and
guilt-induction), has been most consistently implicated in
the association between children’s risk for depression and
parent–child relations (see Alloy et al., 2003, for a review).
In the CVD Project, negative cognitive styles (HR status)
were associated with low emotional warmth from participants’ fathers, whereas a tendency to ruminate was associated
with high negative psychological control from both parents
(Alloy et al., 2003). Low emotional warmth from fathers and
high psychological control from both parents predicted
prospective onsets of depression among the participants,
mediated, at least in part, by participants’ negative cognitive
styles. Thus, both low emotional warmth and overcontrolling
parenting may be related to offspring’s cognitive vulnerability to depression, through the alternative mechanisms of
negative cognitive styles and ruminative styles, respectively.
Rose and Abramson (1992) argued that a history of
maltreatment, particularly emotional abuse, may also contribute to cognitive vulnerability because in emotional
abuse, the abuser by definition supplies negative cognitions
to the victim (e.g., “You’re so stupid; you’ll never amount to
anything”). Consistent with this formulation, in the CVD
Project, HR participants reported a greater history of emotional (but not physical or sexual) abuse than LR participants (Alloy et al., 2003). This was true for emotional
maltreatment by nonrelatives (peers, boyfriends/girlfriends)
as well as for emotional abuse by parents. Moreover, a history of childhood emotional abuse predicted onsets of major
and hopelessness depression episodes during follow-up,
mediated by participants’ negative cognitive styles and
ruminative styles (see Alloy et al., 2003). To provide initial
support for a potentially causal role of emotional maltreatment in the development of negative cognitive styles, we
(see Alloy et al., 2003) examined the role of emotional
maltreatment in predicting change in attributional style over
a 6-month period in children. Emotional maltreatment
occurring during the 6-month follow-up, as well as in the
6 months prior to Time 1, predicted change in children’s
attributional styles over the follow-up. The more emotional
abuse a child experienced, the more negative his or her attributional style became. These findings suggest that emotional maltreatment may be predictive of and, at least, show
temporal precedence with respect to the development of
some negative cognitive styles. Thus, emotional criticism
and rejection from significant others, such as parents, teachers, and peers, may provide a psychological environment
that promotes the development of depressogenic cognitive
styles whether it is expressed indirectly through provision of
negative inferential feedback or lack of affection or directly
through explicitly abusive language (Alloy et al., 2003).
What has the work on cognitive vulnerability to depression taught us? That negative cognitive styles confer
increased risk for clinically significant depressive disorders
not only provides the first demonstration of a psychological
vulnerability to depression, but suggests that purely biological approaches to understanding depression are likely to fall
short. Indeed, our recent research indicates that even bipolar
spectrum mood disorders (manic-depression, cyclothymia),
which have traditionally been viewed as almost entirely
genetic in origin, may also be influenced by cognitive styles
for interpreting life events. Both hypomanic/manic and
depressive symptoms among bipolar individuals were predicted prospectively by individuals’ cognitive styles and
information processing in interaction with the occurrence of
Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression
intervening life events (Reilly-Harrington, Alloy, Fresco, &
Whitehouse, 1999).
More broadly, the work on cognitive vulnerability to
depression suggests that the content of one’s thinking may
profoundly affect one’s health. The notion that mental contents influence physical health has been highly controversial
and the present findings add to the growing body of research
indicating that pessimistic versus optimistic thinking predicts, and possibly contributes to, poor health.
A limitation of the CVD Project and a key issue for the
cognitive theories of depression in general is the need to
demonstrate that negative cognitive styles not only predict
depression prospectively, but also contribute causally to
their onset. Such a demonstration would require, in addition,
that manipulations of cognitive vulnerability lead to corresponding changes in the likelihood of depression onset.
Consistent with a potential causal role for cognitive vulnerability to depression, DeRubeis and Hollon (1995) reported
that decreases in depressed patients’ negative cognitive
styles following cognitive therapy for depression predicted
corresponding reductions in relapse of depression.
Specifically, depressed patients successfully treated with
cognitive therapy were less likely to suffer relapses of
depression, and the reduced relapse rate was mediated by
the therapy’s effect on decreasing patients’ stable and global
styles for inferring causes of negative events. Similarly,
Gillham, Reivich, Jaycox, and Seligman (1995) delivered a
12-week cognitive therapy-based preventive intervention to
school children that was designed to teach the children to
adopt more adaptive beliefs about themselves and to replace
negative explanations for their successes and failures with
more optimistic ones. At a 1-year follow-up, only about 7%
of the children in the prevention group reported high levels
of depressive symptoms compared to nearly 30% of the control group. Inasmuch as disagreement exists about whether
cognitive therapy works by remediating negative cognitive
styles or by providing compensatory skills for overriding the
effects of such styles (DeRubeis & Hollon, 1995), future
studies must find a way to directly manipulate cognitive styles in order to more clearly test the causal role of
these styles for depression onset.
In addition, the developmentally relevant findings from
the CVD Project are mostly retrospective. Thus, they may be
seen as providing a conceptual and empirical basis for further investigations of the development of cognitive vulnerability to depression. Future studies, particularly prospective
studies beginning earlier in childhood, should devote considerable attention to the role of negative parenting practices
and inferential feedback, as well as emotional abuse from parents and peers, as important contributors to the development of
cognitive vulnerability to depression and to depression itself.
See also: Cognitive vulnerability
Abramson, L. Y., Alloy, L. B., Hogan, M. E., Whitehouse, W. G.,
Cornette, M., Akhavan, S., & Chiara, A. (1998). Suicidality and
cognitive vulnerability to depression among college students: A
prospective study. Journal of Adolescence, 21, 157–171.
Abramson, L. Y., Metalsky, G. I., & Alloy, L. B. (1989). Hopelessness
depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological
Review, 96, 358–372.
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Gibb, B. E., Crossfield, A. G., Pieracci, A. M.,
Spasojevic, J., & Steinberg, J. (2003). Developmental antecedents of
cognitive vulnerability to depression: Review of findings from the
Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression (CVD) Project. Manuscript
under editorial review.
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Whitehouse, W. G., Hogan, M. E.,
Tashman, N. A., Steinberg, D. L., Rose, D. T., & Donovan, P. (1999).
Depressogenic cognitive styles: Predictive validity, information
processing and personality characteristics, and developmental origins.
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 503–531.
Beck, A. T. (1987). Cognitive models of depression. Journal of Cognitive
Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 1, 5–37.
DeRubeis, R. J., & Hollon, S. D. (1995). Explanatory style in the treatment
of depression. In G. M. Buchanan & M. E. P. Seligman (Eds.),
Explanatory style (pp. 99–111). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K. J., Jaycox, L. H., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1995).
Prevention of depressive symptoms in school-children: Two-year
follow-up. Psychological Science, 6, 343–351.
Reilly-Harrington, N. A., Alloy, L. B., Fresco, D. M., & Whitehouse, W. G.
(1999). Cognitive styles and life events interact to predict bipolar and
unipolar symptomatology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108,
Robinson, M. S., & Alloy, L. B. (2003). Negative cognitive styles and
stress-reactive rumination interact to predict depression: A prospective
study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 27, 275–291.
Rose, D. T., & Abramson, L. Y. (1992). Developmental predictors of
depressive cognitive style: Research and theory. In D. Cicchetti &
S. L. Toth (Eds.), Rochester symposium on developmental psychopathology (Vol. 4, pp. 323–349). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Abramson, L. Y., Alloy, L. B., Hankin, B. L., Haeffel, G. J., MacCoon, D. G.,
& Gibb, B. E. (2002). Cognitive vulnerability–stress models of
depression in a self-regulatory and psychobiological context. In
I. H. Gotlib & C. L. Hammen (Eds.), Handbook of depression (3rd ed.,
pp. 268–294). New York: Guilford Press.
Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Whitehouse, W. G., Hogan, M. E.,
Tashman, N. A., Steinberg, D. L., Rose, D. T., & Donovan, P. (1999).
Depressogenic cognitive styles: Predictive validity, information
processing and personality characteristics, and developmental origins.
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 503–531.
Ingram, R. E., Miranda, J., & Segal, Z. V. (1998). Cognitive vulnerability to
depression. New York: Guilford Press.
130 Computer Programs for Cognitive—Behavior Therapy
Computer Programs for
Cognitive–Behavior Therapy
Jesse H. Wright and D. Kristen Small
Keywords: computers, computer-based therapy, treatment for
The first computer programs for cognitive–behavior therapy
(CBT) were developed in the 1980s by teams of investigators in the United Kingdom (Carr, Ghosh, & Marks, 1988;
Ghosh, Marks, & Carr, 1984) and the United States (Selmi,
Klein, Greist, & Harris, 1982; Selmi, Klein, Greist, Sorrell,
& Erdman, 1990). Using the computer technology of the
time, these researchers produced programs that relied on
written text, checklists, and multiple-choice questions for
communication with the patient. More recently developed
computer tools for CBT have incorporated multimedia, virtual reality, hand-held devices, or other methods to rapidly
engage the user and stimulate learning (Newman, Kenardy,
Herman, & Taylor, 1997; Rothbaum et al., 1995; Rothbaum,
Hodges, Ready, Graap, & Alarcon, 2001; Wright & Wright,
1997; Wright et al., 2002). Computer programs have been
tested and found to be useful for a variety of Axis I disorders
including depression, simple phobia, agoraphobia, and
PTSD (Ghosh et al., 1984; Gruber, Moran, Roth, & Taylor,
2001; Proudfoot et al., 2003; Rothbaum et al., 1995, 2001.
Some of the potential advantages of using computer
programs as a component of psychotherapy are that they
may provide innovative and effective learning experiences,
reduce the cost of treatment, increase access to CBT, and
help therapists and patients reach treatment goals more rapidly or efficiently (Greist, 1998; Marks, Shaw, & Parkin,
1998; Wright & Wright, 1997). Because computers have the
ability to store and analyze large amounts of data, give systematic feedback, and measure progress, they may extend
the ability of the clinician to monitor and direct the course
of therapy. In addition, computer programs have the capacity to immerse the patient in learning situations that could
not be easily re-created in standard, clinician-administered
therapy. For example, virtual reality can be used to effectively mimic the cues of feared situations, while multimedia
programs can use emotionally charged video and audio to
stimulate patient cognitions.
The author may receive a portion of profits from sales of Good Days Ahead,
a computer program described in this article. A portion of profits from sales
of Good Days Ahead is donated to the Foundation for Cognitive Therapy
and Research and the Norton Foundation.
Computer tools for psychotherapy also have significant
liabilities in comparison to human therapists. Early in the
history of computer-assisted therapy, there were attempts to
develop programs that conducted interviews using typical
therapist–patient dialogue (often termed “natural language”)
(Colby, Watt, & Gilbert, 1966; Weizenbaum, 1966).
However, these efforts were fraught with problems such as
miscommunications and negative reactions of patients
(O’Dell & Dickson, 1984). Thus, developers of computer
programs for CBT have steered away from “natural language” programming. Instead of trying to replicate therapist–patient communication, authors of CBT programs have
focused on using the unique strengths of computers to provide psychoeducation, involve patients in self-directed
exposure, promote cognitive restructuring, and encourage
use of other CBT methods.
CBT computer programs are typically designed by
highly experienced cognitive–behavior therapists and contain the core methods of empirically studied treatments.
They provide supportive feedback to users, reinforce selfmonitoring, and assign homework. However, they cannot be
programmed (at least with current technology and
resources) to have the wisdom, flexibility, creativity, and
empathy of human therapists (Nadelson, 1987; Wright &
Wright, 1997). Most programs are designed to deliver specific elements of CBT for a targeted disorder or symptom
(e.g., exposure therapy for phobia, cognitive and behavioral
interventions for depression) and thus are not able to perform full diagnostic assessments, evaluate suicide risk, or
deliver treatment for a wide range of problems. Because of
these limitations, clinical applications of computer-assisted
CBT typically include assessment, monitoring, and direction from a clinician.
All computer programs developed to date for CBT
have been designed to reduce therapist contact to some
degree. In some applications, the clinician’s involvement
has been limited to an initial assessment and minimal monitoring of a computer-based therapy intervention (Ghosh
et al., 1984; Kenwright, Liness, & Marks, 2001; Selmi et al.,
1990). However, many investigators have had more modest
goals of lowering the requirement for therapist time. For
example, Newman et al. (1997) used a hand-held computer
program to substantially reduce the number of clinicians
required for treatment of panic disorder. Some computer
programs have been produced in “Professional” and
“Consumer” editions (Colby & Colby, 1990; Wright,
Wright, & Beck, 2003). The professional edition is intended
for use in clinical settings under the supervision of a therapist; the consumer version may be recommended for home
use, much like self-help books are commonly used as
adjuncts to CBT. The consumer versions are clearly labeled
as products that are not to be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Computer Programs for Cognitive—Behavior Therapy
Research studies on computer-assisted CBT have
found that computer programs are well accepted by patients
and are usually efficacious in treating symptoms (Greist,
1998; Marks et al., 1998; Wright & Wright, 1997; Wright et
al., 2002). Investigations reviewed below are limited to
those that involved the use of a computer to deliver a significant element of CBT for depression, anxiety disorders, and
eating disorders. Programs developed for habit control and
sex counseling are not included because they were not
designed to augment or provide psychotherapy. Also, interactive voice response (IVR) systems are not discussed.
These interventions use an automated, computer-controlled
telephone system, in addition to manuals and videotapes, to
provide treatment (Griest et al., 2002; Osgood-Hynes et al.,
1998). But, they do not utilize a computer interface to communicate with patients.
An early prototype for computerized exposure therapy
for snake phobia was reported in 1970 by Lang, Melhamed,
and Hart; but the first controlled trial of computer program
designed for a wide range of phobias did not appear until
over a decade later (Ghosh et al., 1984). This software was
based on the book Living with Fear (Marks, 1978). A textonly format was used to provide psychoeducation on exposure therapy, generate a problem list text, and encourage
users to become involved in self-directed exposure. Two
studies with different versions of this software found that
computerized therapy was equivalent to standard clinicianadministered exposure therapy (Carr et al., 1988; Ghosh
et al., 1984).
Another early computer program for CBT was found to
be effective in the treatment of depression (Selmi et al.,
1982, 1990). This program included questionnaires, case
illustrations, and multiple-choice questions to convey
the basics of CBT. Because it was produced for the
DOS operating system and relies completely on text
for communication with patients, it is not being used in
contemporary clinical practice. In a study with mildly to
moderately depressed patients, computer-assisted therapy
with the Selmi et al. (1990) software was observed to be
equal to standard CBT and superior to a wait-list control
The only investigation of computer-assisted therapy for
depression or anxiety disorders that did not show positive
results was reported by Bowers et al. (1993) who tested the
usefulness of Overcoming Depression (Colby & Colby,
1990; Colby, 1995) with depressed inpatients. The
Overcoming Depression software has a few components that
introduce cognitive and behavioral concepts; but unlike
more fully developed programs for CBT (e.g., Proudfoot
et al., 2003; Selmi et al., 1982, 1990; Wright, Salmon,
Wright, & Beck, 1995; Wright et al., 2002, 2003), this
program does not present comprehensive or detailed cognitive–behavioral interventions. Also, Overcoming Depression
is the only currently available software that includes a
“natural language” module. This part of the program
appeared to confuse depressed inpatients in a controlled
study (Bowers et al., 1993; Stuart & LaRue, 1996). In the
investigation by Bowers et al. (1993), computer-assisted
treatment did not significantly improve outcome in hospitalized patients who were receiving other treatments including
medications and milieu therapy.
More recently developed multimedia programs for
computer-assisted therapy have fared much better in randomized, controlled trials. For example, Wright et al. (1995,
2001, 2002) have reported on the development and testing of
software that uses multimedia and a variety of interactive
exercises to assist clinicians in treatment with CBT. This
computer program (Good Days Ahead), like other newer
multimedia software produced by Proudfoot et al. (Beating
the Blues, 2003), is primarily targeted at depression, but also
covers core CBT methods that may be helpful to patients
with anxiety symptoms.
Studies with the Wright et al. program found high
levels of user satisfaction with the software, efficacy that
was equal to standard CBT, and robust effects in improving
measures of automatic thoughts and dysfunctional attitudes
(Wright et al., 2001, 2002). In an investigation of
medication-free patients with major depressive disorder,
both computer-assisted CBT and standard CBT were superior to a wait list control group in relieving symptoms of
depression, even though therapist contact was substantially
reduced in the computer-assisted therapy condition. Good
Days Ahead was originally produced in laser disk format but
is now available on DVD-ROM.
Proudfoot et al. (2003) have reported that another
multimedia program (Beating the Blues) was effective in the
treatment of a group of primary care patients with depression, anxiety, or mixed depression and anxiety. Subjects in
this study were randomly assigned to receive treatment
as usual (TAU) from their primary care practitioner or
TAU plus Beating the Blues. Patients who used the multimedia software had significantly better outcomes than
those who received standard treatment alone. Beating the
Blues was developed and tested in the United Kingdom. It
includes video illustrations of fictional characters, voiceovers, animations, and interactive exercises that teach CBT
Virtual reality programs have been developed for
height phobia (Rothbaum et al., 1995), fear of flying
(Muehlberger, Herrmann, Wiedemann, Ellgring, & Pauli,
2001; Rothbaum et al., 2000), claustrophobia (Botella, Villa,
Banos, Perpina, & Garcia-Palacios, 2000; Wiederhold &
Wiederhold, 2000), social phobia (North, North, & Coble,
1998; Petraub, Slater, & Barker, 2001; Wiederhold &
Wiederhold, 2000), spider phobia (Carlin, Hoffman, &
Weghorst, 1997), agoraphobia (Wiederhold & Wiederhold,
132 Computer Programs for Cognitive—Behavior Therapy
2000), PTSD (Rothbaum et al., 2001), and body image
problems in persons with binge eating disorder (Riva,
Bacchetta, Baruffi, & Molinari, 2002). Applications of
virtual reality technology focus on producing computergenerated simulations of feared objects, situations, or
images that can be used for exposure-based interventions.
Three-dimensional computer graphics, head sets, speakers,
body tracking instruments, and other sensory input devices
are used to immerse patients in realistic scenes such as
glass-enclosed elevators.
In a preliminary study, Rothbaum et al. (1995)
observed that virtual reality exposure therapy (VR) for
height phobia was more effective than a wait-list control
condition. This research group also has reported that VR
was equal to standard exposure therapy and superior to a
wait list in helping persons with fear of flying (Rothbaum
et al., 2000). Another VR application was evaluated in a
small controlled study that compared a multidimensional
treatment approach (including a virtual reality component)
with group CBT for binge eating disorder (Riva et al., 2002).
Subjects in this investigation also received dietary counseling and physical exercise. There were no significant differences found between the groups in reducing binge eating
behavior, but patients treated with VR had significantly
greater improvement in measures of body satisfaction and
self-efficacy (Riva et al., 2002).
Hand-held computers have provided another format
for using computer technology to assist therapists and
patients. Newman et al. (1997) developed a method of using
palmtop computers to shorten CBT for panic disorder by
giving computer-based instructions on self-monitoring,
exposure and response prevention, breathing training, and
positive self-statements. In a study with 20 patients, both
computer-assisted CBT (4 sessions with a clinician plus
hand-held computer program) and standard CBT (12 sessions with a clinician) were found to be effective. Standard
CBT was superior to computer-assisted CBT on some measures at the end of treatment, but both forms of therapy were
equally effective at the follow-up assessment.
Gruber et al. (2001) have reported similar findings
in a study of a hand-held computer program for social
phobia. Their computer program was designed to assist in
group cognitive therapy by reinforcing the material taught
in group sessions, giving prompts to confront fears, involving users in exercises to modify automatic thoughts, and
providing progress reports. In a study comparing standard
group CBT and computer-assisted CBT (with reduced
therapist contact), there were advantages on some measures
for standard therapy at the end of treatment; but at the
follow-up assessment, no differences were found between
the treatments (Gruber et al., 2001).
Another investigation of computer-assisted CBT tested
the usefulness of Fear Fighter, an updated version of a textbased program for phobias (Ghosh et al., 1984; Marks,
1978). The software has been upgraded to include graphic
illustrations and voiceovers, but does not include all features
of fully developed multimedia programs (e.g., Proudfoot
et al., 2003; Wright et al., 1995, 2002). A preliminary,
uncontrolled study found that computer-assisted therapy
with Fear Fighter reduced symptoms of agoraphobia
as effectively as standard clinician-administered CBT
(Kenwright et al., 2001).
Research on computer-assisted CBT has demonstrated
that computer technology has the potential to increase the
efficiency of treatment, decrease cost, and improve access
to empirically tested interventions. However, there have
been a limited number of well-controlled investigations, and
most studies have utilized a small number of subjects.
Larger controlled studies and replications in multiple settings are clearly needed. Broader availability of highly
refined programs with demonstrated efficacy, greater use of
computers throughout society, and pressures to develop
cost-effective treatments could lead to the future growth of
computer-assisted psychotherapy.
See also: Computers and technology
Botella, C., Villa, H., Banos, R., Perpina, C., & Garcia-Palacios, A. (2000).
The treatment of claustrophobia with virtual reality: Changes in other
phobic behaviors not specifically treated. CyberPsychology and
Behavior, 2, 135–141.
Bowers, W., Stuart, S., MacFarlane, R., & Gorman, L. (1993). Use of
computer-administered cognitive-behavior therapy with depressed
inpatients. Depression, 1, 294–299.
Carlin, A. S., Hoffman, H. G., & Weghorst, S. (1997). Virtual reality and
tactile augmentation in the treatment of spider phobia: A case report.
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35, 153–158.
Carr, A. C., Ghosh, A., & Marks, I. M., (1988). Computer-supervised exposure treatment for phobias. Canada Journal of Psychiatry, 33, 112–117.
Colby, K. M. (1995). A computer program using cognitive therapy to treat
depressed patients. Psychiatric Services, 46, 1223–1225.
Colby, K. M., & Colby, P. M. (1990). Overcoming depression. Malibu:
Malibu Artificial Intelligence Works.
Colby, K. M., Watt, J. B., & Gilbert, J. P. (1966). A computer method of
psychotherapy: Preliminary communication. Journal of Nervous and
Mental Disease, 142, 148–152.
Ghosh, A., Marks, I. M., & Carr, A. C. (1984). Controlled study of selfexposure treatment for phobics: preliminary communication. The
Royal Society of Medicine, 77, 483–487.
Griest, J. H. (1998). Computer interviews for depression management.
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 59(Suppl. 16), 20–42.
Greist, J. H., Marks, I. M., Baer, L., Kobak, K. A., Wenzel, K. W.,
Hirsch, M. J., Mantle, J. M., & Clary, C.M. (2002). Behavior
therapy for obsessive–compulsive disorder guided by a computer or by
Computers and Technology
a clinician compared with relaxation as a control. Journal of Clinical
Psychiatry, 63(2), 138–145.
Gruber, K., Moran, P. J., Roth, W. T., & Taylor, C. B. (2001). Computerassisted cognitive behavioral group therapy for social phobia.
Behavior Therapy, 32, 155–165.
Kenwright, M., Liness, S., & Marks, I. (2001). Reducing demands on
clinicians time by offering computer-aided self help for phobia/panic:
Feasibility study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 456–459.
Marks, I., Shaw, S., & Parkin, R. (1998). Computer-aided treatments of
mental health problems. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,
5(2), 151–170.
Muehlberger, A., Herrmann, M. J., Wiedemann, G., Ellgring, H., &
Pauli, P. (2001). Repeated exposure of flight phobics to flights in
virtual reality. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39, 1033–1050.
Nadelson, T. (1987). The inhuman computer/the too-human psychotherapist. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 489–498.
Newman, M. G., Kenardy, J., Herman, S., & Taylor, C. B. (1997).
Comparison of palmtop-computer assisted brief cognitive–behavioral
treatment to cognitive–behavioral treatment for panic disorder.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 178–183.
North, M. M., North, S. M., & Coble, J. R. (1998). Virtual reality therapy:
An effective treatment for phobias. In G. Riva, B. K. Wiederhold, &
E. Molinari (Eds.), Virtual environments in clinical psychology and
neuroscience: Methods and techniques in advanced patient–therapist
interaction (pp. 112–119). Amsterdam: IOS Press.
O’Dell, J. W., & Dickson, J. (1984). Eliza as a “therapeutic tool.”
Computerized Psychotherapy, 40, 942–945.
Osgood-Hynes, D. J., Greist, J. H., Marks, I. M., Baer, L., Heneman, S. W.,
Wenzel, K. W., Manzo, P. A., Parkin, J. R., Spierings, C.J., Dottl, S. L.,
Vitse, H. M. (1998). Self-administered psychotherapy for depression
using a telephone-accessed computer system plus booklets: An open
U.S.–U.K. study. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 59(7), 358–365.
Petraub, D. P., Slater, M., & Barker, C. (2001). An experiment of public
speaking anxiety in response to three different types of virtual audience. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 11, 68–78.
Proudfoot, J., Goldberg, D., Mann, A., Everitt, B., Marks, I., & Gray, J.
(2003). Computerised, interactive, multimedia cognitive behavioural
therapy reduces anxiety and depression in general practice: A
randomised controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 33, 217–227.
Riva, G., Bacchetta, M., Baruffi, M., & Molinari, E. (2002). Virtual-realitybased multidimensional therapy for the treatment of body image
disturbances in binge eating disorders: A preliminary controlled study.
IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine, 6(3),
Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L. F., Kooper, R., Opdyke, D., Williford, J. S.,
& North, M. (1995). Effectiveness of computer-generated (virtual
reality) graded exposure in the treatment of acrophobia. American
Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 626–628.
Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L. F., Ready, D., Graap, K., & Alarcon, R. D.
(2001). Virtual reality exposure therapy for Vietnam veterans with
posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 62,
Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L., Smith, S., Lee, J. H., and Price, L. (2000).
A controlled study of virtual reality exposure therapy for the fear of flying. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 1020–1026.
Selmi, P. M., Klein, M. H., Greist, J. H., & Harris, W. G. (1982). An investigation of computer-assisted cognitive–behavior therapy in the treatment of depression. Behavior Research Methods and Instruments, 14,
Selmi, P. M., Klein, M. H., Greist, J. H., Sorrell, S. P., & Erdman, H. P.
(1990). Computer-administered cognitive-behavioral therapy for
depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 51–56.
Stuart, S., & LaRue, S. (1996). Computerized cognitive therapy: The interface between man and machine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy,
10, 181–191.
Weizenbaum, J. (1996). Computational linguistics. Communications of the
ACM, 9, 36–45.
Wiederhold, B. K., & Wiederhold, M. D. (2000). Lessons learned from 600
virtual reality sessions. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 3, 393–400.
Wilson, P. H., Goldin, J. C., & Charbonneau-Powis, M. (1983).
Comparative efficacy of behavioral and cognitive treatments of
depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7(2), 111–124.
Wright, J. H., Salmon, P., Wright, A. S., & Beck, A. T. (1995). Cognitive
therapy: A multimedia learning program. Louisville, KY: Mindstreet.
Wright, J. H., & Wright, A. (1997). Computer assisted psychotherapy.
Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 6, 315–329.
Wright, J. H., Wright, A. S., Basco, M. R., Albano, A. M., Raffield, T.,
Goldsmith, J., & Steiner, P. (2001, July). Controlled trial of computerassisted cognitive therapy for depression. World Congress of
Cognitive Therapy, Vancouver, Canada.
Wright, J. H., Wright, A. S., & Beck, A. T. (2003). Good Days Ahead: The
multimedia program for cognitive therapy. Louisville, KY:
Wright, J. H., Wright, A. S., Salmon, P., Beck, A. T., Kuykendall, J.,
Goldsmith, J., Zickel, M. B. (2002). Development and initial testing of
a multimedia program for computer-assisted cognitive therapy.
American Journal of Psychotherapy, 56(1), 76–86.
Computers and Technology
Bruce M. Gale
Keywords: computers, technology, virtual reality, teletherapy, distance
Evolutionary rather than revolutionary, use of technology
has built on existing theories supporting cognitive–behavioral assessment and treatment. Just as radiologists and surgeons found that new technology tools led to more
efficacious and novel treatments in their fields, mental
health professionals have been discovering innovative
assessment and intervention techniques. By the late 1990s,
many of the barriers preventing widespread use of technology in clinical applications had largely disappeared. This led
to the expansion and “trickle down” effect where technology
tools were no longer the domain of well-funded laboratories
at major universities, but could now be found on portable
systems used by clinicians in small clinic and private practice settings. Equipment and software that was unheard of
in 1985, and that cost $50,000 in 1995, could now be
purchased for under $5000.
Some of the earliest mainstream applications using
technology included the use of biofeedback. Colors and
134 Computers and Technology
sounds from computers changed, signaling to clients that
their minds and bodies had become fully relaxed. As part of
client psychoeducation, practitioners often explained how
the systems operated and that the equipment could not harm
them. This appeared to allay fears for most clients and this
treatment approach has continued through to the present.
Other early uses of computers involved collecting data
on client progress, evaluating outcomes, and using games
to motivate children. However, for most clinicians, this was
more of a conceptual rather than practical application of
technology. Word processors, computerized billing, and
scoring tests comprised the most common applications of
computer technology until the early 1990s.
Since then, the scope of technology applications has
increased at an exponential rate. Many devices currently in
use are more advanced than those described in science fiction novels from earlier decades. Even biofeedback has
become more sophisticated due to the increased types of
biometric monitoring available, level of interactivity
between user and computer, and use of wireless sensors.
These changes provide for more precise measurements, a
greater sense of involvement, and increased comfort.
Technology began to emerge as a mainstream concept
for conducting assessments and providing treatment as a
result of the confluence of several related events: (1) expansion of the Internet for public use in the early 1990s; (2) availability of increasingly powerful yet affordable computers with
user-friendly GUIs (graphical user interfaces); (3) public
acceptance of email as a viable form of communication; and
(4) hardware and software advances in digital video, graphics,
and computer animation.
less relevant areas, clinicians can design surveys to pinpoint
specific clinical concerns without presenting clients with a
seemingly endless array of questions.
The revelation that successful cognitive therapy produces neurochemical changes in the brains of successfully
treated individuals diagnosed with Obsessive–Compulsive
Disorder is consistent with changes reported through medication use (Schwartz, 1996). This served as a significant validation for the cognitive therapy field. As costs further reduce, it
may become more commonplace for clinicians to conduct preand postassessments that include a greater emphasis on
biometric measures. This is consistent with the ongoing trend
to employ treatments based on empirical support.
More recently, information collected by computer has
been mated with sophisticated brain imaging systems. These
scans can effectively map which sections of the brain are
being used while the individual is engaged in a variety of
daily tasks, providing for far more detailed analysis of behavioral and emotional responses. Researchers are currently
attempting to combine the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography
(PET), or magnetoencephalography (MEG) with more complex neurobehavioral tasks to simulate real-life, everyday
experiences. By choosing common everyday tasks, brain
activity can be correlated with eye movements, attention,
decision-making latency, and the effects of stimulus complexity, duration, and factors affecting fatigue, anxiety, or
depression. Researchers can determine not only what cognitive or behavioral changes have occurred, but actually measure a variety of biometric indicators. This has opened the
door for assessing the efficacy of a variety of treatments,
regardless of whether they involve cognitive–behavioral, psychopharmacological, or other treatments for dysfunctions.
Assessment techniques have benefited considerably
from advances in technology. Many advantages using computerized interviewing have been reported. These include
increased consistency in the interview process by asking the
same set of questions in the same manner with standardized
follow-up queries. This has the added benefit of freeing the
therapist from having to conduct lengthy, monotonous interviews to engage in more rewarding therapeutic activities.
Clients have reported preferring computer-based interviews,
since it gives them more time to think about their responses
to questions (Newman, Consol, & Taylor, 1997). For those
with reading or visual deficits, interactive voice response
(IVR) systems allow clients to listen to questions and speak
their response or press a number on a telephone keypad.
Because IVR or computer-administered surveys can be
programmed to include branching, meaning that specific
answers lead to more detailed questioning while skipping
One of the most important advances has been in the
area of virtual reality (VR), which involves real-time computer graphics, tracking devices, and other sensory input
devices to immerse participants in a computer-generated
virtual environment. Early research using VR focused on
treating fear of heights (Rothbaum et al., 1995); however,
this has expanded broadly to other anxiety problems such as
panic disorder, claustrophobia, spider phobia, flying phobia,
social shyness, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Clinicians have also found VR to be a useful adjunctive
tool to help patients tolerate extraordinarily painful treatments by distracting them from perceiving pain and permitting treatment to occur for longer time periods, e.g., skin
grafts for burn victims and changing dressings for leg ulcers.
Other uses of computers and technology have facilitated
Computers and Technology
patients tolerating less painful, but highly anxiety-provoking
treatments, such as chemotherapy. Compared to control
groups, patients who have used these technology-based
interventions report feeling less anticipatory anxiety when
facing such difficult treatments, have less recollection of the
painful or lengthy treatment, and feel more relief once the
treatment is over.
Psychoeducation, an important element of cognitive–
behavioral therapy, has been similarly enhanced using technology. Demonstration projects have been successfully
implemented to train astronauts to consult on-board computer systems for extended-mission space flights to receive
cognitive–behavioral treatment for depression, social isolation, and other related effects of space flight or extended
time on the international space station (Owens, 2002).
Police and the armed forces have successfully created simulated environments to train officers and military personnel to
assess and improve judgment, reaction time, and to tolerate
the effects of harsh conditions.
Technology in clinical treatment addresses some of the
common dilemmas in more traditional therapy settings.
Having individuals practice successful strategies while
spending time in troublesome environments can be expensive or nearly impossible to arrange. Incorporating contentoriented or multimedia practice exercises between sessions
permits clinicians to more closely monitor client followthrough and independent problem-solving outside the therapy
Data and client progress can easily and confidentially
be made available to the clinician through survey software
and online data recording methods. This can create a more
seamless link between practice during and outside the traditional therapy environment. Clients can seek additional
support through Internet discussion boards and chat rooms,
sharing experiences with other affected persons. During therapy sessions, clinicians have made greater use of computers.
Some simply use a word processor to create customized scenarios or practice assignments with clients, while others
employ video or computerized assessment techniques.
Distance learning, telemedicine, and teletherapy have
made treatment more available to more individuals with no
reported reduction in treatment effectiveness. Clients participate while in front of a computer or television with a camera
facing them and usually can interact with the presenter. In a
study of clients who were successfully treated for obesity
using videoconferencing and compared with an identical
face-to-face group, the majority of participants felt they had
been just as successful as they would have been if they
had been in the more traditional face-to-face group (HarveyBerino, 1998). They reported following the class leader and
lessons via videoconferencing without difficulty. The biggest
current problem appeared to be that only half of them felt
they could communicate effectively via videoconferencing,
suggesting that passive participation (one-way communication) was easier than active participation (two-way communication). It is likely that future cognitive therapists will use
more suitable techniques to enhance participants’ sense of
realism and interactivity via videoconferencing.
In a variation merging teletherapy and VR, clients were
able to rehearse strategies and hold conversations with
avatars or “virtual humans,” i.e., animated characters that can
appear to talk and interact. Combined with artificial intelligence, it is possible to produce avatars with distinct personalities that can respond to the client through biometric
monitoring or recognition of word patterns. This represents a
higher-tech variation on an earlier computer approach developed in the 1960s, “ELIZA.” This computer program
provided a sample of person-centered therapy and was based
on statements typed in by the user (Weizenbaum, 1966).
Because so much of the technology still remains new,
and to many, an unproven area, researchers worldwide have
embarked on a peer-review method for researching effectiveness. Even the most useful, established applications
seemed at first to be little more than novel high-tech variations on more traditional approaches. Now as some technologies have matured, researchers are more closely
examining their cost-effectiveness, level of public acceptance, and ways they can provide treatment that would simply not be possible otherwise. In looking at the durability of
technology-based behavioral interventions, initial findings
have supported the long-term efficacy of self-help, computerbased treatment (Gilroy, Kirkby, Daniels, Menzies, &
Montgomery, 2003). A 6-month follow-up on binge eating
disorders comparing a multifactorial treatment, which
included VR, to traditional cognitive therapy found that a
significantly higher number of patients (77% versus 56%)
had quit bingeing after 6 months, with better scores on
psychometric measures and body image scores (Riva,
Bacchetta, Cesa, Conti, & Molinari, 2003).
Such outcome data do not come easily or inexpensively, but are critical to helping the public understand what
works and what is little more than slick packaging. Many
resources on the Internet promote technologies that have
little empirical data to support their efficacy. Clinicians have
an obligation to learn which treatments have been subjected
to study and which are more likely to be unfounded advertisements. The latter may not only fail to help clients, but
may dissuade them from seeking more effective treatment.
The ethical principles ensuring that the public continues to receive useful and safe therapy through technology
136 Computers and Technology
are continuing to evolve. It is clear that, as technology continues to become more interactive and realistic, clinicians
will continue to find useful means for incorporating cognitive approaches into the therapy process.
“As with any new technology or methodology, there is
always a period of conflict and debate as the technology is
tested, assessed, and, if found to be valuable, integrated into
the mainstream” (Romanczyk, 1986, p. 114). Although this
statement was written in the mid-1980s, the controversy continues. Most clinicians were not trained in the use of computers to deliver clinical treatment. Some view it as an
intrusion on face-to-face therapy, while others wholeheartedly embrace as yet unproven methodologies. For the public,
these can be confusing times. Useful web sites that are listed
on the Internet may no longer exist. It can be difficult to tell
whether information comes from objective sources or is little
more than the well-written personal opinions of individuals.
Several areas of key research still need to be identified
before the more cutting-edge forms of technology gain
acceptance (Kaltenthaler et al., 2002). These include:
(1) comparison studies to determine the level of therapist
involvement required when using computer-based cognitive
therapy programs; (2) direct comparison with other adjunctive approaches, such as a bibliotherapy; (3) the types of
patients most likely to benefit from computerized approaches;
(4) more comprehensive measures of the cost-benefit
ratio compared to more traditional cognitive–behavioral
approaches; and (5) how to best standardize the use of
existing technological adjuncts that have proven effective.
Still in its infancy, the use of computers and technology
appears destined to expand into areas that can only be envisioned once new technology becomes available. What is
clear, however, is that the use of technology has provided for
new ways of understanding human behavior. Practitioners
have at their disposal a variety of tools that can now be considered part of mainstream cognitive therapy assessment and
See also: Computer programs for cognitive–behavior therapy
Gilroy, L. J., Kirkby, K. C., Daniels, B. A., Menzies, R. G., &
Montgomery, I. M. (2003). Long-term follow-up of computer-aided
vicarious exposure versus live graded exposure in the treatment of
spider phobia. Behavior Therapy, 34, 65–76.
Harvey-Berino, J. (1998). Changing health behavior via telecommunications technology: Using interactive television to test obesity. Behavior
Therapy, 29, 505–519.
Kaltenthaler, E., Shackley, P., Stevens, K., Beverley, C., Parry, G., &
Chilcott, J. (2002). A systematic review and economic evaluation of
computerized cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety.
Health Technology Assessment, 6, 1–112.
Newman, M. G., Consol, A., & Taylor, C. B. (1997). Computers in assessment and cognitive behavioral treatment of clinical disorders: Anxiety
as a case in point. Behavior Therapy, 28, 211–235.
Owens, L. (2002). A computer-based, self-help system for the space age.
National Space Biomedical Research Institute. News release, June 26,
Riva, G., Bacchetta, M., Cesa, G., Conti, S., & Molinari, E. (2003). Sixmonth follow-up of in-patient experiential cognitive therapy for binge
eating disorders. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6, 251–258.
Romanczyk, R. (1986). Clinical utilization of microcomputer technology.
(p. 114). New York: Pergamon Press.
Rothbaum, B., Hodges, L., Kooper, R., Opdyke, D., Willliford, J. S., &
North, M. (1995). Virtual reality graded exposure in the treatment of
acrophobia: A case report. Behavior Therapy, 29, 505–519.
Schwartz, J. M. (1996). Brain lock: Free yourself from obsessive–
compulsive behavior. New York: HarperCollins.
Weizenbaum, J. (1966). ELIZA—A computer program for the study of
natural language communication between man and machine.
Communications of the ACM, 9, 36–45.
Couple and Family Therapy
Frank M. Dattilio
Keywords: cognitive, behavioral, couples, family, schema
While Albert Ellis has written that he adapted his model of
rational emotive therapy (RET) to work with couples as early
as the late 1950s, little has appeared in the professional literature on cognitive–behavioral marital and family therapy
prior to the 1980s. Principles of behavior modification were
initially applied to interactional patterns of family members
only subsequent to their successful application to couples in
distress. This work with couples was followed by several
single case studies involving the use of family interventions
in treating children’s behavior. For the first time, behaviorists recognized family members as having a highly influential effect on the child’s natural environment and were
integrated into the treatment process.
Several years later, a more refined and comprehensive
style of intervention with the family unit was described in
detail by Patterson, McNeal, Hawkins and Phelps (1967).
Since that time, the professional literature has addressed
applications of behavioral therapy to family systems, with
a strong emphasis on contingency contracting and negotiation strategies as well as environmental reprogramming
Couple and Family Therapy
(Patterson et al., 1967). Its reported applications remain oriented toward families with children who are diagnosed with
specific behavioral problems (Dattilio, 1998a).
The cognitive approach or cognitive component to
behavioral marital and family therapy subsequently received
attention as providing a supplement to behavioral-oriented
couples and family therapy. In addition to the work of Ellis,
an important study by Margolin and Weiss (1978), which
suggested the effectiveness of a cognitive component to
behavioral marital therapy, sparked further investigation of
the use of cognitive techniques with dysfunctional couples
(Dattilio & Padesky, 1990; Epstein & Baucom, 2002). Only
a few studies have actually examined the impact of adding
cognitive restructuring interventions to behavioral protocols, typically by substituting some sessions of cognitive
interventions for behaviorally oriented sessions in order to
maintain equality across the treatments that were compared
(Dattilio & Epstein, 2003). The results suggest that the
combination of cognitive and behavioral interventions was
equally effective as the behavioral conditions, although
cognitively focused interventions tend to produce more cognitive change, while behavioral interventions modify
behavioral interactions (Baucom, Shoham, Mueser, Daiuto, &
Stickle, 1998).
response in the former member. As this cycle continues, the
volatility of the family dynamics escalates, rendering family
members vulnerable to a negative spiral of conflict. As the
number of family members involved increases, so does
the complexity of the dynamics, adding more fuel to the
escalation process.
Cognitive therapy places a heavy emphasis on schema
or what has otherwise been defined as core beliefs. It was
not until much later in his career that Beck applied his theories of schema to couples in his book, Love Is Never Enough
(Beck, 1988). Many of the concepts in this book sparked my
enthusiasm to apply these concepts to my work with
families. As this concept is applied to family treatment, the
therapeutic intervention is based on the assumptions with
which family members interpret and evaluate one another
and the emotions and behaviors that are generated in
response to these cognitions (Dattilio, 2001). While cognitive–behavioral theory does not suggest that cognitive
processes cause all family behavior, it does stress that
cognitive appraisal plays a significant part in the interrelationships existing among events, cognitions, emotions, and
behaviors. With the cognitive component of CBT, restructuring distorted beliefs has a pivotal impact on changing
dysfunctional behaviors and vice versa.
The rational–emotive behavioral approach (REBT) to
couple and family therapy places emphasis on each individual’s perception and interpretation of the events that
occur in the family environment. The theory assumes that
“family members largely create their own world by the
phenomenological view they take of what happens to them.”
The therapy focuses on how particular problems of the family members affect their well-being as a unit. During the
process of therapy, family members are treated as individuals, each of whom subscribes to his or her own particular set
of beliefs and expectations. The role of the couple and family therapist is to help members make the connection that
illogical beliefs and distortions serve as the foundation for
their emotional distress. The cognitive–behavioral approach,
while much like REBT, assumes a different posture by
focusing in greater depth on family interaction patterns and
underlying dynamics.
Consistent and compatible with systems theory, the
cognitive–behavioral model of couples and families
includes the premise that members of a family simultaneously influence and are influenced by each other.
Consequently, a behavior of one family member leads to
behaviors, cognitions, and emotions in other members,
which, in turn, elicit cognitions, behaviors, and emotions in
As stated earlier, early studies in behavior therapy with
couples and families set the pace for more contemporary
research. The use of social exchange theory and operant
learning strategies to facilitate more satisfying interaction
among distressed couples subsequently surfaced in the professional literature. Later, Patterson et al. (1967) applied
operant conditioning and contingency contracting procedures to develop parents’ abilities to control behaviorally
regressive children. It was subsequently that behaviorally
oriented therapists added communication and problemsolving skills training components to their interventions
with couples and families. Research studies confirm the
premise of social exchange theory, indicating that members
of distressed couples exchange more displeasing and less
pleasing behaviors than members of nondistressed relationships and the behavioral interventions (see Epstein &
Baucom, 2002, for a more extensive review).
It was not until the late 1970s that cognitions were
introduced as an auxiliary component of treatment with
behavioral paradigms in couple and family therapy
(Margolin & Weiss, 1978). During the 1980s and 1990s,
cognitive factors became an increasing focus in the couples
research and therapy literature, and cognitions were
addressed in a more direct and systematic way than in the
138 Couple and Family Therapy
other theoretical approaches to family therapy (Dattilio,
1998; Dattilio & Padesky, 1990).
Similarly, behavioral approaches to family therapy
were broadened to include members’ cognitions about one
another. Ellis was also one of the pioneers in introducing a
cognitive approach to family therapy. A more progressive
expression of literature on cognitive–behavior family therapy expanded rapidly throughout the 1980s and 1990s
(Dattilio, 1998).
Epstein (2001) has produced an excellent overview of
the empirical status of CBT with couples. More recently,
Dattilio and Epstein (2003) published an overview of both
couples and family therapy with additional emphasis on
family schema.
Unfortunately, the area of CBT in couples has substantially more quantitative studies than family therapy
(Baucom et al., 1998; Dattilio & Epstein, 2003; Epstein,
2001). The most recent of the family therapy studies include
addressing the treatment of schizophrenia in the early 1980s
as well as those studies conducted by Barrowclough and
Tarrier (1992).
The vast majority of criticisms concerning CBT come
predominantly from the field of marriage and family therapy. CBT was, and in some cases still is, perceived by the
other modalities as lacking depth in dealing with the underlying dynamics of family dysfunction. Moreover, CBFT is
often regarded as being useful only with cases involving
children who have behavioral disorders or family problems,
especially when parenting issues are the focus of treatment.
CBT tends to be viewed by some mental health professionals as rigid, mechanistic, and too wooden in its approach. It
is also the erroneous impression of others that CBT tends to
downplay affect and may be very insensitive to cultural
issues in couples and family therapy. One of the other criticisms is that the more direct treatment posture of CBT has
been viewed as being intrusive. For example, many of
the proponents of system theory tend to view the therapist as
a reflective instrument of change as opposed to maintaining
a more direct style as with CBT. This regard is surprising,
however, particularly in light of the amount of empirical
evidence that the field of CBT maintains in general.
It is hypothesized that much of the criticism of CBT
stems from a lack of knowledge and understanding of what
is entailed in the treatment process. It is anticipated that perhaps with an increased understanding and more balanced
perspective of the approach, many of the existing criticisms
may dissipate with time.
The future of CBT with couples and families appears to
be very promising. The integration of CBT with other
modalities of couples and family therapy is on the rise. It
was actually highlighted in a recent edited text by Dattilio
(1998a), in which CBT was proposed as having strong, integrative potential with many of the 16 different modalities of
couples and family therapy featured in the text. CBT techniques and strategies are very versatile in dealing with contemporary issues of couples and families.
Theoretically, because most approaches to couples and
family therapy involve human intellectual communication, the
majority of therapies may be said to be “cognitive,” or at least
maintain a cognitive component. For similar reasons, most
therapies can be considered behavioral as well because communication and interaction exchange is often behavioral, and
all behaviors are communicative. Because the human condition also involves emotions, most psychotherapies address
emotion to a significant degree. Consequently, any particular
therapy can be viewed through a variety of lenses—as cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and so on. Cognitive–behavior
therapies have even gone a step further and suggested that
behaviors, cognitions, emotions, physiological, and interpersonal components are integrated, so that if any one element
changes during the course of therapy, it has a chain reaction on
the others. It appears that most modalities of psychotherapy
are moving toward an integrative perspective. This clearly
includes the cognitive–behavioral approaches, particularly
with couples and families. Also, the application of CBT with
couples and families of varying cultures is imperative in order
to better understand the cultural strengths and limitations of
CBT in this domain.
Future research in couples and family therapy clearly
needs to focus on examining the application of CBT that has
been so successful with individuals. Certainly, more longterm outcome studies need to be conducted along with studies comparing CBT with other approaches to couples and
family therapy. It would also be interesting to examine the
various characteristics of family members and determine
what might constitute differential responses to treatment as
well as optimal sequences of behavior and the restructuring
of schemas. It would also be helpful for comparative studies
to be conducted in order to isolate the specific characteristics that make CBT effective, and also discover which components are most advantageous for integrative purpose with
other modalities.
Couples Therapy
See also: Couples therapy, Couples therapy—substance abuse
Barrowclough, C., & Tarrier, N. (1992). Families of schizophrenic patients:
Cognitive–behavioral interventions. London: Chapman & Hall.
Baucom, D. H., Shoham, V., Mueser, K. T., Daiuto, A. D., & Stickle, T. R.
(1998). Empirically supported couples and family therapy for adult
problems. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 53–88.
Beck, A. T. (1988). Love is never enough. New York: Harper & Row.
Dattilio, F. M. (Ed.). (1998a). Case studies in couple and family therapy:
Systemic and cognitive perspectives. New York: Guilford Press.
Dattilio, F. M. (1998b). Finding the fit between cognitive–behavioral and
family therapy. The Family Therapy Networker, 22(4), 63–73.
Dattilio, F. M. (2001). Cognitive–behavioral family therapy: Contemporary
myths and misconceptions. Contemporary Family Therapy, 23(1),
Dattilio, F. M., & Epstein, N. B. (2003). Cognitive–behavioral couple and
family therapy. In G. Weeks, T. Sexton, & M. Robbins (Eds.),
Handbook of family therapy: Theory research and practice
(pp. 147–173). New York: Routledge.
Dattilio, F. M., & Padesky, C. A. (1990). Cognitive therapy with couples.
Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Exchange.
Epstein, N. B. (2001). Cognitive–behavioral therapy with couples:
Empirical status. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 15(2), 299–310.
Epstein, N. B., & Baucom, D. H. (2002). Enhanced cognitive–behavioral
therapy for couples: A contextual approach. New York: Guilford
Margolin, G., & Weiss, R. L. (1978). Comparative evaluation of therapeutic components associated with behavioral marital treatments. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 1476–1486.
Patterson, G. R., McNeal, S., Hawkins, N., & Phelps, R. (1967).
Reprogramming the social environment. Journal of Child Psychology
and Psychiatry, 8, 181–195.
Couples Therapy
Brian Baucom
Keywords: couples, relationship therapy, behavioral couples therapy
Cognitive–behavioral couples therapy (CBCT) has been
evolving since the late 1960s when the first study of a behaviorally based treatment for couples was published. The first
behavioral treatments for couples attempted to increase the
frequency of discrete, desired behaviors by using direct reinforcement by partners. Since that time, CBCT has been
refined as couples researchers have developed a better understanding of the ways that couples function and a more detailed
picture of frequent sources of distress. CBCT continues to
evolve with recent interventions focusing on broadening the
scope of case formulations to include emotions, broad
patterns and core themes, and environmental influences on
couples’ relationships as well as incorporating a new class of
therapeutic strategies based on the idea that emotional acceptance on the part of both spouses is highly beneficial to healthy
relationship functioning.
Early behavioral couples interventions drew heavily on
reinforcement theory as well as social exchange theory.
Reinforcement theory suggests that frequent, positive interactions between partners serve as reinforcers that maintain
satisfying relationships and that a lack of such reinforcers is
a hallmark of troubled relationships. Social exchange theory
suggests that individuals compare the ratio of benefits and
costs of their current relationship with the potential benefits
and costs of alternative relationships to determine if they
want to stay in their current relationship. Based on these
understandings of relationship functioning, the primary task
of early behavioral couples therapy (BCT) was to change the
ratio of positive to negative behaviors in an effort to maximize the benefits of the relationship for each spouse. Direct
efforts at changing the ratio of positive to negative behaviors
is known as the strategy of behavior exchange. Stuart (1969)
applied this notion in the first BCT by having spouses make
a list of desired partner behaviors and agree on a corresponding list of reinforcement behaviors.
Therapists soon realized that negotiation was necessary
if any controversial behaviors were to be a part of the
exchange and began to encourage couples to negotiate and
to make contracts for change with each other. Two different
forms of contracting were used: contingency contracting
and good faith contracts. In contingency contracting, partners listed the changes they desired and then negotiated with
their spouses to arrive at an agreement for the desired behavioral change. The agreement specified a contingent relationship between each spouse’s desired behaviors. If one partner
did not keep his or her part of the agreement, then the other
partner may refuse to comply with his or her part. For example, suppose the husband agreed to get home from work at a
given time and the wife agreed to go for a walk each night.
If the husband was able to get home at the scheduled time
that night, then the wife was obligated to go for a walk.
Additionally, if the wife went on a walk one night, then the
husband was obligated to get home from work the next day
by the specified time. If either spouse did not fulfill his or her
end of the bargain, then the other was freed from their
responsibility under the agreement until the original offending spouse behaved in accordance with the contract. In good
faith contracts, on the other hand, each spouse agreed to
change his or her specified behaviors independent of the
other partner’s behaviors. Two contracts were made, one for
the husband and one for the wife. Reinforcing behaviors
were also a component of good faith contracts. There was a
140 Couples Therapy
reward behavior built in to the good faith contract that was
intended to reinforce successful behavioral change, but the
reward was not the behavior under negotiation. In our example above, the husband might get 15 minutes alone with his
newspaper if he came home on time while the wife might
get a special night out with her friends once she had done
five walks with her husband. The major difference between
the two types of contracts is that in good faith contracts,
each partner is responsible for changing his or her behavior
regardless of how his or her partner behaves.
As is implied by the use of reinforcement in both contingency contracting and good faith contracting, BCT views
individual partner’s behaviors not as existing in a vacuum
but rather as being inextricably intertwined, with each
partner’s behaviors simultaneously affecting and being
altered by the other spouse’s behaviors. BCT considers the
antecedents of behaviors and the consequences of behaviors,
in addition to the behaviors themselves, as a very important
part of understanding the way that spouses behave. From a
BCT perspective, it would be impossible to create maximally effective behavioral change without understanding
what precedes the behavior and what happens after it is
exhibited. However, often the important antecedents and
consequences for each spouse’s behavior are the other partner’s behaviors, so BCT views partners as operating within
a reciprocal, causal, behavioral exchange system.
In addition to focusing on behavior exchange, BCT also
places a heavy emphasis on teaching couples the skills they
need to communicate effectively. The importance of effective
communication skills was first emphasized by Liberman in
the early 1970s. Employing observational learning concepts
from social learning theory, Liberman (1970) used role
rehearsal and the modeling of alternative communication
patterns in his work with distressed couples. Early observational studies showed the importance of communication patterns in finding frequent, highly negative interaction patterns
that distinguished distressed couples from satisfied couples
(Gottman, Markman, & Notarius, 1977). Coercion emerged
as a pattern of interaction that is frequent in distressed relationships and particularly destructive to marital satisfaction.
Coercion is the use of aversive techniques, such as nagging or yelling, by one spouse to get the other partner to
make a change in behavior. In a typical coercive interaction,
both partners are reinforced for their behavior. The coercer
is reinforced by getting what he or she wants and the
coerced partner is reinforced since he or she is no longer
subject to the abrasive interaction. There are aspects of coercion that make it highly resistant to efforts to change. In
coercion, individuals are reinforced in an intermittent fashion. Because the coercer is only sometimes able to achieve
the desired behavioral change, persistence on the part of the
coercer is rewarded. Additionally, the abrasive techniques
used by coercers often increase in intensity as the coerced
partner develops a tolerance to the abrasion over time. These
aspects of coercion can result in abrasive behavior occurring
at a higher intensity and lasting for a longer period of time
the more a couple engages in it.
One very common example of coercion is the
demand/withdraw pattern. It occurs when one spouse
actively pursues the other for change while the other partner
simultaneous backs away from the pursuer. Typically wives
are in the demanding role while husbands are in the withdrawing role (Christensen & Heavey, 1990). As in coercion,
the demander typically increases the intensity and duration of
his or her requests in an attempt to get the withdrawer to give
in and change. The withdrawer may respond to increases
in the intensity and duration of demanding behaviors by
going to greater lengths to withdraw from the demander. As
a result, spouses can become polarized with each partner
becoming more extreme in their behaviors in an attempt to
create or to resist change. However, partners persist in their
roles because each gets occasionally reinforced for their
efforts in that the withdrawer may sometimes escape from
demands and the demander may sometimes get a response.
BCT assumes that couples engage in negative interaction
patterns, such as coercion and its example demand/withdraw,
because they lack the necessary communication skills to
effectively ask for change. Based on this assumption, it is possible to improve the communication of couples by teaching
them the skills that they lack. BCT uses didactic instruction,
modeling, and monitored rehearsal to teach communication
skills that are assumed to be adaptive for all couples. Both
speaking and listening skills are taught. Speaker skills include
paraphrasing, asking open-ended questions, behavioral pinpointing, speaking subjectively (for example, using words
that convey feelings), speaking about the partner and the relationship, and using tact and timing. Skills for the listener
include demonstrating acceptance, adopting the speaker’s
perspective, and responding empathically and respectfully
(Epstein & Baucom, 2002).
Studies demonstrated the effectiveness of both behavioral exchange and communication skills training. In an
important early study, couples were randomly assigned to
one of three treatment conditions: behavior exchange, communication skills training, or both behavior exchange and
communication skills training. Results showed that although
all three conditions led to greater satisfaction in spouses, the
combination of behavioral exchange and communication
skills training worked better than either alone (Jacobson,
1984). Researchers thought that these results suggested that
the improvement in reported satisfaction was being driven by
improvements in communication skills. This interpretation
may have been in error. For many of the couples who were
able to learn and effectively engage in the communication
Couples Therapy
skills taught in therapy, the improvements in communication
skills were not statistically related to increases in marital satisfaction (Iverson & Baucom, 1990). Results from other
studies also made BCT researchers question some of their
assumptions about the mechanisms of change in BCT. When
BCT was compared to nonbehaviorally oriented couples
therapies, results indicated that nonbehaviorally oriented
couples therapies were often as efficacious as BCT (Baucom,
Shoham, Mueser, Daiuto, & Stickle, 1998), even though they
did not focus on training communication skills. Additionally,
researchers were able to identify five couple characteristics
that predicted the effectiveness of BCT: younger age, more
commitment to the relationship, more emotional engagement
in the relationship, less traditional roles in the relationship,
and a shared sense of what the relationship would ideally
look like. BCT researchers interpreted these results to mean
that there was something missing from the strategies and
techniques that they were currently using.
Some researchers responded to these findings by giving
increasing attention to the cognitive factors that contribute to
marital distress. These researchers went on to found the field
of cognitive–behavioral couples therapy (CBCT). CBCT
views marital distress as resulting not simply from a lack of
positive reinforcers and a lack of communication skills but
rather as the result of inappropriate information processing
stemming from extreme or distorted interpretations of relationship events and/or unreasonable expectations of how a
relationship should work. A major goal of the CBCT therapist is to help spouses become aware of their information
processing errors and extreme standards, assuming that once
partners are aware of their information processing errors and
extreme relationship standards, positive changes in behaviors
will result (Epstein & Baucom, 2002).
Numerous studies provided empirical support for
CBCT, with findings indicating that CBCT successfully
improved the level of relationship satisfaction for many
couples (Baucom et al., 1998). However, the existence of a
number of notable limitations in the early versions of CBCT
caused researchers and clinicians to continue the evolution of
CBCT. First, CBCT largely ignored broader patterns and
core themes of couples’ relationships, instead opting to focus
on discrete and specific behaviors. Second, there was a major
focus in CBCT on creating deliberate change. Third, CBCT
largely ignored the contribution of environmental factors
to relationship distress. Fourth, an overwhelming focus of
CBCT was on reducing the negative behaviors while much
less attention was given to increasing the positive behaviors.
Recent revisions of CBCT have incorporated additional
theoretical approaches to treating couples in attempting
to address the shortcomings listed above. Epstein and
Baucom’s (2002) Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Couples
Therapy (ECBCT) utilizes a systems perspective in combining
elements from CBCT, emotionally focused couples therapy,
and insight-oriented couples therapy in providing a much
broader perspective on relationship functioning by considering not only cognitions and discrete behaviors but also
including broader patterns and core themes, the developmental stage of the relationship, the role of the environment,
and the role of the individual in his or her adaptation to the
model of couple functioning. In ECBCT, the developmental
stage of a relationship contributes both protective factors
and stressors to the relationship. For example, older couples
are often more financially solvent but are also less able to
accommodate change into their relationship. Similarly, the
environment can contribute both positively and negatively to
a relationship by providing coping resources as well as additional stressors. For example, living in a certain area may
allow a couple to be closer to their families but it may also
be in a place where there are not many job opportunities for
one of the spouses. Greater attention is also given to the role
of the individual in ECBCT. ECBCT is concerned not only
with the role that individual factors, such as motives, personality, and individual psychopathology, play in relationship functioning, but also with helping the individual to
achieve self-actualization by using the relationship as a
vehicle for growth. ECBCT also considers it important not
only to reduce the frequency of negative behaviors and
cognitions but also to increase the frequency of positive
behaviors and cognitions. In terms of actual intervention
techniques, ECBCT maintains the original focus on cognitive restructuring and behavioral change from earlier versions
of CBCT but does so using the broader systems perspective
described above. Due to the recentness of the development
of ECBCT, there is currently no empirical evidence available
for the effectiveness of ECBCT.
Halford, Sanders, and Behren’s (1994) Self-Regulation
Couples Therapy (SRCT) attempts to empower spouses by
teaching them to identify problems and to create change
within themselves in order to enhance their satisfaction with
their relationship. The explicit behavior exchange strategies
of traditional CBCT are not a major focus of SRCT. Rather,
spouses learn to change themselves instead of relying on a
therapist to initiate change. The major role of the SRCT
therapist is to help spouses determine what it is that they
want to change and to teach spouses ways of handling the
problems once they are identified. There are three major
ways that SRCT encourages couples to deal with problems: finding a new way to communicate the problem to the
spouse, altering personal responses to the problematic
behaviors so that it is less personally distressing, and trying
to satisfy unmet needs in a new way. Additionally, much less
time is spent on communication skills training in SRCT than
is spent in traditional CBCT. Instead, SRCT therapists guide
spouses in identifying strengths and weaknesses in their
142 Couples Therapy
communication skills and in setting personal goals for
Preliminary evaluations of SRCT suggest that it is a
promising alternative to traditional CBCT. In a study comparing the effectiveness of SRCT to that of CBCT, the two
therapies were found to produce similar levels of improvement in couple functioning. It is important to note that couples receiving SRCT in this study received an average of
3 sessions while couples receiving CBCT received an average
of 15 sessions (Halford, Osgarby, & Kelly, 1996). Though
more evaluation of SRCT is needed, it appears that it creates
comparable levels of change in relationship functioning to
CBCT and may do so in many fewer sessions.
Jacobson and Christensen (1996) incorporate the idea
of emotional acceptance as a major tenant of Integrative
Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT). They see an increased
ability to accommodate or willingness to change as the
common thread that runs through the five factors that determined better successful response to BCT: younger age,
greater commitment to the relationship, more emotional
engagement, more successfully egalitarian, and similar
ideas of ideal relationship. In BCT, there was no method for
helping couples learn a greater willingness to change if that
was not already part of their relationship. Additionally,
IBCT presumes that the changes needed to address some
problems are at best extremely difficult and at worst simply
impossible. IBCT suggests instead that it is possible to use
the idea of acceptance to alter what was once a source of distress into a vehicle for increased intimacy and closeness,
even if some of the desired changes never take place.
IBCT retains the behavioral exchange strategies and
communication skills training from earlier versions of
CBCT but also uses an entirely new class of techniques
intended to enhance intimacy and relationship functioning
through the use of acceptance. Acceptance can be used to
enhance intimacy through empathic joining around a problem and unified detachment. Empathic joining around a
problem counteracts blame by encouraging empathy and
compassion through reformulating a problem such that both
spouses are able to experience a previously frustrating problem as understandable and to help them communicate that
understanding to one another. Unified detachment encourages couples to step back from their problems and to view
the problem as an “it” by engaging in a detailed description
of the problematic sequence. This process allows couples to
become aware of their problematic patterns and themes
while also providing an opportunity for insight into how
problematic interactions are interrelated. IBCT also seeks to
build tolerance by pointing out the positive features of negative behavior, role-playing negative behavior in the therapy
session, faking negative behavior at home, and encouraging
greater self-care. Some of these strategies for promoting
acceptance are similar to the strategies of emotionally
focused and strategic family therapies.
In an initial study comparing IBCT to BCT (Jacobson,
Christensen, Prince, Cordova, & Eldridge, 2000) and in an
ongoing clinical trial (Christensen et al., 2004), IBCT
appears to result in as much positive relationship change as
BCT does, though there are some important differences to
note in how the change appears to occur (Christensen et al.,
2004). The change in satisfaction by BCT couples was rapid
early on in therapy and then plateaued, while the change in
IBCT couples was slower but steady throughout the course
of treatment. Early follow-up results suggest that IBCT
couples showed greater continuing improvement than BCT
As is indicated by the underlying theories and assumptions of IBCT, SRCT, and ECBCT, cognitive–behavioral couples therapy is headed toward an integrative approach where
additionally complex formulations are used to understand why
particular behaviors are occurring and what their impact on a
relationship is. CBCT’s original focus on altering cognitive
experience and on creating behavior exchange has broadened
to include a focus on emotion. Efforts are also being made to
make CBCT therapies more effective for a wider spectrum
of couples in fewer numbers of sessions. Finally, researchers
and theorists are attempting to increase the duration of
the impact of CBCT. Through continued evolution, CBCT
may be able to produce longer-lasting change for a wider
spectrum of couples with a greater diversity of problems.
See also: Couple and family therapy, Couples therapy—substance
Baucom, D., Shoham, V., Mueser, K., Daiuto, A., & Stickle, T. (1998).
Empirically supported couples and family therapies for adult problems. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 53–88.
Christensen, A., Atkins, D., Berns, S., Wheeler, J., Baucom, D. H., &
Simpson, L. (2004). Traditional versus integrative behavioral couple
therapy for significantly and chronically distressed married couples.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 176–191.
Christensen, A., & Heavey, C. (1990). Gender and social structure in the
demand/withdraw pattern of marital interaction. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 73–81.
Epstein, N., & Baucom, D. (2002). Enhanced cognitive–behavioral therapy
for couples: A contextual approach. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association.
Gottman, J., Markman, H., & Notarius, C. (1977). The topography of marital conflict: A sequential analysis of verbal and nonverbal behavior.
Journal of Marriage and the Family, 39, 461–477.
Halford, K., Osgarby, S., & Kelly, A. (1996). Brief behavioral couples therapy:
A preliminary evaluation. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 25,
Halford, K., Sanders, M., & Behren, J. (1994). Self-regulation in behavioral
couples therapy. Behavior Therapy, 25, 431–452.
Couples Therapy—Substance Abuse
Iverson, A., & Baucom, D. (1990). Behavioral marital therapy outcomes:
Alternative interpretations of the data. Behavior Therapy, 21, 129–138.
Jacobson, N. (1984). A component analysis of behavioral marital therapy:
The relative effectiveness of behavior exchange and problem solving
training. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 52, 295–305.
Jacobson, N., & Christensen, A. (1996). Integrative couple therapy:
Promoting acceptance and change. New York: Norton.
Jacobson, N. S., Christensen, A., Prince, S. E., Cordova, J., & Eldridge, K.
(2000). Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy: An acceptance-based,
promising new treatment for couple discord. Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology, 68(2), 351–355.
Liberman, R. (1970). Behavioral approaches to family and couples therapy.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 40, 106–118.
Stuart, R. (1969). Operant-interpersonal treatment for marital discord.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 33, 675–682.
they are understandably resentful over past transgressions
and skeptical of short-lived changes.
A number of early pioneers (Nathan Azrin in 1973 and
Allan Hedberg in 1974) studied behavioral couples therapy
(BCT) that combined a behavioral contract to reward abstinence and communication and problem-solving training to
reduce relationship problems among male alcoholic patients
and their wives. A second wave of researchers (Timothy
O’Farrell in 1985 and Barbara McCrady in 1986) provided
initial, well-controlled studies of BCT with alcoholism.
More recently in 1996, William Fals-Stewart published the
first study of BCT with primary drug abuse patients.
Couples Therapy—Substance Abuse*
Timothy J. O’Farrell and William
Keywords: alcoholism, drug abuse, couples therapy, behavioral
contracts, communication skills training
Although alcoholism and drug abuse have been historically
viewed as individual problems best treated on an individual
basis, there has been a growing recognition over the last
three decades that couple and family relationship factors
often play a crucial role in the maintenance of substance
misuse. The relationship between substance abuse and couple relationship problems is not unidirectional, with one
consistently causing the other, but rather each can serve as a
precursor to the other, creating a vicious cycle from which
couples that include a partner who abuses drugs or alcohol
often have difficulty escaping.
Viewed from a couple perspective, there are several
antecedent conditions and reinforcing consequences of substance use. Poor communication and problem-solving, arguing, financial stressors, and nagging are common
antecedents to substance use and abuse. When a non-substance-abusing spouse engages in caretaking behaviors during or after episodes of drinking or drug taking, this can
inadvertently reinforce continued substance-using behavior.
Often spouses ignore rather than reinforce abstinence because
* Preparation of this article was supported by grants to the first author from
the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (K02AA0234)
and to the second author from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(R01DA14402)), and by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The purpose of BCT is to build support for abstinence
and to improve relationship functioning among married or
cohabiting individuals seeking help for alcoholism or drug
abuse. The BCT intervention for substance abuse is founded
on two fundamental assumptions. First, family members,
specifically spouses or other intimate partners, can reward
abstinence. Second, reduction of relationship distress and
conflict reduces a very significant set of powerful
antecedents to substance use and relapse, thereby leading to
improved substance use outcomes. See O’Farrell (1993) for
more details.
Building Support for Abstinence with
the Recovery Contract
The therapist, with extensive input from the partners,
develops and has the partners enter into a daily Recovery
Contract (also referred to as a Sobriety Contract). As part of
the contract, partners agree to engage in a daily Sobriety Trust
Discussion, in which the substance-abusing partner states his
or her intent not to drink or use drugs that day (in the tradition
of one day at a time from Alcoholics Anonymous). In turn, the
nonsubstance-abusing partner verbally expresses positive
support for the patient’s efforts to remain sober. For substanceabusing patients who are medically cleared and willing, daily
ingestion of medications designed to support abstinence (e.g.,
naltrexone, disulfiram), witnessed and verbally reinforced by
the nonsubstance-abusing partner, is often a component of and
occurs during the daily Sobriety Trust Discussion. The
nonsubstance-abusing partner records the performance of the
Sobriety Trust Discussion (and consumption of medication, if
applicable) on a daily calendar provided by the therapist. As
part of the Recovery Contract, both partners agree not to
discuss past drinking or drug use or fears of future substance
use when at home (i.e., between scheduled BCT sessions).
This agreement reduces the likelihood of substance-related
144 Couples Therapy—Substance Abuse
conflicts that can trigger relapses. Partners are asked to
reserve such discussions for the BCT sessions, which can
then be monitored and, if needed, mediated by the therapist.
Many contracts also include specific provisions for partners’
regular attendance at self-help meetings (e.g., Alcoholics
Anonymous meetings, Al-Anon), which are also marked on
the provided calendar during the course of treatment.
At the start of each BCT session, the therapist reviews
the calendar to ascertain overall compliance with different
components of the contract. The calendar provides an ongoing record of progress that is rewarded verbally by the therapist at each session. It also provides a visual (and temporal)
record of problems with adherence that can be addressed
each week. When possible, the partners perform behaviors
that are aspects of their Recovery Contract (e.g., Sobriety
Trust Discussion, consumption of abstinence-supporting
medication) in each scheduled BCT session to highlight its
importance and to allow the therapist to observe the behaviors of the partners, providing corrective feedback as needed.
Improving Couple Relationship Functioning
Through the use of standard couple-based behavioral
assignments, BCT also seeks to increase positive feelings,
shared activities, and constructive communication; these relationship factors are viewed as conducive to sobriety. Catch
Your Partner Doing Something Nice has each of the partners
notice and acknowledge one pleasing behavior performed by
their mate each day. In the Caring Day assignment, each partner plans ahead to surprise his or her significant other with a
day when he or she does some special things to show their
caring. Planning and engaging in mutually agreed-upon
Shared Rewarding Activities is important because many substance abusers’ families have ceased engaging in shared pleasing activities; participating in such activities has been
associated with positive recovery outcomes. Each activity
must involve both partners, either as a couple only or with
their children or other adults—and can be performed at or
away from home. Teaching Communication Skills (e.g., paraphrasing, empathizing, validating) can help the substanceabusing patient and his or her partner better address stressors
in their relationship and in their lives as they arise, which also
is viewed as reducing the risk of relapse.
Relapse Prevention and Maintenance
Relapse prevention planning occurs in the final stages
of BCT. At the end of weekly BCT sessions, each couple
completes a Continuing Recovery Plan. This written plan
provides an overview of the couple’s ongoing post-BCT
activities to promote stable sobriety (e.g., continuation of a
daily Sobriety Trust Discussion, attending self-help support
meetings). It also has contingency plans if relapses occur
(e.g., recontacting the therapist, reengaging in self-help
support meetings, contacting a sponsor).
Meta-analytic reviews of randomized studies show
more abstinence with family-involved treatment than with
individual treatment in drug abuse (Stanton & Shadish, 1997)
and in alcoholism (O’Farrell & Fals-Stewart, 2001). Overall
the effect size favoring family-involved treatments over
individual-based treatments was classified as a medium-size
effect. BCT is the family therapy method with the strongest
research support for its effectiveness in substance abuse
(Epstein & McCrady, 1998). Research shows that BCT produces greater abstinence and better relationship functioning
than typical individual-based treatment and reduces social
costs, domestic violence, and emotional problems of the couple’s children. Details of the following studies are provided
elsewhere (O’Farrell & Fals-Stewart, 2000, 2002, 2003).
Primary Clinical Outcomes: Abstinence and
Relationship Functioning
A series of 14 studies have compared substance abuse
and relationship outcomes for substance-abusing patients
treated with BCT or individual counseling. Outcomes have
been measured at 6-month follow-up in earlier studies and at
12–24 months posttreatment in more recent studies. The studies show a fairly consistent pattern of more abstinence and
fewer substance-related problems, happier relationships, and
lower risk of couple separation and divorce for substanceabusing patients who receive BCT than for patients who
receive only more typical individual-based treatment. These
results come from studies with mostly male alcoholic and
drug-abusing patients and one study with female drug-abusing
Social Cost Outcomes and Benefit-to-Cost Ratio
Three BCT studies (two in alcoholism and one in drug
abuse) have examined social costs for substance abuserelated health care, criminal justice system use for substancerelated crimes, and income from illegal sources and public
assistance. The average social costs per case decreased
substantially in the 1–2 years after as compared to the year
before BCT, with cost savings averaging $5000–$6500 per
case. Reduced social costs after BCT saved more than
5 times the cost of delivering BCT, producing a benefit-tocost ratio greater than 5 : 1. Thus, for every dollar spent in
delivering BCT, $5.00 in social costs is saved. In addition,
Couples Therapy—Substance Abuse
BCT was more cost-effective when compared with individual treatment for drug abuse and when compared with interactional couples therapy for alcoholism.
in studies of disulfiram for alcoholic patients and in an
ongoing pilot study of naltrexone with alcoholics.
BCT with Family Members Other Than Spouses
Domestic Violence Outcomes
Two studies with male alcoholics found nearly identical results, indicating that male-to-female violence was significantly reduced in the first and second year after BCT and
that it was nearly eliminated with abstinence. For example,
in the year before BCT, 60% of alcoholic patients had been
violent toward their female partner, five times the comparison sample rate of 12%. In the year after BCT, violence
decreased significantly to 24% of the alcoholic sample but
remained higher than the comparison group. Among remitted alcoholics after BCT, violence prevalence of 12% was
identical to the comparison sample and less than half the
rate among relapsed patients (30%).
Two studies showed that BCT reduced partner violence
and couple conflicts better than individual treatment.
Among male drug-abusing patients, the number reporting
violence in the year after treatment was significantly lower
for BCT than for individual treatment. Among male alcoholic patients, those who participated in BCT reported less
frequent use of maladaptive responses to conflict (e.g.,
yelling, name-calling, threatening to hit, hitting) during
treatment than those who received individual treatment.
Impact of BCT on the Children of Couples
Undergoing BCT
Two studies (one in alcoholism, one in drug abuse)
examined whether BCT for a substance-abusing parent also
has beneficial effects for the children in the family. Results
were the same for children of male alcoholic and male drugabusing fathers. BCT improved children’s functioning in the
year after the parents’ treatment more than did individualbased treatment or couple psychoeducation. Only BCT
showed reduction in the number of children with clinically
significant impairment.
Integrating BCT with Recovery-Related Medication
BCT has been used to increase compliance with a
recovery-related medication. Among male opioid patients
taking naltrexone, BCT patients, compared with their individually treated counterparts, had better naltrexone compliance, greater abstinence, and fewer substance-related
problems. Among HIV-positive drug abusers in an outpatient
drug abuse treatment program, BCT produced better compliance with HIV medications than did treatment as usual.
BCT also has improved compliance with pharmacotherapy
Most BCT studies have examined traditional couples.
However, some recent studies have expanded BCT to include
family members other than spouses. These studies have targeted increased medication compliance as just described. For
example, in the study of BCT and naltrexone with opioid
patients, family members taking part were spouses (66%), parents (25%), and siblings (9%). In the study of BCT and HIV
medications among HIV-positive drug abusers, significant others who took part were: a parent or sibling (67%), a homosexual (12%) or heterosexual (9%) partner, or a roommate (12%).
A few contraindications for BCT should be considered.
The first is current psychosis for either the alcoholic patient
or the family member. The second is an acute risk of severe
family violence with a potential for serious injury or death.
Cases with less severe forms of family violence can be
treated successfully in BCT. In such cases, conflict containment is an explicit goal of the therapy from the outset, and
you will need to take specific steps to avoid violence (for
more details see O’Farrell & Murphy, 2002). Third, couples
for which there is a court-issued restraining order for the
spouses not to have contact with each other should not be
seen together in therapy until the restraining order is lifted or
modified to allow contact in counseling. Finally, if the spouse
also has a current alcohol or drug problem, BCT may not be
effective. In the past, we have often taken the stance that if
both members of a couple have a substance use problem,
then we will not treat them together unless one member of
the couple has been abstinent for at least 90 days. However,
in a recent project we successfully treated over 20 couples
where both the male and female partner had a current alcoholism problem. If both members of the couple want to stop
drinking or if this mutual decision to change can be reached
in the first few sessions, then BCT may be workable.
In terms of future directions, we do need more research
on BCT, to replicate and extend the most recent advances,
especially for women patients and broader family constellations. Research on BCT for couples in which both the male
and female member have a current substance use problem is
particularly needed because prior BCT studies have not
146 Couples Therapy—Substance Abuse
addressed this difficult clinical challenge. Finally, we need
technology transfer so that patients and their families can
benefit from what we have already learned about BCT for
alcoholism and drug abuse.
See also: Addictive behavior—substance abuse, Couple and family
therapy, Relapse prevention
Epstein, E. E., & McCrady, B. S. (1998). Behavioral couples treatment of
alcohol and drug use disorders: Current status and innovations.
Clinical Psychology Review, 18, 689–711.
O’Farrell, T. J. (Ed.). (1993). Treating alcohol problems: Marital and family interventions. New York: Guilford Press.
O’Farrell, T. J., & Fals-Stewart, W. (2000). Behavioral couples therapy for
alcoholism and drug abuse. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 18,
O’Farrell, T. J., & Fals-Stewart, W. (2001). Family-involved alcoholism
treatment: An update. In M. Galanter (Ed.), Recent developments
in alcoholism: Vol. 15. Services research in the era of managed care
(pp. 329–356). New York: Plenum Press.
O’Farrell, T. J., & Fals-Stewart, W. (2002). Behavioral couple and family
therapy with substance abusing patients. Current Psychiatry Reports,
4, 371–376.
O’Farrell, T. J., & Fals-Stewart, W. (2003). Marital and family therapy. In
R. Hester & W. R. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of alcoholism treatment
approaches (3rd ed., pp. 188–212). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn &
O’Farrell, T. J., & Murphy, C. M. (2002). Behavioral couples therapy for
alcoholism and drug abuse: Encountering the problem of domestic
violence. In C. Wekerle & A. M. Wall (Eds.), The violence and addiction equation: Theoretical and clinical issues in substance abuse and
relationship violence (pp. 293–303). New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Stanton, M. D., & Shadish, W. R. (1997). Outcome, attrition, and familycouple treatment for drug abuse: A meta-analysis and review of the
controlled, comparative studies. Psychological Bulletin, 122, 170–191.
Crisis Intervention
Gina M. Fusco
Keywords: crisis, crisis intervention, trauma, psychological distress
The world’s recent traumatic events have introduced the term
crisis not only to working clinicians but also to the mass public. Crisis conjures not only images related to individuals
experiencing psychological distress, but also images related
to the broadly based and broad impact of the traumatic events
of September 11th, war, and terrorism. Society has become
more knowledgeable about trauma, stress reactions, and crisis
intervention. As a means of responding to the many varying
types of crises that occur, specific therapeutic approaches to
manage crisis and stress are a necessary and integral aspect of
general psychotherapy practice.
Slaiku (1990) presents a comprehensive definition of
crisis that outlines key areas of potential intervention. Slaiku
writes that crisis is “a temporary state of upset and disorganization, characterized chiefly by an individual’s inability
to cope with a particular situation using customary methods
of problem-solving, and by the potential for a radically positive or negative outcome” (p. 15). Following Freeman and
Dattilio’s (2000) conceptualization of Slaiku’s definition,
areas of intervention can be clearly defined by focusing on
these specific areas. First, crisis is a temporary or transient
state. However, for some individuals, managing “brushfires”
or being crisis-prone (Freeman & Fusco, 2000) is a way of
life. A second aspect of the definition refers to the patient
responding to a crisis with upset. Upset can be broadened to
include anxiety and depressive reactions, or the more severe
forms of disorganization, such as a brief reactive psychosis.
Disorganization can refer to cognitive, behavioral, or emotional realms. Individuals approach problems in consistent
and predictable patterns. During a crisis, an individual’s
inability to cope refers to the failure of one’s usual coping
repertoire to manage the situation. Their homeostasis has
been disrupted, which may cause usual problem-solving
skills to be compromised. Difficulty processing potential
options does not occur as readily, and cognitive rigidity prevents alternative strategies of coping and managing with the
crisis. Finally, crisis situations can create the potential for
radical positive or negative outcomes. Negative losses associated with crisis are substantial and include threats of loss
of life, loved ones, property, and health. Psychologically, in
the face of crisis, one may experience a loss of self-esteem,
self-efficacy, or deference to others. Although crisis is more
often associated with negative outcomes, positive outcomes
can also occur. Positive outcomes can result from an individual learning to approach problems in a new and different
way, discovering new support systems both internally and
externally, learning about one’s unique strengths, and perhaps experiencing new existential challenges. The clinician,
aware of this very fundamental aspect of a crisis situation,
can foster a patient’s positive experience by acknowledging
the depth and potential for a positive outcome. By providing
a safe, holding environment, the individual can explore and
emotionally process the crisis in a supportive, empathic way.
Freeman and Fusco (2000) differentiate between two
types patients who experience crisis. The first type are
patients who have experienced a traumatic life circumstance
or a man-made or natural disaster. The second type is the
patient for whom awakening to everyday life is fraught with
the potential for crisis, or the crisis-prone patient. Basic
Crisis Intervention
coping strategies are compromised as a result of longstanding
personality patterns. As conceptualized by Millon and Davis
(2000), one’s personality represents the immune system to
manage life’s stressors. If one has experienced ongoing upset,
trauma, or turmoil, basic coping strategies are not formed as
an intrinsic aspect of the personality. The long-term result
is that one becomes prone to experiencing crises and lacks
problem-solving skills. Both patient types can benefit from
crisis intervention strategies based on a cognitive–behavioral
Comprehensive evaluation of a patient in crisis includes
considering diagnoses commensurate with acute stress reactions and posttraumatic stress diagnoses. The DMS-IV-TR
(APA, 2000) identifies several diagnoses that include as a
criterion exposure to a stressor. These include adjustment
disorders, acute stress disorder (ASD), posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), and brief reactive psychosis. Meeting the
criteria for any of these disorders requires the clinician to
consider ongoing treatment. Adjustment disorders present
the least impairment along the continuum and include varying types of reactions (with depression, anxiety, mixed disturbance, and so on). ASD requires the patient to have
experienced, witnessed, or confronted an intense stressor
that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or
even a threat of the physical integrity of the self or others.
Additionally, three main clusters of symptoms must be present. These include the reexperiencing of the event (e.g.,
dreams, flashbacks), avoidance (e.g., things associated with
the trauma, “psychic numbing”), and hyperarousal (e.g.,
hypervigilance, anxiety symptoms). ASD differs from
PTSD in terms of time, onset, and duration of symptoms.
The DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000) defines that ASD symptoms
occur within 2 days of the stressor but no longer than
4 weeks. If symptoms persist beyond 4 weeks, the diagnosis
of PTSD should be considered. Interventions need to
assist the patient to manage the reexperiencing of the event
(coping with flashbacks, grounding), avoidance (graded
exposure, exposure techniques), and hypervigilance
(anxiety-reduction techniques, relaxation).
Crisis intervention treatment involves identifying
relevant automatic thoughts and discerning and manifesting relative schemas. This assists the therapist in examining
the advantages and disadvantages to maintaining schemas,
and introduces ways to dispute/alter held schemas (through
assimilation and accommodation). Overall the immediate
goals of cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) with individuals in crisis include evaluation and assessment of the immediacy of the crisis situation, assessment of the individual’s
coping repertoire to deal with the crisis (defined by their relevant cognitive processes), and the generation of options of
thought, perception, and behavior (includes problem-solving
skills). Specifically, the following details the Five Steps of
Crisis Intervention with CBT (Freeman & Dattilio, 1990).
I. Development of Relationship with the Patient and
a Building of Rapport
Setting of agenda includes introductions, and defining
what overall goals are in the initial assessment, and the possibility of including family members if necessary. The structure of agenda setting is essential in crisis work. Rather than
having the therapy session meander, the therapist must work
with the patient to set an agenda for the session, help to
focus the therapy work, and make better use of time, energy,
and available skills.
Utilize nonjudgmental attitude throughout, and express
empathy through active listening and empathic reframing.
Use of metaphors conveys understanding and helps to
build rapport (black holes, swallowed up, towel wringing,
telescope filter).
Mirror language, voice, and body communications to
assist in building rapport.
Maintain good eye contact with the patient.
Monitor reactions to include not conveying surprise, or
Remain consistent with style (voice inflections, rate of
Setting limits establishes and models structure.
Weave history taking while remaining in the present.
II. Initial Evaluation of Severity of Crisis Situation
During this phase of intervention, specific evaluation
strategies must not only determine the overall conceptualization of the crisis, but also evaluate the safety risk of the patient
and others. The reader is referred to Reinecke (2000) for comprehensive evaluation strategies for high-risk patients.
Assessing Risk to Self and Others. The assessment of
risk to self and others is a complicated, necessary, and often
difficult evaluation process. The therapist directly elicits
information from the patient to assist in defining the overall
level of treatment intervention that will ensure the safety
and physical integrity of the patient and others. Suicidal and
homicidal behavior, threats, or ideation that is undiminished
will require a change in treatment plan to include the
potential for hospitalization, family sessions, psychiatric
148 Crisis Intervention
consultation, emergency services intervention, and commitment (Freeman & Fusco, 2004). Key to successful evaluation of a suicidal or homicidal patient is the understanding
that these thoughts can exist at many different levels.
Thoughts: Refers to individuals experiencing fleeting
thoughts of suicide or homicide. These are relatively
harmless and do not include any intent.
Ideation: Refers to actual ideas about harming oneself
or others. They are more formed ideas rather than fleeting
thoughts. How frequent are the thoughts? How intense?
Cognitive urge: Indicates that the patient is experiencing thoughts to continue the process of planning or moving
forward in momentum to harm themselves or others.
Thoughts such as “how should I go about figuring out how
to do this?” may occur.
Plan: Has the patient established a plan as to how they
may harm themselves or someone else? What are the
specifics involved with the plan? Does it involve others?
Does the patient have access to the plan? If the patient has
identified a plan, it is essential to determine and assess the
actual lethality of the plan (Roberts, 1994). Brent (1987)
demonstrated a strong relationship between the medical
lethality of the plan chosen and suicide intent. Roberts
(1994) writes that in general those plans considered to be
more lethal include concrete, specific, and dangerous methods. Additionally, the author states that “suicidal plans generally reveal the relative risk in that the degree of intent is
typically related to the lethality of the potential method (e.g.,
using a gun or hanging implies higher intent whereas overdosing or cutting implies lower intent” (Roberts, 1994,
p. 70). This, however, is not a blanket statement, as all
suicidal plans have the potential to be lethal and should be
considered as such.
Behavioral urge: Behavioral urges occur when the
patient actually moves from the cognitive realm into
the actual behavioral realm. The person may begin procuring items to complete their plan. A behavioral urge may
include the patient holding and considering their means to
complete their plan (e.g., picking up a bottle of pills and
considering their effects).
Intent: Refers to whether one has the actual intention to
die or harm others. Have they identified that they actually
intend to die or kill someone else? Is the patient experiencing thoughts of hopelessness, a key predictor of suicide?
(Beck & Weishaar, 1986).
Attempt/gesture: Has the patient made an attempt to kill
themselves or someone else? What was the result of the
attempt? What are the patient’s thoughts concerning surviving the attempt? Gestures can be construed either an episode
of self-injury, or a “practice” run to plan a larger attempt.
Second attempt: Patients who have made a prior attempt
are more likely to make a second attempt (Reinecke, 2000).
Impulsivity: At any point along the continuum, if the
patient has a history of impulsivity, which may or may not
include substance abuse, the patient may immediately
progress to actually making an attempt. By its nature, impulsivity increases the risk one may commit an act of harm.
Create an impulse management program to attempt to
decrease impulsivity.
Risk factors: Several risk factors exist that may increase
the likelihood of harm and include social, psychiatric, demographic, and psychological factors (see Reinecke, 2000).
Assist the patient in identifying the specific problem he or
she is having. This is achieved by providing a structured and
reframed synopsis of dilemma(s). As a result of being in crisis, confusion and disorganization often render patients
unable to actually define their problem. Assist the patient to
focus on the specific areas that create problems as opposed to
attempting to deal with the actual symptoms created by the
distress of the crisis (anxiety and depression). A directive
approach identifying specific problems creates fundamental
components of the treatment plan by outlining and identifying options. An actual problem list may help with this.
III. Help the Patient Assess and Mobilize His or
Her Strengths and Resources
Perception of Risk and Resources. To assist in identifying
the patient’s automatic thoughts and underlying schema
related to the crises he or she is experiencing, and the available
resources to cope with the crisis, it is helpful to conceptualize
the crisis as a ratio. A crisis results when one’s perception of
the risk is more powerful or threatening than the perception of
his or her resources. By challenging cognitive distortions that
may overestimate the risk and underestimate their resources,
the patient’s perception of the crisis may then become less
overwhelming and manageable.
Identify support networks: friends, family, church,
EAP, employees, support groups, 12-step groups, sponsors,
Bring support network into sessions. If possible and if
the patient agrees (if emergency, no waiver needed), bring a
support network into the initial evaluation to activate or
challenge held beliefs. For example, if the patient’s schema
includes themes that he or she is incapable of handling a crisis, a family member may assist in challenging this belief.
Assist patients to identify their own internal resources
and strengths which they may be overlooking. The patient
may readily identify held beliefs (I can’t do anything right,
no one loves me, or there’s no hope). These beliefs offer data
and information as to areas to challenge, dispute, or modify.
Call on previous challenges. Patients largely have been
able to overcome stresses and challenges throughout their
lives. Disputing evidence that enforces the belief that they
Crisis Intervention
can manage stress could include reminding the patient they
conquered any one of life’s challenges; maintained employment, completed a course, took care of children, were able
to get themselves dressed or care for their home.
Imagine role model managing problem. Ask the patient
to imagine how someone they respect and admire would
handle the crisis.
IV. Therapist and Patient Must Work Together to
Develop a Positive Plan of Action
This includes the therapist and patient working collaboratively and problem-solving.
Elicit commitment from patient to the plan of action.
A plan of action can be written and given to the patient.
Simple and clear steps to assist in managing the crisis are
integral to successful use of the plan.
Bring supports in to provide backup and motivation to
completion of plan. Supports may also be necessary for the
plan to work.
Advocate for patient. This may include helping the
patient secure ongoing outpatient treatment appointments,
securing needed community resources, or assisting in meeting the patient’s most basic of needs (e.g., housing, medical
care, involving police).
Pros and cons. Problem-solving requires that the
patient consider the pros and cons of crisis management and
attempts new and different behaviors. Identifying current
coping strategies should be followed by suggestions for
alternative type strategies and the pros and cons of adapting
to new options. What are the patient’s automatic thoughts to
each suggestion? What are the impediments?
Use of imagery. Ask patients to imagine completing
their goals, overcoming the crisis, or seeing themselves
attempting and completing stepwise tasks.
Be very concrete and specific in identifying the plan
ahead and the related goals. The more specific, the more the
patient can gain feedback that he or she actually accomplishing something.
V. Test Ideas and New Behaviors
Testing to determine whether the plan is working
allows for adjustments to be made to the plan. Encouraging
the patient to challenge held beliefs about the crisis and the
means of coping with the crisis will require ongoing evaluation to ensure the most effective of interventions are being
Evaluate strategies. What strategies have been identified? Is the patient comfortable in using these strategies?
Are they feeling competent? Are they feeling overwhelmed
with the strategy chosen?
Redefine mechanisms if they are not appropriate. It is
imperative that the expectations of patient and therapist be
appropriate and realistic.
Continue to elicit feedback from the patient and his or
her supports to assist in better definition of goals.
Elicit feedback from supports to help patient gather evidence that he or she is succeeding in their goals.
Several cognitive and behavioral techniques can be used
by the therapist to help to question both the distortions and the
schema that underlie them. These techniques can be taught to
patients to help them respond in more functional ways.
The goals in using behavioral techniques within the
context of CBT are manifold. The first goal is to utilize
direct behavioral strategies and techniques to test dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. A second use of behavioral
techniques is to practice new behaviors as homework.
Certain behaviors can be practiced in the office, and then
practiced at home. Homework can range from behaving and
acting differently, practicing active listening, being verbally
or physically affectionate, or doing things in a new way.
Activity scheduling is especially useful for patients who
have experienced a crisis and are feeling overwhelmed, the
activity schedule can be used to plan more effective time
use. Time can be allotted for both caring for oneself and
completing necessary tasks.
Graded tasks assignments (GTA) involve a shaping
procedure of small sequential steps that lead to the desired
goal. By setting out a task and then arranging the necessary
steps in a hierarchy, patients can be helped to make reasonable progress with a minimum of stress. As patients attempt
each step, the therapist can be available for support and
guidance. As the patient’s coping skills may be compromised by the very crisis itself, small incremental goals will
seem less overwhelming.
Relaxation training. The anxious patient can profit
from relaxation training inasmuch as the anxiety response
and the quieting relaxation response are mutually exclusive.
The relaxation training can be taught in the office and then
practiced by the patient for homework. Relaxation training
can be particularly helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with hyperarousal.
Therapy, of necessity, needs to take place beyond the
confines of the consulting room. Homework for the crisis
patient may be limited to seeking follow-up outpatient
150 Crisis Intervention
therapy, or seeking needed services (housing and the like).
For patients who may remain in brief psychotherapy after a
crisis, it is important for the patient to understand that extension of the therapy work to the nontherapy hours allows for
a greater therapeutic focus. The homework can be either
cognitive or behavioral. It might involve having the patient
complete an activity schedule (an excellent homework for
the first session), complete several DTRs, or try new behaviors. The homework needs to evolve from the session material. The more meaningful and collaborative the homework,
the greater is the likelihood of patient compliance with the
therapeutic regimen.
Imperative to crisis intervention is a thorough and complete evaluation, assessment, and triage of the patient.
Throughout crisis intervention, challenging dysfunctional
beliefs through a myriad of techniques creates options, alternatives, and ultimately fosters hope for the patient. The
method of these challenges is an opportunity for the therapist to utilize creativity and apply the patient’s strengths to
the task set forth. By recognizing the potential for radical
positive or negative outcomes to a crisis, the therapist can
provide the necessary safety and impetus for patients to take
control, adapt, and move forward in their lives.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Beck, A., & Weishaar, M. (1986). Cognitive therapy. Philadelphia: Center
for Cognitive Therapy.
Brent, D. (1987). Correlates of the medical lethality of suicide attempts in
children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry, 26, 87–91.
Freeman, A., & Dattilio, F. (2000). Introduction. In F. Dattilio &
A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive–behavioral strategies in crisis intervention (2nd ed., pp. 1–23). New York: Guilford Press.
Freeman, A., & Fusco, G. (2000). Treating high-arousal patients:
Differentiating patients in crisis and crisis-prone patients. In
F. Dattilio & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive–behavioral strategies
in crisis intervention (2nd ed., pp. 27–58). New York: Guilford Press.
Freeman, A., & Fusco, G. (2004). Borderline personality disorder:
A therapist’s guide to taking control. New York: Norton.
Millon, T., & Davis, R. (2000). Personality disorders in modern life.
New York: Wiley.
Reinecke, M. (2000). Suicide and depression. In F. Dattilio & A. Freeman
(Eds.), Cognitive–behavioral strategies in crisis intervention (2nd ed.,
pp. 84–125). New York: Guilford Press.
Roberts, A. (1994). Crisis intervention handbook. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Slaiku, K. A. (1990). Crisis intervention (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA:
Allyn & Bacon.
Adult Cognitive Therapy (CT)
Mark J. Williams and Robin B. Jarrett
Keywords: depression, treatment, bipolar disorder, chronic depression,
childhood depression
Cognitive–behavior therapy (CBT) is a general term for
psychosocial interventions designed to change responding
and to improve symptoms and quality of life. Historically,
the distinctions among cognitive behavior therapies for
depression concern what type of responding (cognition or
behavior) is targeted to change mood. Behavioral conceptualizations emphasize changing mood by first altering overt
behavior, or its environmental context, while cognitive
conceptualizations assume that in order to change mood or
emotion, one must change associated (antecedent or consequent) cognition. As the field of CBT for mood and other
disorders has evolved, these theories have merged with
less time devoted to discriminating cognition from behavior.
Both approaches focus on stabilizing, increasing, or
decreasing the targets patient and therapist predict will
reduce current depressive symptoms, as well as reduce vulnerability for future depression. Gathering data is standard
within CBT. Interventions are evaluated not only in randomized clinical trials but also within single case studies to
evaluate the extent to which CBT works for a given patient.
There is more than one type of CBT and more than one type
of depression. Some of the best known and studied are
described below.
Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Beck, Rush,
Shaw, & Emery, 1979) is an active, structured, time-limited,
problem-oriented therapy to reduce depressive symptoms
by altering negative views of self, world, and future (the
cognitive triad). Early sessions focus on educating patients
about depression and the cognitive model as well as identifying and testing negative automatic thoughts (i.e., thoughts
correlated with negative mood). Thoughts are then evaluated
through cognitive (logical analysis) and behavioral (hypothesis testing) tasks. Collaboratively, the patient and therapist
determine whether the evidence supports the negative
thoughts. Patients learn to identify logical errors in their
thinking and consider alternative views. Effective treatment
of major depressive disorder may include acute, and when
necessary, continuation, and maintenance phase therapies as
discussed below.
The primary goals of acute-phase CT (A-CT) are to
reduce or eliminate depressive symptoms and acquire skills
that facilitate remission. Researchers have consistently
found A-CT to be more effective than minimal treatment
control conditions and as effective as pharmacotherapy and
other depression-specific psychotherapies in treating adult
outpatients with mild to moderate depression (Depression
Guideline Panel, 1993; Wampold, Minami, Baskin, &
Callen, 2002). Although less studied, CT shows promise
when adapted for use in primary (Schulberg, Katon,
Simon, & Rush, 1998), inpatient (Stuart, Wright, Thase, &
Beck, 1997), and group settings (DeRubeis & Crits-Christoph,
The effectiveness of A-CT for outpatient adults with
severe major depressive disorder (Hamilton Rating Scale for
152 Depression—Adult
Depression [HRSD] ⬎ 19) is a point of contention in the
treatment community. Based on the controversial findings
from the first placebo-controlled trial (Elkin et al., 1989,
1995), the Depression Guideline Panel (1993) recommended
pharmacotherapy as the preferred treatment for severe
depression. In contrast, previous controlled trials (DeRubeis,
Gelfand, Tang, & Simons, 1999) and a recently completed
placebo-controlled trial (DeRubeis, Hollon, Amsterdam, &
Shelton, 2001) have shown no advantage for pharmacotherapy over CT in the treatment of severely depressed adults.
These results, particularly if replicated, suggest that A-CT
may be a viable treatment option for severely depressed
adults. Moreover, A-CT appears to have an enduring preventive effect after it is discontinued that is not shared with pharmacotherapy. In promising studies, patients who responded
to A-CT were about half as likely to relapse as those receiving pharmacotherapy without a continuation-phase antidepressant (Blackburn, Eunson, & Bishop, 1986; Evans et al.,
1992; Simons, Murphy, Levine, & Wetzel, 1986).
Eighty percent of depressive episodes are recurrent and
the risk of future recurrences appears to increase following
each episode (Keller & Boland, 1998) without continuation
and/or maintenance-phase treatments (Angst, 1986; Frank
et al., 1990). The aims of continuation-phase treatment are
to promote remission (a sustained reduction in symptoms)
and to reduce relapse (a continuation of the presenting
episode) following acute-phase treatment. While pharmacotherapy has traditionally been the standard continuationphase treatment (APA, 2000), recent studies have evaluated
the efficacy of continuation-phase CT (C-CT) following
either acute-phase pharmacotherapy or A-CT. Results are
encouraging, suggesting that CT targeting residual symptoms during the continuation phase of treatment reduces the
risk of relapse and perhaps recurrence in depressed adult
outpatients (Fava, Rafanelli, Grandi, Conti, & Belluardo,
1998; Jarrett et al., 2001; Paykel et al., 1999).
Maintenance-phase treatment is provided after recovery (the end of the depressive episode) to prevent recurrence
(a new depressive episode) and to maintain treatment gains.
Although little studied, early data suggest that maintenancephase CT is no less effective than maintenance-phase pharmacotherapy (the current standard of treatment; Blackburn
& Moore, 1997). It may also be an effective adjunct to antidepressant medication for patients who experience a loss of
clinical effectiveness during long-term maintenance pharmacotherapy (Fava, Ruini, Rafanelli, & Grandi, 2002).
Adult Behavior Therapy (BT)
Behavior therapists attempt to elevate mood by improving target response(s) or by changing the low rate of response contingent reinforcement resulting from inadequate
reinforcers, or skills deficits (Bandura, 1977; Ferster, 1973).
Examples of behavioral techniques include activity scheduling, behavioral marital therapy, self-control techniques, social
skills training, and stress management techniques (see
Lewinsohn, Gotlib, & Hautzinger, 1998, for overview of
behavioral techniques). The treatment manual entitled The
Coping with Depression Course outlines strategies often used
in BT with depressed adults and adolescents (Lewinsohn,
Antonuccio, Breckenridge, & Teri, 1984).
Studies have generally found that BT and CT do not
differ in their effects in the treatment of depression (see
reviews by Jarrett & Rush, 1994; Rush & Thase, 1999). A
component analysis showed that the treatment gains achieved
by the behavioral activation component of CT do not differ
from approaches that also target cognition (Jacobson et al.,
1996). If subsequent studies support this finding, and behavioral activation is found to be as effective as CT and pharmacotherapy in treating major depressive disorder and preventing
relapse, this would be significant, as behavioral activation may
be easier to disseminate and implement than classic CT.
When depression lasts 2 years or more, it is considered
chronic. The Cognitive Behavior Analysis System of
Psychotherapy (CBASP) is tailored for adults with chronic
depression. In CBASP, patients learn how their cognitive
and behavioral patterns produce and maintain interpersonal
problems and experiment with new interpersonal behaviors,
and note the associated consequences of the new strategies
(McCullough, 2000). Treatment for Chronic Depression:
Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy
(McCullough, 2000) is the recognized treatment manual.
In a large multisite study, the combination of CBASP
and nefazodone produced significantly higher remission
rates and therapeutic response (73%) compared to either
treatment alone (48%) in the treatment of chronic depression (Keller et al., 2000). These encouraging results have
renewed interest in combined treatments for depression.
Historically, BD has been treated with pharmacotherapy, with less focus on psychosocial factors. However, the
high incidence of recurrence, the persistence of residual
symptoms while patients are on mood-stabilizing medications (Gitlin, Swendsen, Heller, & Hammen, 1995), and
poor medication compliance (Colom et al., 2000) have
promoted research on the psychosocial as well as the somatic
factors in treating BD. CBT treatment manuals for BD
include: Structured Group Psychotherapy for Bipolar
Disorder: The Life Goals Program (Bauer & McBride, 1996)
and Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy for Bipolar Disorder
(Basco & Rush, 1996).
Among the few controlled studies evaluating the effectiveness of CBT as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy for patients
with BD, preliminary results are encouraging (see review by
Scott, 2001). The largest controlled study of CBT to date
(Lam et al., 2003) found that a sample of patients with bipolar illness who received mood-stabilizing medication plus
CBT had significantly fewer relapses, days in bipolar
episodes, hospital admissions, and higher social functioning
compared to controls who receiving pharmacotherapy and
usual care. In addition, CBT participants reported less fluctuation in manic symptoms and better ability to cope with prodromal symptoms than controls. These findings supported
earlier hypotheses that CBT is an effective adjunct to pharmacotherapy in treating patients suffering from bipolar illness.
Research on treatment of child and adolescent depression is increasing. Curry (2001) reviewed the six controlled
CBT studies with children (⬍12 years old), employing highly
structured cognitive or behavioral interventions in a schoolbased setting, and found five of the six studies supported the
efficacy of acute-phase CBT relative to control or alternative
treatment conditions in reducing depressive symptoms, with
no difference between behavioral and cognitive treatment
approaches (studies are cited in Curry, 2001).
There is emerging evidence supporting the efficacy
of acute-phase CBT in treating adolescent depression.
Curry (2001) reviewed nine adolescent studies and found
CBT to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms and
promoting remission in seven studies. CBT was found to
be more effective than wait listing controls in four studies,
more effective than supportive therapy in two studies,
and more effective than family and relaxation therapy
(studies are cited in Curry, 2001). Furthermore, CBT led
to a more rapid reduction in depressive symptoms than alternative treatments (Brent et al., 1997).
Further research is necessary to determine whether the
prophylactic effects of adolescent A-CT following discontinuation are comparable to adult findings, as well as the
indications, optimal frequency, and duration for continuation therapy with adolescents (Curry, 2001). In addition,
large multisite clinical trials are under way comparing the
incremental benefits of combined CBT and pharmacotherapy versus monotherapy (Treatment of Adolescent
Depression Study [TADS]; Treatment of SSRI-Resistant
Depression in Adolescents [TORDIA]) in the treatment of
adolescent depression. Finally, a promising 15-session CT
prevention program was shown to reduce the risk of depression in the offspring of parents with a history of depression
as evidenced by a significantly lower incidence of depression at 15-month follow-up compared to usual care (Clarke
et al., 2001). These results have important treatment ramifications for adolescent patients.
Priorities for future research include conducting rigorous clinical trials with sufficiently large sample sizes to:
replicate promising findings, resolve areas of controversy,
and test innovations in CBT. Representative sampling,
including the understudied, will increase the external validity of future findings.
Preventive strategies for first onset, relapse, and recurrence will remain important priorities for researchers, as
well as the development of flexible psychosocial treatment
algorithms that match the course of the illness, the treatment
setting, and the target group. Several large NIMH-funded
studies are currently under way which may significantly
affect treatment standards for depressed adults (i.e., The
Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression
[STAR*D]) and patients with bipolar disorder (i.e.,
Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder
[STEP-BD]). It is most important to isolate the curative
components of CBT that promote change and to identify the
specific brain–behavior relationships.
Challenges include increasing the application of CBT
across diverse patient groups and treatment settings and
increasing public awareness of the effective boundaries of
the intervention. Public health issues include how best to
train and maintain competent clinicians, design cost-effective treatment delivery systems, and educate consumers
about the benefits of CBT versus other treatment alternatives. Exploiting emerging new technologies (e.g., software
for personal computers, the Internet, and telemedicine)
could be instrumental in the need to disseminate both efficacy data and effective practices in CBT.
See also: Bipolar disorder, Cognitive vulnerability to depression,
Depression and personality disorders—older adults, Depression—
general, Depression—youth, Mood disorders—bipolar disorder,
Problem solving—depression
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Practice guidelines for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder (revision). American
Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 1–50.
154 Depression—Adult
Angst, J. (1986). The course of affective disorders. Psychopathology,
19(Suppl. 2), 47–52.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Basco, M. R., & Rush, A. J. (1996). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for
bipolar disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
Bauer, M. S., & McBride, L. (2003). Structured group psychotherapy for
bipolar disorder; The Life Goals Program (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive
therapy for depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Blackburn, I. M., Eunson, K. M., & Bishop, S. (1986). A two-year naturalistic follow-up of depressed patients treated with cognitive therapy,
pharmacotherapy and a combination of both. Journal of Affective
Disorders, 10, 67–75.
Blackburn, I. M., & Moore, R. G. (1997). Controlled acute and follow-up
trial of cognitive therapy and pharmacotherapy in out-patients with
recurrent depression. British Journal of Psychiatry, 171, 328–334.
Brent, D. A., Holder, D., Kolko, D., Birmaher, B., Baugher, M., Roth, C.
et al. (1997). A clinical psychotherapy trial for adolescent depression
comparing cognitive, family, and supportive therapy. Archives of
General Psychiatry, 54, 877–885.
Clarke, G. N., Hornbrook, M., Lynch, F., Polen, M., Gale, J., Beardslee, W.
et al. (2001). A randomized trial of a group cognitive intervention for
preventing depression in adolescent offspring of depressed parents.
Archives of General Psychiatry, 58, 1127–1134.
Colom, F., Vieta, E., Martinez-Aran, A., Reinares, M., Benabarre, A., &
Gasto, C. (2000). Clinical factors associated with treatment noncompliance in euthymic bipolar patients. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,
61, 549–555.
Curry, J. F. (2001). Specific psychotherapies for childhood and adolescent
depression. Biological Psychiatry, 49, 1091–1100.
Depression Guideline Panel. (1993). Depression in primary care: Vol.2.
Treatment of major depression (Publication No. 93-0551). U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Health Care
Policy and Research. Washington, D.C.
DeRubeis, R. J., & Crits-Christoph, P. (1998). Empirically supported individual and group psychological treatments for adult mental disorders.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 37–52.
DeRubeis, R. J., Gelfand, L. A., Tang, T. Z., & Simons, A. D. (1999).
Medications versus cognitive behavior therapy for severely depressed
outpatients: Meta-analysis of four randomized comparisons. American
Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 1007–1013.
DeRubeis, R. J., Hollon, S. D., Amsterdam, J., & Shelton, R. C. (2001,
July). Cognitive therapy versus medications in the treatment of
severely depressed outpatients: Acute response. Paper presented at the
World Congress of Behavioral and Cognitive Behavior Therapy,
Vancouver, Canada.
Elkin, I., Gibbons, R. D., Shea, M. T., Sotsky, S. M., Watkins, J. T.,
Pilkonis, P. A. et al. (1995). Initial severity and differential treatment
outcome in the National Institute of Mental Health Treatment of
Depression Collaborative Research Program. Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology, 63, 841–847.
Elkin, I., Shea, M. T., Watkins, J. T., Imber, S. D., Sotsky, S. M.,
Collins, J. F. et al. (1989). National Institute of Mental Health Treatment of Depression Collaborative Research Program. General effectiveness of treatments. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46, 971–982.
Evans, M. D., Hollon, S. D., DeRubeis, R. J., Piasecki, J. M., Grove, W. M.,
Garvey, M. J. et al. (1992). Differential relapse following cognitive
therapy and pharmacotherapy for depression. Archives of General
Psychiatry, 49, 802–808.
Fava, G. A., Rafanelli, C., Grandi, S., Conti, S., & Belluardo, P. (1998).
Prevention of recurrent depression with cognitive behavioral
therapy: Preliminary findings. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55,
Fava, G. A., Ruini, C., Rafanelli, C., & Grandi, S. (2002). Cognitive behavior
approach to loss of clinical effect during long-term antidepressant treatment: A pilot study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 2094–2095.
Ferster, C. B. (1973). A functional analysis of depression. American
Psychologist, 28, 857–870.
Frank, E., Kupfer, D. J., Perel, J. M., Cornes, C., Jarrett, D. B.,
Mallinger, A. G. et al. (1990). Three-year outcomes for maintenance
therapies in recurrent depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 47,
Gitlin, M. J., Swendsen, J., Heller, T. L., & Hammen, C. (1995). Relapse
and impairment in bipolar disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry,
152, 1635–1640.
Jacobson, N. S., Dobson, K. S., Truax, P. A., Addis, M. E., Koerner, K.,
Gollan, J. K. et al. (1996). A component analysis of cognitive–
behavioral treatment for depression. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 64, 295–304.
Jarrett, R. B., Kraft, D., Doyle, J., Foster, B. M., Eaves, G. G., &
Silver, P. C. (2001). Preventing recurrent depression using cognitive
therapy with and without a continuation phase: A randomized clinical
trial. Archives of General Psychiatry, 58, 381–388.
Jarrett, R. B., & Rush, A. J. (1994). Short-term psychotherapy of depressive
disorders: Current status and future direction. Psychiatry, 56, 115–132.
Keller, M. B., & Boland, R. J. (1998). Implications of failing to achieve
successful long-term maintenance treatment of recurrent unipolar
major depression. Biological Psychiatry, 44, 348–360.
Keller, M. B., McCullough, J. P., Klein, D. N., Arnow, B., Dunner, D. L.,
Gelenberg, A. J. et al. (2000). A comparison of nefazodone, the
cognitive behavioral-analysis system of psychotherapy, and their combination for the treatment of chronic depression. New England Journal
of Medicine, 342, 1462–1470.
Lam, D. H., Watkins, E. R., Hayward, P., Bright, J., Wright, K., Kerr, N.
et al. (2003). A randomized controlled study of cognitive therapy for
relapse prevention for bipolar affective disorder: Outcome of the first
year. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60, 145–152.
Lewinsohn, P. M., Antonuccio, D. O., Breckenridge, J. S., & Teri, L.
(1984). The coping with depression course. Eugene, OR: Castalia
Lewinsohn, P. M., Gotlib, I. H., & Hautzinger, M. (1998). Behavioral treatment of unipolar depression. In V. E. Cabello (Ed.), International
handbook of cognitive and behavioral treatments for psychological
disorders (pp. 441–488). New York: Pergamon Press.
McCullough, J. P. (2000). Treatment for chronic depression: Cognitive
behavioral analysis system of psychotherapy (CBASP). New York:
Guilford Press.
Paykel, E. S., Scott, J., Teasdale, J. D., Johnson, A. L., Garland, A.,
Moore, R. et al. (1999). Prevention of relapse in residual depression by
cognitive therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 56, 829–835.
Rush, A. J., & Thase, M. E. (1999). Psychotherapies for depressive
disorders: A review. In M. Maj & N. Sartorius (Eds.), Depressive
disorders (WPA Series in Evidence and Experience in Psychiatry)
(pp. 161–206). New York: Wiley.
Schulberg, H. C., Katon, W., Simon, G. E., & Rush, A. J. (1998). Treating
major depression in primary care practice: An update of the Agency
for Health Care Policy and Research Practice Guidelines. Archives of
General Psychiatry, 55, 1121–1127.
Scott, J. (2001). Cognitive therapy as an adjunct to medication in bipolar
disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 178, S164–S168.
Simons, A. D., Murphy, G. E., Levine, J. L., & Wetzel, R. D. (1986).
Cognitive therapy and pharmacotherapy for depression. Sustained
improvement over one year. Archives of General Psychiatry, 43, 43–48.
Depression and Personality Disorders—Older Adults
Stuart, S., Wright, J. H., Thase, M. E., & Beck, A. T. (1997). Cognitive
therapy with inpatients. General Hospital. Psychiatry, 19, 42–50.
Wampold, B. E., Minami, T., Baskin, T. W., & Callen, T. S. (2002). A meta(re)analysis of the effects of cognitive therapy versus “other therapies”
for depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 68, 159–165.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Padesky, C., & Greenberger, O. (1995). Clinicians guide to mind over
mood. New York: Guilford Press.
Search Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews under the keyword
Depression and Personality
Disorders—Older Adults
Steven R. Thorp and Thomas R. Lynch
Keywords: aging, depression, DBT, personality disorders
Older adults represent the most rapidly growing age group
in the United States, and in recent decades there has been
increasing attention paid to mental health issues in this population. In the past, psychotherapeutic interventions have
been discouraged for older adults or it had been assumed
that older adults would derive sufficient benefits from
unmodified interventions designed for their younger counterparts. In this article, we report the rates of depression and
personality disorders among older adults and we describe
how cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) has been utilized
to address these significant late-life problems. We review
some of the major empirical literature, suggest areas of special consideration in assessment and treatment, and identify
future directions for practice and research.
Geriatric depression is a widespread problem with serious adverse consequences. Depression in late life is underdiagnosed, but epidemiological studies have found that
clinically significant depression impacts up to 15% of older
adults living in the community and a much higher percentage
of patients who are chronically ill or who are treated in hospitals and nursing homes (Reynolds & Kupfer, 1999;
Thompson, 1996). Depressive symptoms in late life are associated with increased risk of death from suicide (older adults
have the highest suicide rate of any age group) and medical
illness in addition to higher levels of functional impairment
and health services utilization (Lynch, Morse, Mendelson, &
Robins, 2003; Reynolds & Kupfer, 1999).
The vast majority of treatment outcome studies for
mental health problems have focused on pharmacotherapy,
but medication treatment in the elderly is complicated by
sensitivity to side effects, potential for harmful interactions
with other medications, and comorbid medical and neurological disorders (Hollon, Thase, & Markowitz, 2002;
Thompson, 1996). Psychosocial interventions, such as CBT,
may thus be particularly appropriate for older adults. The
American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2000) guidelines
for treating major depressive disorder suggest that CBT is
warranted if patients prefer not to take medications or if they
experience significant psychosocial stressors, interpersonal
difficulties, or comorbid Axis II disorders.
Although clinical lore may suggest that personality disorders “fade away” in late life, geriatric depression is often
accompanied by Axis II disorders. Structured clinical interviews suggest that the prevalence of personality disorders
for community-dwelling older adults is about 13%, with
higher rates for outpatients and rates of up to 63% of older
inpatients (Seidlitz, 2001). Older patients with major
depressive disorder have higher rates of personality disorders than those with other Axis I disorders or with no Axis I
diagnoses (Bizzini, 1998; Seidlitz, 2001).
There is mounting evidence that older adult patients
with personality disorders have poor response to mental
health interventions (Morse & Lynch, 2000). For example,
Thompson, Gallagher, and Czirr (1988) analyzed the impact
of personality disorders on psychotherapy treatments for
depression. Although the study relied primarily on retrospective patient reports to generate Axis II diagnoses, it offered
compelling data about personality disorders in late life. Onethird of the participants could be diagnosed with at least one
personality disorder irrespective of Axis I diagnoses, yet over
two-thirds met criteria for personality disorders at the point
when they sought help for their depression. Patients with personality disorders, independent of their level of depression,
were less likely to benefit from short-term psychotherapy.
Four times as many patients without a personality disorder
had successful responses to treatment than failed responses.
The efficacy of CBT for younger adults has a growing
base of evidence. CBT has generally yielded effect sizes as
156 Depression and Personality Disorders—Older Adults
large or larger than treatment with antidepressant medications or other forms of psychotherapy in the treatment of
depression, and it may be more effective than other treatments for depressed individuals with personality disorders
(APA, 2000). Presumably because of the emphasis on patient
skill acquisition in CBT, patients are less likely to relapse
after treatment to remission if they have been treated with
CBT than if they have been treated to remission with medication, and there are even indications that CBT may help to
prevent the recurrence of depression (Hollon et al., 2002).
Historically, there has been pessimism about the utility
of psychotherapy with older adults. Sigmund Freud, for
example, argued that older adults were overly rigid and
would not be able to make the changes necessary for psychotherapy to work (Bizzini, 1998). Many of the early stage
theorists did not consider old age a time of change or
growth. In the twenty-first century, many mental health professionals and nonprofessionals remain doubtful that older
adults can learn the concepts presented in psychotherapy.
These views are changing, however, partly because of positive results from rigorous psychotherapy studies on geriatric
populations during the past two decades. CBT has now been
studied for treating late-life depression by a number of different investigators using diagnostic interviews, treatment
manuals, supervision of therapists, and control conditions
(Areán & Cook, 2002).
The majority of the studies of psychotherapy for older
adults have focused on treating depression. Randomized
controlled trials (RCTs) for this population suggest that CBT
appears to be superior to usual care and no treatment for
major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms, with
persistence in treatment gains for up to 3 years following
acute treatment (Areán & Cook, 2002). CBT appears to work
at least as well as other psychotherapies for treating major
depression in older adults (Hollon et al., 2002; Thompson,
1996). Despite data from younger adult samples that suggest
that pharmacotherapy augmented with psychotherapy can
effectively treat depression (APA, 2000; Reynolds & Kupfer,
1999), there are few studies comparing CBT to medications
in older adults.
Two studies have indicated that CBT augmented with
an antidepressant is more efficacious than the medication
alone for treating depressive symptoms in late life (see
review by Areán & Cook, 2002). In addition, one study of
chronically depressed older adults found that patients on
antidepressants who participated in a CBT skills training
group (i.e., dialectical behavior therapy [DBT]) were significantly more likely to be in remission at a 6-month followup compared to those in medication treatment alone (Lynch
et al., 2003).
There is a paucity of studies on personality disorders in
older adults in general, and there are no published RCTs that
have specifically targeted the treatment of late-life personality
disorders. Much of the research has been limited because studies lack (1) clear descriptions of treatments, (2) considerations
of comorbid Axis I disorders, (3) standardized assessment
instruments, and (4) treatment adherence and competence
ratings of therapists (Morse & Lynch, 2000). Fortunately,
increasing awareness of late-life personality disorders is generating more rigorous research (Bizzini, 1998; Lynch et al.,
2003; Morse & Lynch, 2000; Seidlitz, 2001).
There are several assessment and treatment issues to
consider when working with older adults who have depression and personality disorders. Accurate diagnostic assessment is important for communication among clinicians and
patients, for selecting treatments, for monitoring change over
time, and for evaluating outcomes. Assessors should avoid
questions that involve slang or jargon, and should be aware of
potential sensitivities to sexual content. Patient questionnaires
should be printed in large and bold fonts to facilitate reading.
When working with older adults, it is important to consider
how social desirability of responses and cohort differences
may affect the expression of mental health symptoms. Older
adults may be hesitant to “air dirty laundry” about themselves
or their families. Older adults, compared to their younger
counterparts, may be more likely to report problems with
appetite, sleep, or cognitive problems than subjective problems with mood (APA, 2000; Reynolds & Kupfer, 1999).
Whenever possible, it is worthwhile to include family members, friends, or other caregivers in the assessment process to
augment patient reports, interviews, and direct observation.
It is imperative to evaluate cognitive status, comorbid
physical and mental health problems, medication adherence,
substance use and abuse, risk of suicide, social support,
mobility, and self-care (e.g., grooming, shopping, cooking,
medication management). Each of these areas can dramatically impact treatment outcomes and how treatment is implemented. During the assessment process it is important to bear
in mind that some dementias, anxiety disorders, Parkinson’s
disease, and substance abuse problems may resemble depressive disorders. It is also important to consider how age of
onset and course of disorders may impact treatment.
CBT highlights the importance of the relationship
between the therapist and patient and the value of specific,
measurable goals. Sessions typically begin with the collaborative development of an agenda, and treatment typically
combines (1) psychoeducation about psychiatric problems;
(2) methods of managing cognitive distortions, behavioral
deficits and excesses, and problematic physical environments;
Depression and Personality Disorders—Older Adults
and (3) structured skills training for social functioning,
problem-solving, and communication. Relevant homework
assignments are used to monitor and modify thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Thompson (1996) provides an excellent description of
CBT adapted for late-life depression. The cognitive and
sensory deficits associated with aging can be managed by
presenting material in a loud, distinct voice or clear written
format. It may be useful to present new material slowly and
to alternate verbal reviews by the therapist and patient to
consolidate learning. Sessions can be audio- or videotaped
for later review by patients as well. Therapists can use roleplay exercises, metaphors, visual representations of concepts,
and video presentations in addition to modeling effective
behaviors. Older patients who are excessively talkative or
tangential may need to be educated about the importance of
structure and focus in the therapy. Thompson (1996) and
others have suggested that additional sessions or more
schema-focused CBT may be required for older adults with
personality disorders.
CBT does not work for all patients, and more research
is needed to determine why some patients fail to respond to
treatment. The effectiveness of CBT is dependent on attendance and adherence to in-session and extra-session exercises designed to challenge previous learning. This may be
challenging for older people who have cognitive impairment,
low levels of commitment to treatment, or trouble managing
their time. Patients who desire less structure, a more historical focus (e.g., frequent discussions of childhood events), or
discussions of hidden or unconscious motivations may be
unsatisfied and perhaps less responsive to CBT. The response
to CBT may be slower than to pharmacotherapy or other
somatic treatments (e.g., electroconvulsive therapy), and this
potential delay must be considered when there are concerns
about imminent risks.
Late-life depression and personality disorders are relatively young areas of treatment research. There are several
new CBT-based approaches that hold promise for acute
treatment or relapse prevention, and myriad opportunities
for innovative studies. Lynch and colleagues (Lynch et al.,
2003; Morse & Lynch, 2000) have successfully adapted
DBT for older adults with depression, and this approach is
now being tested in an RCT for older adults with comorbid
depression and personality disorders. DBT adapted for older
adults combines the change-based strategies (e.g., modification of distorted thoughts, problem-solving, behavioral activation) emphasized in traditional CBT with more
acceptance-based strategies (e.g., mindfulness, validation).
In our experience, a more acceptance-based approach is
especially useful for maximizing patient comfort early in the
process of therapy (i.e., during initial assessment and psychoeducation). Other approaches that are gaining scientific
support also utilize mindfulness exercises and emphasize
the process of thinking rather than the content of thoughts
(see Bizzini, 1998; Hollon et al., 2002).
Social support can have a strong impact on the occurrence, severity, and duration of psychopathology, and friends
and family should be involved in treatment if possible. This
may simply involve obtaining information about patients
from loved ones or educating those loved ones about depression and personality disorders. However, there is also evidence that couple and family therapy can be used to treat
patients’ mental health problems in addition to ameliorating
relationship problems (APA, 2000; Hollon et al., 2002).
Although CBT interventions are often efficacious, we
know little about which components of treatment are
responsible for improvements and little about the mechanisms of change. Research on CBT with older adults would
benefit from outcome measures that evaluate processes of
change, cost-effectiveness, and quality-of-life/functioning
issues (e.g., living conditions, health care management,
work activities, interpersonal relationships) as well as the
standard measures of psychopathology. More research is
also needed on how age-related changes in memory and
information processing affect treatment response.
Much of the research on late-life mental health problems
has presumed traditional office treatment by specialists (e.g.,
weekly 1-hour office visits to a psychologist or psychiatrist).
Many older adults do not access mental health treatment in
this manner, and there is a need for more studies that demonstrate effectiveness in nontraditional settings such as patients’
homes, primary care outpatient services, and long-term-care
facilities. There is also a need for studies that use less restrictive inclusion and exclusion criteria and more diverse samples
based on race and ethnicity, location (e.g., urban and rural),
and income (Areán & Cook, 2002).
Little is known about how patient factors (such as
expectations and commitment to treatment) impact treatment response, and we could learn a great deal by determining why some older patients respond to treatments while
others do not. Therapist factors such as level of training,
allegiance to CBT or other therapies, and specific skill
repertoires may similarly influence treatment outcome.
There is some evidence to suggest the utility of matching
certain types of clients to particular therapists or methods of
treatment (APA, 2000; Areán & Cook, 2002). It is also
158 Depression and Personality Disorders—Older Adults
important to determine the effects of CBT at different
phases of treatment. For example, in addition to acute treatment studies (e.g., 12–20 weeks to reduce the impact of
existing problems), prevention studies could reduce vulnerabilities for future problems. More longitudinal studies
would help to determine how CBT affects depression and
personality features in the years following acute care.
The widespread clinical practice of combining medications with psychotherapy and the potential for complications
due to pharmacotherapy in older adults suggest a need for
more research in this area. There are few data to guide combination treatment, including who will benefit most and how
treatments should be sequenced. More research is also
needed to determine if CBT can improve medication adherence and health care management in older adults.
We could take advantage of existing resources and new
technologies to facilitate access to treatment for older adults.
There are many exciting treatment formats to explore through
rigorous research, including interventions conducted over the
telephone or via books (i.e., bibliotherapy), the Internet, or
DVD-ROM. The latter three methods have the advantages of
consistency of presentation (which is ideal for reducing presentation variance in research) and ease of review for patients.
Finally, it is important to rectify the underdiagnosis and
undertreatment of geriatric depression and personality disorders. Mental health professionals could use existing
marketing techniques to increase professional and public
awareness of these problems and appropriate treatments
while reducing the stigma associated with mental disorders.
Better patient access and continued research on CBT can go
far to prevent or reduce the suffering of many older adults.
See also: Aging and dementia, Depression—adult, Depression—
general, Family caregivers
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Practice guidelines for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder (revision). American
Journal of Psychiatry, 157(Suppl. 4), 1–45.
Areán, P. A., & Cook, B. L. (2002). Psychotherapy and combined psychotherapy/pharmacotherapy for late-life depression. Biological
Psychiatry, 52, 293–303.
Bizzini, L. (1998). Cognitive psychotherapy in the treatment of personality
disorders in the elderly. In C. Perris & P. D. McGorry (Eds.), Cognitive
psychotherapy of psychotic and personality disorders: Handbook of
theory and practice (pp. 397–419). New York: Wiley.
Hollon, S. D., Thase, M. E., & Markowitz, J. C. (2002). Treatment and prevention of depression. Psychological Science in the Public Interest,
3, 39–77.
Lynch, T. R., Morse, J. Q., Mendelson, T., & Robins, C. J. (2003).
Dialectical behavior therapy for depressed older adults. American
Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 11, 33–45.
Morse, J. Q., & Lynch, T. R. (2000). Personality disorders in late life.
Current Psychiatry Reports, 2, 24–31.
Reynolds, C. F., & Kupfer, D. J. (1999). Depression and aging: A look to
the future. Psychiatric Services, 50, 1167–1172.
Seidlitz, L. (2001). Personality factors in mental disorders in later life.
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 9, 8–21.
Thompson, L. W. (1996). Cognitive–behavioral therapy and treatment for
late-life depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 57(Suppl. 5), 29–37.
Thompson, L. W., Gallagher, D., & Czirr, R. (1988). Personality disorder
and outcome in the treatment of late-life depression. Journal of
Geriatric Psychiatry, 21, 133–146.
Daniel R. Strunk and Robert J. DeRubeis
Keywords: cognitive therapy, depression, Aaron T. Beck, pharmacotherapy, dissemination
A basic supposition in cognitive models of depression is that
depression is characterized by systematic negative biases in
thinking. Depressed people harbor negative beliefs about
themselves, the world, and their futures (Beck, 1967). For
example, a depressed person may believe “I am a terrible
person,” “people think I have nothing to offer,” or “there’s
no point in trying.” Negative biases are also manifested
through errors in logic. Overgeneralization, drawing
a global conclusion from a single fact, is one such error.
A depressed woman might exhibit overgeneralization by
concluding that she will never get a job after not being
offered a job following one interview. Aaron Beck has
argued that the wide variety of specific errors and biases that
characterize depressed people’s thinking accounts for their
other symptoms of depression (Beck, 1967).
Cognitive therapy (CT) involves an effort to correct
patients’ biased thinking patterns, which, in turn, is thought
to help them to overcome their depressive symptoms.
Although several cognitive–behavioral psychotherapies for
depression exist, researchers have focused primarily on
Beck’s CT (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979). Beck’s CT
is a short-term, structured, manualized therapy. As in other
psychotherapies, CT therapists strive to form a good collaborative working relationship with their patients. However, in
contrast to some psychotherapies, CT also involves specific
techniques. These CT techniques fall into three classes.
Behavioral techniques are used to facilitate patients’ engaging in activities that give them a sense of pleasure or mastery, as well as to test beliefs (e.g., “I can’t even get out of
bed in the morning”). Cognitive techniques are used to
encourage patients to treat their cognitions as hypotheses
and subject them to careful scrutiny. A depressed man might
learn to challenge the thought “I have nothing to offer” by
considering specific, relevant evidence. Perhaps, on reflection, he would identify some of his virtues. Finally, typically
in the later stages of therapy, patients are encouraged to recognize and modify patterns of negatively distorting thinking
(i.e., schemas). Through the application of these techniques,
patients are expected to experience less severe depressive
symptomatology and learn to use the techniques taught in
therapy in their daily lives.
While Beck’s CT has received the most research attention, other approaches have also been influential. One such
approach is the “hopelessness/helplessness” model of depression. Seligman’s original “learned helplessness” model was
based on the observation that dogs given inescapable shock
over repeated trials did not attempt later to escape shock, even
when escape was possible. This phenomenon of “learned helplessness” has served as a model of depression in humans. The
model was later revised to better account for cognitive
processes believed to underlie the onset of depression.
According to this revised model, depressed people have
learned to explain events in a negatively biased manner. People
with a vulnerability to depression tend to attribute events to
permanent, universal, and internal factors. Although not
widely used in psychotherapy, this model of depression has
been utilized in developing programs to prevent depression.
The Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of
Psychotherapy (CBASP) is a relatively new therapy designed
by James McCullough for chronic forms of depression. It utilizes many of the cognitive and behavioral techniques used in
CT. However, unlike the CT model of depression, the CBASP
model of depression posits that depressed patients think preoperationally and that a major contributor to patients’ depression is that they cause stress in their own lives. Specific
CBASP techniques have been developed to deal with these
problems. Although developed recently, CBASP has been
tested in a large randomized controlled trial of chronically
depressed patients. The main findings were that CBASP and
pharmacotherapy were equivalently effective in the short run
(12 weeks), and the combination of CBASP and pharmacotherapy was substantially (and significantly) more effective
than either treatment alone.
The strongest evidence for the efficacy of Beck’s CT
has come from randomized clinical trials comparing CT to
pharmacotherapy. In four major studies, investigators failed
to find a significant advantage for pharmacotherapy (for a
recent review, see Strunk & DeRubeis, 2001). Averaging
across these four studies, the pre- to posttreatment effect
size (as measured by Cohen’s d) for those who completed
CT was 2.9 on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and 3.0
on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression
(HRSD). Averaging across studies, 66% of completers meet
BDI recovery criteria (i.e., BDI ⱕ 9). For the three studies
for which HRSD recovery rates were reported, 53% of completers meet recovery criteria (HRSD ⱕ 6). Thus, CT
patients experienced a large change in depressive symptoms,
and a substantial portion of CT patients reached a priori
recovery criteria. Another study, which focused on recurrent
depression, also found no difference in effectiveness
between CT and pharmacotherapy.
Recently, there has been controversy over whether CT is
appropriate as a first-line treatment for severe depression.
The Treatment of Depression Collaborative Research
Program (TDCRP) failed to find significant differences
between CT and pharmacotherapy across the whole sample.
However, subsequent analyses showed that pharmacotherapy
was superior to CT among more severely depressed patients
(Elkin et al., 1995). In fact, this finding has been the basis
of treatment guidelines recommending pharmacotherapy for
severely depressed people. However, in a meta-analysis of
four randomized controlled trials including the TDCRP
study, DeRubeis, Gelfand, Tang, and Simons (1999) found a
nonsignificant advantage for CT over pharmacotherapy.
Therefore, available data suggest CT is as effective as pharmacotherapy regardless of initial severity of symptoms.
Whether CT outperforms control conditions has
received less attention. In the TDCRP, CT failed to outperform a pill-placebo condition (Elkin et al., 1995). However,
problems in the way in which CT was conducted may have
contributed to this result (Jacobson & Hollon, 1996). A study
of atypical depression has since found CT to be superior to
pill-placebo (and not different from pharmacotherapy).
Few studies have examined CT in comparison to other
psychotherapies. In a small study, group CT outperformed
a behavior modification group, a nondirective control group,
and a wait-list control group. In contrast, the TDCRP failed
to find differences between CT and interpersonal therapy,
either at the end of treatment or at a 1-year follow-up.
Similarly, Jacobson and his colleagues found that CT was
not significantly different than behavior therapy at the end of
treatment or at 1- and 2-year follow-ups (Gortner, Gollan,
Dobson, & Jacobson, 1998; Jacobson et al., 1996). More
research is needed in this area.
Naturalistic follow-ups of responders in clinical trials
have yielded evidence suggesting that CT has a prophylactic
effect relative to short-term pharmacotherapy. Several studies
160 Depression—General
have found a significantly lower rate of relapse for CT compared to pharmacotherapy 1 or 2 years after the termination
of treatment (Strunk & DeRubeis, 2001). Only the TDCRP
study failed to find this result. Due to their remarkable 90%
follow-up rate, Gortner et al. (1998) were able to provide
valuable data on how the 58% of their CT patients who
responded to treatment fared following treatment. One year
after treatment, 19% of CT responders had relapsed. Two
years after treatment, 46% had relapsed. Thus, 27% of
patients assigned to the CT condition recovered and
remained well for 2 years. Taken together, these findings suggest that despite producing long-term recovery only in
a minority of patients, CT appears to have a prophylactic
effect relative to short-term pharmacotherapy.
Having established that CT has beneficial and relatively
long-lasting effects, researchers have sought to address how
CT achieves its effects. Such efforts provide an important test
of the validity of the cognitive theory of depression and may
provide useful information for refining CT. Some researchers
have argued that factors not specific to CT (most notably the
therapeutic alliance) are responsible for effects in all forms of
therapy. Beck’s theory clearly states that while a good working relationship is a necessary condition, specific interventions largely drive symptom change in CT. Consistent with
Beck’s theory, DeRubeis and his colleagues have found that
use of specific cognitive techniques predicts subsequent
symptom change (Feeley, DeRubeis, & Gelfand, 1999).
Similarly, sessions immediately prior to sudden gains (i.e.,
session-to-session intervals in which patients’ symptoms
improved substantially) were found to include more discussion of changes in cognitions than control sessions (Tang &
DeRubeis, 1999). Another important component of the theory
of how CT achieves its effects has to do with what patients
learn in CT. In one study, patients who complied more with
their CT homework were found to have better outcomes.
Patients who learned not to think in an absolutist, dichotomous style have been found to be at lower risk for relapse
following treatment (Teasdale et al., 2001).
Perhaps the most serious criticism of CT is that the
form and quality of CT may not be widely available. Aside
from training centers and the research centers in which clinical trials have been conducted, it may be difficult for
patients to find high-quality CT. Indeed, some researchers
have argued that not only are CT providers not currently
widely available, but that it may prove too difficult to disseminate CT widely. Recall that Jacobson et al. (1996) and
Gortner et al. (1998) found that a behavioral activation treatment performed as well as CT. These researchers have
argued that the relative ease with which therapists can learn
behavioral activation may make it a superior treatment.
Little is known about the dissemination of CT: either the
extent to which CT can be transported to new clinics or what
methods are best for attempting to disseminate the treatment. One recent, preliminary study found that the effects of
CT in a community mental health center were similar to the
effects reported in clinical trials (Merrill, Tolbert, & Wade,
2003). However, more research on this topic is needed.
Several other areas will also be important to address.
How long do CT’s prophylactic effects last? What can comprehensive cost–benefit analyses reveal about CT compared
to other treatments? Can CT be modified to increase the
response rate? Can any strategies enhance CT’s promising
prophylactic effects?
Several cognitive models and therapies have been developed. Beck’s CT has received more research attention than any
other psychotherapy for depression. Available evidence suggests that CT is as effective as alternative treatments, including
pharmacotherapy. Moreover, short-term CT appears to have a
prophylactic effect relative to short-term pharmacotherapy. CT
appears to achieve its effects through the use of specific cognitive techniques and teaching patients to change their thinking styles. Research is now needed to ensure that, if feasible,
CT is disseminated widely to clinics so that it is readily available to the patients who would benefit from it.
See also: Bipolar disorder, Cognitive vulnerability to depression,
Depression—adult, Depression and personality disorders—older
adults, Depression—youth, Problem solving—depression
Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive
therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.
DeRubeis, R. J., Gelfand, L. A., Tang, T. Z., & Simons, A. D. (1999).
Medications versus cognitive behavior therapy for severely depressed
outpatients: Meta-analysis of four randomized comparisons. American
Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 1007–1013.
Elkin, I., Gibbons, R. D., Shea, M. T., Sotsky, S. M., Watkins, J. T.,
Pilkonis, P. A., & Hedeker, D. (1995). Initial severity and differential
treatment outcome in the National Institute of Mental Health
Treatment of Depression Collaborative Research Program. Journal of
Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 63, 841–847.
Feeley, M., DeRubeis, R. J., & Gelfand, L. A. (1999). The temporal relation
of adherence and alliance to symptom change in cognitive therapy for
depression. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 67, 578–582.
Gortner, E. T., Gollan, J. K., Dobson, K. S., & Jacobson, N. S. (1998).
Cognitive–behavioral treatment for depression: Relapse prevention.
Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 66, 377–384.
Jacobson, N. S., Dobson, K. S., Truax, P. A., Addis, M. E., Koerner,
K., Gollan, J. K., Gortner, E., & Prince, S. E. (1996). A component
analysis of cognitive–behavioral treatment for depression. Journal of
Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 64, 295–304.
Jacobson, N. S., & Hollon, S. D. (1996). Cognitive-behavior therapy versus
pharmacotherapy: Now that the Jury’s returned its verdict, it’s time to
present the rest of the evidence. Journal of Consulting & Clinical
Psychology, 64, 74–80.
Merrill, K. A., Tolbert, V. E., & Wade, W. A. (2003). Effectiveness of cognitive therapy for depression in a community mental health center: A
benchmarking study. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology,
71, 404–409.
Strunk, D. R., & DeRubeis, R. J. (2001). Cognitive therapy of depression:
A review of its efficacy. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An
International Quarterly, 15, 289–297.
Tang, T. Z., & DeRubeis, R. J. (1999). Sudden gains and critical sessions in
cognitive–behavioral therapy for depression. Journal of Consulting &
Clinical Psychology, 67, 894–904.
Teasdale, J. D., Scott, J., Moore, R. G., Hayhurst, H., Pope, M., & Paykel,
E. S. (2001). How does cognitive therapy prevent relapse in residual
depression? Evidence from a controlled trial. Journal of Consulting &
Clinical Psychology, 69, 347–357.
Elizabeth A. Gosch and Aaron Pollock
Keywords: depression, children, parenting, treatment, self-control
A number of cognitive and behavioral models of depression
have influenced treatment approaches with children. Most
notably, Beck’s model of depression emphasizes that maladaptive schemas cause negative distortions in perceiving
and processing information that lead to depressive symptoms. Negative cognitions about the self, world, and future
(the cognitive triad) characterize and maintain depressive
symptoms. Also influential, the learned helplessness/ hopelessness model (Abramson, Metalksy, & Alloy, 1989) posits
that individuals who attribute the cause of negative events to
internal, stable, and global causes while attributing the cause
of positive events to external, unstable, and specific causes
are at risk for depression. Thus, cognitive interventions are
frequently geared toward helping children modify maladaptive cognitive processes (self-talk, beliefs, attributions)
through affective education, collaborative empiricism,
behavioral experiments, cognitive restructuring activities,
and self-instruction training. Behavioral models for treating
depression in children tend to focus on operant principles.
Lewinsohn (1974) associates depression with low levels of
positive reinforcement, particularly social reinforcement,
due to problems in available reinforcement systems and
deficits in social skills. Behavioral interventions designed to
increase the child’s access to positive reinforcement and
decrease depressive symptoms include activity scheduling,
pleasant events monitoring, selective reinforcement, and
skills training (e.g., social, problem solving, and relaxation
skills). Self-control models incorporate behavioral and cognitive components by focusing on overly high expectations,
selective attention to negative events, and rates of positive
CBT for childhood depression is based on a multiple
pathway model that views depression as resulting from the
reciprocal influence of cognitive, behavioral, contextual/interpersonal, and biological factors. The treatment package for
childhood depression is often multidimensional, targeting
depressive symptoms and other problems often accompanying depression (e.g., familial conflict, interpersonal skill
deficits, oppositional behavior). The child’s social context
(family, school, and peers) is often a focus of treatment.
Children are seen as experiencing depressive symptoms due
to the stress of negative events or a lack of positive events in
their lives, the effects of which are mediated by cognitive factors. Consideration of a child’s cognitive developmental level
is crucial in designing interventions. Younger children or children with less developed intellectual abilities may not be able
to utilize complex cognitive interventions but require behavioral or contextual (e.g., parenting) interventions to evince
change in cognitions and depressive symptoms.
CBT for children with depression focuses on identifying and challenging unrealistic beliefs that exacerbate
depressive feelings and associated problem behaviors
(Friedberg, Crosby, Friedberg, Rutter, & Knight, 2000).
Identifying and modifying inaccurate beliefs is accomplished through collaborative experimentation between
patient and therapist. The therapist works as consultant;
a person with ideas worth trying out and a sounding board
for ideas that do not work, diagnostician; making meaningful decisions about treatment based on data and knowledge
of psychopathology; and educator, assisting in finding the
most effective ways to learn to control behavior and increase
cognitive and emotional skills (Kendall, 1993). In the context of a caring, therapeutic relationship, the therapist seeks
to nonreinforce depressive affect and behavior while
increasing reinforcement for positive, active behaviors.
Sessions are generally guided by an agenda and/or goal
162 Depression—Youth
setting, client feedback is seen as an integral part of the CBT
session, and homework is assigned by the therapist to instill
a practical and experiential focus to the goals of therapy
(Friedberg et al., 2000).
Cognitive–behavioral treatments typically begin with
a focus on behavioral components. If necessary, therapists
first manage suicidal symptoms. They also seek to increase
the child’s experience of positive reinforcement through their
relationship with the child, activity scheduling and pleasantevents monitoring. The therapist provides positive incentives
for the child to engage in adaptive activities, social interaction, and mastery experiences. Therapists may seek to
decrease the child’s reinforcement for depressive symptoms
(e.g., ignore non-life-threatening depressive behaviors such
as whining). Therapists also increase the child’s use of selfreinforcement (e.g., pleasurable activities or self-praise) for
engaging in adaptive behavior. If skill deficits exist, the therapist teaches skills (e.g., social skills, problem solving) that
will help the child receive more positive reinforcement from
the environment. Social skills training approaches have frequently been implemented in a group where children are
taught to engage in eye contact, smile, play games, plan
social activities, and make age-appropriate conversation.
Children are also encouraged to decrease socially inappropriate behaviors (e.g., temper tantrums). The therapist uses
instruction, modeling, role-play, shaping, practice, and
feedback to help children learn new skills. Homework or
take-home projects help the child generalize therapeutic benefits. For example, children may be asked to engage in pleasurable activities or to log and dispute their self-talk when
feeling sad.
Cognitive therapy components aim to change the child’s
maladaptive beliefs, images, thoughts, and self-talk which
influence their behavior and perceptions. The therapist often
does so through eliciting what the child is thinking when experiencing negative mood states or during upsetting events. The
child engages in affect education exercises (practice recognizing and differentiating feelings) and learns about the cognitive
model in which thoughts impact feelings and behavior. The
therapist helps the child identify maladaptive or distorted
thinking and engage in cognitive restructuring activities. These
activities include identifying the type of distortion being
exhibited (e.g., overgeneralization, mind reading), weighing
the evidence for and against the thought or belief, testing the
belief through behavioral experiments, and substituting more
realistic interpretations. To help children interact more
effectively with their environment, they are taught problemsolving skills (orientation, problem definition, generation of
alternatives, evaluation of alternatives, selection of alternatives, and evaluation of outcome). Younger or cognitively
delayed children may not be able to engage in complex cognitive evaluation exercises and may only change cognitions
through direct experiences that contradict their beliefs or the
use of self-instruction/self-statements.
Given that a major source of reinforcement for children
is their interpersonal environment, particularly the family,
the therapist seeks to ameliorate negative or coercive interaction patterns in the family that interfere with the child
receiving positive reinforcement and promote negative cognitive patterns in the child. For example, studies have established that children who are depressed often have parents
suffering from depression. Parents who are depressed may
neglect their children, model depressed affect, or be excessively critical. Children, in turn, may suffer from the lack of
positive reinforcement and learn depressive beliefs from
their experiences with their parents. Recent treatment studies
have begun to include parents by providing education about
depression and interventions to change parenting practices
that may exacerbate depressive symptoms. Children may
also experience rejection from peers and school personnel
that exacerbates depression. In this case, social skills training
and interventions to address the peer or school environment
are required.
Only a few empirical studies for childhood depression
exist before 1990, in part due to the lack of recognition for
depression as a clinical disorder in children before that time.
These landmark studies incorporated treatment components
that remain a cornerstone of treatment for childhood depression. Butler, Miezitis, Friedman, and Cole (1980) treated
fifth and sixth graders with depressive symptoms in either
role-play, cognitive restructuring, attention placebo, or
control groups that met weekly for 10 weeks. The cognitive
restructuring condition but not the attention placebo group
was associated with significant improvement from pre- to
posttreatment; however, no comparisons between treatment
conditions were conducted. Stark, Reynolds, and Kaslow
(1987) randomly assigned a sample of 29 elementary school
children who scored 13 or higher on the Children’s
Depression Inventory (CDI) to either self-control, behavioral
problem solving, or a wait-list control group. The selfcontrol condition emphasized attribution training, selfmonitoring, self-evaluating, and self-reward. The behavioral
condition emphasized pleasant activity scheduling, selfmonitoring, sensitivity training, problem solving, and social
skills. After 12 treatment sessions spanning 5 weeks, results
showed significant reductions in depressive symptoms for
participants in both treatment groups. In 1990, Liddle and
Spence (as cited in Curry, 2001) compared a primarily
behavioral social competence training group with an attention group and a no-treatment group and found no differences among the three conditions; however, the sample
consisted of only 31 children in grades 3 to 6. Also in 1990,
Kahn, Kehle, Jenson, and Clark (as cited in Curry, 2001)
compared CBT to relaxation, self-modeling, and a wait-list
for 68 middle school students twice a week for 6 to 8 weeks.
All treatment conditions led to significantly more symptom
reduction than the wait-list but no differences were found
between the results for the treatment conditions.
Trends in recent studies include the incorporation of
control enhancement, family, and prevention interventions.
For example, Weisz and colleagues demonstrated a relationship between perceived control and childhood depression
(Weisz, Thurber, Sweeney, Proffitt, & LaGagnoux, 1997).
They implemented an effective 8-session primary and secondary control enhancement program (PASCET) with 500
elementary school children from grades 3 to 6 identified
with depressive symptomatology. Their program involved
training children to apply primary control (enhancing
reward by making objective conditions conform to the
child’s wishes) to modifiable conditions and applying secondary control (enhancing reward by adjusting one’s beliefs
or understanding in response to objective conditions) to
conditions that could not be altered.
Asarnow, Scott, and Mintz (2002) designed an efficacious beyond that combined CBT and family education
intervention to address data suggesting that family factors
can predict outcomes and treatment response in depressed
children. They selected 23 fourth-through sixth-grade-children to participate in the “Stress Busters” afterschool program twice a week for 5 weeks. “Stress Busters” included
family education to enhance generalization of CBT technique to the real world and promote family support; the creation of a video viewed by parents that exhibited the
children practicing newly learned CBT skills; and utilized
generic as well as depression-focused CBT techniques.
Sessions included activities such as games, homework, and
role-playing designed to assist children in building problemsolving skills, goal-setting skills, social skills, relaxation
techniques, as well as learning to effectively respond to positive or negative emotional spirals.
The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) (Freres, Gillham,
Reivich, & Shatte, 2002) aimed at preventing depression in
children before it occurred. Children (aged 10–13) at risk for
future depression learned CBT techniques and coping skills
so that they could more effectively handle negative life
events and increase their global sense of mastery and competence. Results indicate that depressive symptoms have
been significantly reduced in many trials using this program
regardless of the differing cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds of the participants (Freres et al., 2002).
Recent studies have also shown the longitudinal effectiveness of CBT. For example, in a study that included 54
children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 with depression or significant depressive symptoms, Vostanis, Feehan, and Grattan
(1998) showed a significant difference between a CBT group
and a nonfocused treatment group in remission of depressive
symptoms over a 2-year follow-up. Such findings show the
promise of CBT to remit symptoms over a brief time and to
help curtail them over the long term.
A number of treatment studies with depressed adolescents exist and have informed treatment approaches with
children (e.g., Lewinsohn’s Coping with Depression
Course). However, it is unknown whether the treatment
effects seen with adolescents generalize to children.
Currently, the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression
Study (TADS) Team (2003) at Duke University Medical
Center has begun to look at the effectiveness of brief CBT
interventions for depression in adolescents in combination
with and versus mood-stabilizing medication. The TADS
study will help clinicians better understand the best treatment combination for adolescents with depression and as a
result may impact the way childhood depression is treated.
Due to the structured, didactic, and directive nature of
CBT, some therapists may argue that CBT is not appropriate
for use with children. They point out that CBT techniques
may exceed children’s developmental capabilities, direct
challenges of a child’s beliefs may be off-putting to the
child, the CBT approach neglects children’s affect, and children may find the work dull (Friedberg et al., 2000).
Friedberg’s group recommend presenting CBT concepts in
simple terms and in the context of negative feelings experienced by the child to avoid these roadblocks. Furthermore,
games and play can be used as nonthreatening means to
present the CBT approach and assist the child in viewing
beliefs that may be confirmed or discounted through behavioral experimentation (Friedberg et al., 2000).
Although CBT for childhood depression appears promising, few empirical studies of effectiveness and mechanisms of
effect have been conducted. Research to date has yielded
modest results with CBT and supportive therapy conditions
demonstrating similar levels of improvement following treatment. Furthermore, most studies have been conducted with
small sample sizes of mild to moderately depressed children as
opposed to clinical cases. Also, CBT treatment packages make
it difficult to identify the mechanisms responsible for treatment gains. There are no guidelines to date on how a child’s
164 Depression—Youth
developmental cognitive level impacts on the implementation
of CBT or which treatment components may be better suited
to particular types of cases.
It is crucial that multisite, randomized clinical outcome
studies be conducted with a sufficient sample of clinical
cases with long-term follow-up to establish the relative
effectiveness of CBT compared to other treatment
approaches. Pharmacological, group, individual, family, and
combined treatments must be compared for effectiveness.
There is also a need for studies to address mechanisms of
change in treatment. Ideally, these studies will assess a variety of mediator mechanisms (e.g., problem-solving skills)
and outcomes beyond depressive symptoms. To guide interventions, more research must be conducted to further our
understanding of the etiology, risk factors, and associated
features of depression in children. Although some important
research has addressed the impact of a depressed caretaker
(particularly mothers) on children, greater understanding of
the role the familial context plays in childhood depression is
warranted. Given that the rates of depression increase dramatically in adolescence with evidence supporting a chronic
course to the disorder, it is important to study the impact of
prevention programs in childhood.
Although many studies document an association
between childhood depression and various cognitive distortions, further work is necessary to better understand the nature
of the relationship between cognitive processes and depression in children. For example, it appears that while cognitions
moderate the relationship between stressful life events and
depression in adults, they act as mediators in children. Also,
gender differences in treatment effects suggest the need for
the development of gender-specific intervention models. As
families have come to be considered important avenues for
intervention, models that specify the relationship between
family variables and childhood depression are receiving
greater attention. Finally, there is movement in the field
toward incorporating developmental models of affect
regulation (e.g., Garber’s information processing model),
attachment, and cognitive change into CBT intervention
See also: Children—behavior therapy, Treatment of children
Abramson, L. Y., Metalksy, G. I., & Alloy, L. B. (1989). Hopelessness
depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological
Review, 96, 358–372.
Asarnow, J. R., Scott, C. V., & Mintz, J. (2002). A combined cognitive–
behavioral family education intervention for depression in children: A
treatment development study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26,
Butler, L., Miezitis, S., Friedman, R., & Cole, E. (1980). The effect of two
school-based intervention programs on depressive symptoms I preadolescents. American Educational Research Journal, 17, 111–119.
Curry, J. F. (2001). Specific psychotherapies for childhood and adolescent
depression. Biological Psychiatry, 49, 1091–1100.
Freres, D. R., Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K., & Shatte, A. J. (2002). Preventing
depressive symptoms in middle school students: The Penn Resiliency
Program. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health,
4, 31–40.
Friedberg, R. D., Crosby, L. E., Friedberg, B. A., Rutter, J. G., & Knight, R.
(2000). Making cognitive behavioral therapy user-friendly to children.
Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 6, 189–200.
Kendall, P. C. (1993). Cognitive–behavioral therapies with youth: Guiding
theory, current status, and emerging developments. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 235–247.
Lewinsohn, P. M. (1974). A behavioral approach to depression. In
R. J. Friedman & M. M. Katz (Eds.), The psychology of depression:
Contemporary theory and research (pp. 157–184). Washington, DC:
Stark, K. D., Reynolds, W. M., & Kaslow, N. (1987). A comparison of the
relative efficacy of self-control therapy and a behavioral problemsolving therapy for depression in children. Journal of Abnormal Child
Psychology, 15, 91–113.
Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study Team. (2003). Treatment
for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS): Rationale, design,
and methods. Journal of the American Academy of Child and
Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 531–542.
Vostanis, P., Feehan, C., & Grattan, E. (1998). Two-year outcome of
children treated for depression. European Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, 7, 12–18.
Weisz, J. R., Thurber, C. A., Sweeney, L., Proffitt, V. D., & LeGagnoux, G. L.
(1997). Brief treatment of mild to moderate child depression using
primary and secondary control enhancement training. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 703–707.
Developmental Disabilities in Community Settings
Developmental Disabilities in
Community Settings
at large. Specifically, CBT utilization requires us to look outside of the proverbial CBT box and address: the environment
(professional reticence to consider using CBT with the DD),
the larger system (public policy), and finally parent/caregiver
(alternatives to infantalization).
Michael R. Petronko and Russell J. Kormann
Keywords: developmental disabilities, mental retardation, community inclusion, behavior management, social problem solving
Forty years ago, prior to several daring investigative
exposés depicting the deplorable conditions in which those
with developmental disabilities (DD) lived in institutions
such as Willowbrook and Pennhurst, this article would not
have been written. Individuals with DD, and certainly
almost all with challenging behaviors, lived in institutions.
The deinstitutionalization movement that followed produced community visibility, and with it, the professional
community as well as the public at large could no longer
remain blithely unaware of the mental health challenges
faced by this group.
In spite of the right-to-treatment movement associated
with deinstitutionalization in the 1960s, which resulted from
the above scandals, few therapeutic breakthroughs were
forthcoming outside of improved pharmacological interventions. It is interesting to note that President John F. Kennedy’s
administration was the first to recognize the plight of persons
with mental retardation for which he appointed the first
Presidential Commission on Mental Retardation, which has
met annually since. It is also noteworthy that his
administration was responsible for developing the community mental health centers act. Of most significance, however, is the fact that while both initiatives were individually
distinguished social milestones, neither the twain would
meet. No provisions were made in the latter to accommodate
the former. Therefore, treatment advances made possible by
the adoption of CBT into the Community Mental Health
Center/Managed Care movement supported by the Zeitgeist
of evidence-based treatments were not considered systemically applicable for persons with DD. Instead, schedules of
reinforcement, behavior control techniques, and contingency
management dominated the research and clinical landscape
for these individuals, in addition to the widespread use of
antipsychotics. It is fair to say that persons with DD had been
viewed as responders or Middleville serfs, lacking free will,
self-awareness, and therefore much in need of our pity, care,
and benevolence, but more importantly, our control. How
then would one consider attempting CBT, when feebleminded, idiocy, and mentally retarded were/are terms used
synonymously with this group? This article looks at factors
effecting the application of CBT endemic to the community
Few other clinical populations have suffered the myriad
of attributional biases as has the DD population. Reiss,
Levitan, and Szyko (1982) perhaps best described this phenomenon in their work on diagnostic overshadowing. This
suggests that when professionals encounter the potent label of
mental retardation (MR), it essentially disguises or masks any
other potential comorbid condition from being considered. It is
as if the DD individual were essentially immune from other
conditions so long as the DD label exists. Thus, depression and
anxiety, found to be more frequently displayed in this group,
are more likely to be viewed as behavioral sequelae to the MR,
not as discrete conditions.
If psychiatric disorders have not been acknowledged,
especially in a population not expected to experience any, as
has been the case with the developmentally disabled, then
mental health treatment need not be considered. From an
economic standpoint, it is too convenient for financially
strapped state/federal systems to collude with this myth and
save money.
Even when a mental health issue has been accurately
identified, there is a prevailing attitude that people with
MR/DD cannot benefit from CBT or from psychotherapy in
general because they do not have the verbal or cognitive skills
necessary to participate. Whitman (1990) was one of the first
to recognize that there were CBT alternatives to strict “S-R”
contingency management intervention models for the DD,
advocating instead for social learning theory approaches.
Likewise, Nezu, Nezu, and Gill-Weiss (1992) outlined the
unique challenges associated with using cognitively based
strategies with this group, and provided viable remedies to
produce efficacious CBT treatment. Attributional biases are
maintained by the treating community, not the individuals in
need of treatment. Therefore, any potential CBT intervention
must begin with programs directed at attitude change on a
systemswide level targeting professionals, as well as the
larger community.
With the enlightenment provided by Reiss et al. (1982),
dual diagnoses began to be recognized within the DD
166 Developmental Disabilities in Community Settings
population and with this recognition, not surprisingly, was
found a full spectrum of mental health challenges. A virtual
replica of conditions was found not to be indistinguishable
from this group’s intellectually “normal” counterparts,
including PTSD, OCD, depression, and all the anxiety disorders. Notice that these conditions were not created by
the process of deinstitutionalization (or at least not solely) as
iatrogenic effects, but were now recognized because of the
visibility afforded by community inclusion. The system
must not only recognize that the population of DD individuals have anxiety disorders, and that CBT can be a treatment
of choice, but also not infantilize the individual, by disallowing their responsibility for engaging in aberrant behavior
and/or his or her responsibility for maintaining treatment.
For example, while in a residential setting, sexual assault
might be viewed, if acknowledged at all, as a behavior problem (men and women who have been raped in residential
settings are rarely treated for PTSD). In the community, it is
rape, and punishable by law. The person with DD as the perpetrator or the assaulted or both is/are victims and deserve
state-of-the art treatments (CBT). To the degree that the
community perceives persons with DD as children, regardless of their chronological age, sexual deviations will never
be considered, for the prevailing view is more likely to see
them as asexual (Thompson & Bryson, 2001).
Offenders with DD face the same assessment and treatment obstacles in the legal system as do dually diagnosed individuals in free society. Previous approaches predominantly
employed aversive approaches to reduce behavior, whereas
more recent work encourages the learning of new skills. CBT
work is being done with this population, largely incorporating
anger management programs within broader interventions that
include lifestyle changes, prevention and management of
future offenses, and collaboration with caregivers. Treatment
needs to be of sufficient duration to reduce recidivism.
Anger management, a key element of work with
offenders, is also commonly and more widely used to address
aggression in persons with DD not currently implicated in
criminal behavior. Novaco, Ramm, and Black (2000) differentiate between anger management and anger treatment.
Anger management, often delivered in group formats, is
a structured psychoeducational approach that is less intensive
than anger treatment. Anger treatment involves individualized
analysis of anger experience, and endeavors to minimize
anger via the restructuring of cognitions, and the development
of self-monitoring and self-regulation skills. Graded exposure
to provocation is conducted as a key component of stress
inoculation training. Likewise, the work in the offenders project (Nezu, Nezu, & Dudeck, 1998) utilizes CBT procedures
with the DD. However, their project acknowledges that community placement necessarily brings troublesome behaviors
(iatrogenic effects), such as sexual offenses. With these
troublesome behaviors, the best of treatments available should
be brought to bear on them—hence CBT!
While it is true that some individuals with DD can
participate in CBT, many cannot. Moreover, it is clear that
many people with DD are supported by and work with parents and staff members who are both intimately involved in
the display of their behaviors as well as are affected by their
outcome. These individuals simultaneously function as loving family members; motivated care providers, informal clinicians, and case managers attempting to navigate a service
delivery system that is foreign to them. They are also the
major sources of referrals (few individuals with DD are selfreferred). Most of the CBT literature, therefore, speaks to the
importance of staff and parent consultation and identifies it
as an integral component of the treatment regimen (Benson,
The use of family members or staff of the referred individual as the consumers of CBT and ultimately as the agent
of change describes a different “point of entry” than that
which is typically discussed in the CBT literature. While it
is clear that parents and staff play a role that is critical in
not only the referred individual’s daily well-being, but in their
therapeutic success, developing a treatment plan that utilizes
staff and parents as the agents of change requires a shift in
clinical focus (Petronko, Harris, & Kormann, 1994). That is,
obstacles, which prevent them from competently serving as
change agents, become viable targets of intervention along
with the behavior of the DD person. Moreover, several challenges face treatment models that utilize direct service individuals (i.e., staff, teachers, or parents) as change agents.
First, the stress associated with providing services to individuals with DD and psychiatric/behavioral challenges is well
documented. The literature is replete with discussions of the
burden of ongoing crisis management, burnout, and turnover
(Petronko et al., 1994). Second, low pay, long hours, inadequate training, and the potential for personal injury are all
obstacles that the disability community must overcome in its
attempt to provide effective and consistent behavioral support
to individuals with dual diagnoses. Third, attributional biases,
such as those outlined by “diagnostic overshadowing” (Reiss
et al., 1982), present clinicians with yet another challenge that
must be addressed. Parents’ and staff members’ belief systems
that individuals with DD are inherently dangerous, unable to
change or that their developmental disability “overshadows”
and therefore defines any behavioral or psychiatric manifestation rendering them “unavailable” to therapeutic intervention,
severely interfere with their ability to participate in effective
Developmental Disabilities in Community Settings
treatment models. Consultation models designed to assist
family members and staff in serving individuals with DD,
therefore, must possess aspects of CBT that can address the
misattributions, dysfunctional thought processes, and ineffective problem-solving skills which are common to caregivers
struggling with dually diagnosed family members or consumers (Nezu et al., 1992; Petronko et al., 1994). A CBT
model that promotes self-efficacy through the development of
management skills and an intervention plan specifically
tailored to the needs of the individual, caregiver(s) environment, and system would engender a sense of control in not
only the caregiver, but also in the identified consumer
(Kormann & Petronko, 2002; Petronko et al., 1994). CBT
assessment strategies must be robust enough to highlight the
contribution of each of these areas as they impact on the target behavior in question. Subsequent treatment must therefore
address more than the individual with a disability.
virtue of incorporating each of the four factors in their focus.
Transfer of ownership to these multiple consumers represents
the ultimate goal, thus providing for maintenance of change
across time and settings and generalization.
The mental health plight of persons with developmental disabilities has improved immeasurably over the last
decade, but it has only begun to be considered within the
CBT community. A strong advocacy position therefore must
be assumed by all of us before this untenable situation
improves. Research in overcoming attributional biases in
both the professional and lay community is an essential precursor. Further research into evaluating the four-factor
assessment model proposed by Petronko et al. (1994) as it
attempts to highlight the various foci of intervention also
needs to be done.
See also: Mental retardation—adult, Problem solving—depression
Project NSTM is one of a few CBT treatment programs
which incorporates the principles outlined above. NSTM is a
behavioral consultation and training program designed to
enrich the therapeutic capacity of a referred person’s natural
environment by increasing the behavioral competence of the
caretakers, environment (which includes the other indigenous
people as well as the physical environment), and system in
which all operate in that setting (Petronko, Anesko, Nezu, &
Pos, 1988; Petronko et al., 1994). Competence is achieved by
mastering the precepts of 11 interactive models, which
collectively represent the NSTM multiple-model system. All
program activities take place in the referred individual’s natural environment, which is behaviorally scrutinized and subsequently transformed into a therapeutic milieu. This milieu,
the behavior of the person with developmental disability, the
individual(s) responsible for managing the program, and the
sociopolitical system in which all of the above exist, collectively represent the four discrete areas within which a complete NSTM assessment is conducted. It is not assumed that
the problem exists within the individual, as might be implied
by using a strict ABA approach. Rather it is assumed that the
problem reflects contributions from each of the four areas.
CBT interventions which become generated by the NSTM
four-factor assessment protocol therefore employ strategies,
not techniques. The interventions by necessity are robust by
Benson, B. A. (1992). Teaching anger management to persons with mental
retardation. Chicago: IDS, Inc.
Kormann, R. J., & Petronko, M. R. (2002). Crisis and revolution in developmental disabilities: The dilemma of community based services. The
Behavior Analyst Today, 3, 434–442.
Nezu, C. M., Nezu, A. M., & Dudeck, J. (1998). A cognitive–behavioral
model of assessment and treatment for intellectually disabled sexual
offenders. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 5, 25–64.
Nezu, C. M., Nezu, A. M., & Gill-Weiss, M. J. (1992). Psychopathology in
persons with mental retardation: Clinical guidelines for assessment
and treatment. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Novaco, R. W., Ramm, M., & Black, L. (2000). Anger treatment with
offenders. In C. R. Hollin (Ed.), Handbook of offender assessment and
treatment. New York: Wiley.
Petronko, M. R., Anesko, K. M., Nezu, A., & Pos, A. (1988). Natural
setting therapeutic management (NSTM): Training in the natural environment. In J. M. Levy, P. H. Levy, & B. Nivin (Eds.), Strengthening
families (pp.185–193). New York: Young Adult Institute Press.
Petronko, M. R., Harris, S. L., & Kormann, R. J. (1994). Community-based
training approaches for people with mental retardation and mental illness. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 49–54.
Reiss, S., Levitan, G., & Szyko, J. (1982). Emotional disturbance and
mental retardation: Diagnostic overshadowing. American Journal on
Mental Deficiency, 86, 567–574.
Thompson, S. A., & Bryson, M. (2001). Prospects for identity formation
for lesbian, gay, or bisexual persons with developmental disabilities.
International Journal of Development and Education, 48, 53–65.
Whitman, T. L. (1990). Self-regulation and mental retardation. American
Journal on Mental Retardation, 94, 347–363.
168 Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Eating Disorders
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
for Eating Disorders
Marsha M. Linehan and
Eunice Y. Chen
Keywords: dialectical behavior therapy, DBT, bulimia nervosa,
anorexia nervosa, eating disorders not otherwise specified, binge
eating disorder, borderline personality disorder
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a multimodal cognitive–behavioral treatment originally developed to treat
chronically suicidal individuals meeting borderline personality disorder (BPD) criteria. DBT is informed by Eastern
mindfulness practices and behavior therapy, and is conducted within the frame of a dialectical epistemology. The
underlying dialectic involves acceptance of clients in their
current distress, yet aiding clients with skills to alter their
dysfunctional behavioral patterns. The behavior change
strategies it employs include methodical and iterative
behavioral analyses of dysfunctional chains of behavior, the
use of commitment strategies to engage clients in treatment,
didactic strategies, exposure-based strategies to block
avoidance and repetitive behaviors and reduce maladaptive
emotions, contingency management to reduce, suppress,
or prevent disordered responses and to strengthen
skillful responses and cognitive modification strategies.
Acceptance procedures consist of mindfulness (learning to
observe, describe, and participate in the moment, without
judgment, effectively and one-mindfully) and a variety of
validation and stylistic strategies. It has been developed for
various subgroups of BPD clients (e.g., highly suicidal or
substance-dependent BPD) and more recently for BPD
clients with eating disorders (ED) or clients with only ED
The reasons for developing DBT for ED are: (1) current treatments for binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia
nervosa (BN) are effective for only 50% of clients and even
less for chronic anorexia (AN), (2) BPD and parasuicidal
behavior is common among ED clients with suicide being a
leading cause of death in AN, (3) ED involve emotion regulation difficulties and skills deficits despite clients’ “apparent competence” in other areas of their lives, (4) ED are
often stigmatized as trivial problems despite high death rates
in AN and significant impairment of functioning in other
ED, and (5) ED, especially AN, differ from other mental illnesses in the significant degree of ambivalence about symptoms and treatment.
An ED, as defined by current clinical classification
systems, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders–Fourth Edition (DSM-IV, APA, 1994) and
International Classification of Disorders-10 (ICD-10
WHO, 1992), involves extreme forms of eating behavior
accompanied by an extreme dependence on weight and
shape as a means of self-evaluation. This leads to a significant impairment of health and psychosocial functioning and
significant mortality in AN. ED diagnoses are classified into
AN and BN, and for those who meet neither criteria, “eating
disorders not otherwise specified” (ED-NOS; DSM-IV) or
“atypical eating disorders” (ICD-l0). The ED-NOS criteria
include those meeting the BED research criteria (DSM-IV).
AN is marked by amenorrhea and low weight (body mass
index [BMI] ⬍ 17.5 or a body weight 85% of expected) due
to dieting, vomiting, overexercise, and the abuse of laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills. BN is marked by a preoccupation with thinness despite being a healthy weight together
with bingeing on objectively large amounts of food followed
by inappropriate compensation (e.g., dieting, vomiting,
overexercise, laxative, diuretic, or diet pill abuse). BED
involves binge eating in the absence of compensatory behaviors and is highly comorbid with obesity (BMI ⬎ 30), with
about a third of obese clients meeting criteria for BED. BED
is the most frequently occurring ED followed by BN and
then AN.
DBT for ED is based on a broadly defined affect regulation model of eating disorders. The basic premise of the
theory is that disordered eating serves to regulate intolerable
affective states in individuals with few or no other adaptive
strategies for regulating affect. Bingeing or bulimic behavior is explained as a result of trying to escape or block primary or secondary aversive emotions that may be triggered
by thoughts regarding food, body image, perfectionism, the
self, or interpersonal situations. Bingeing functions to
quickly narrow attention and cognitive focus from these
thoughts and to provide immediate escape from physiological responses and feelings. Over time, bingeing, as an
escape behavior, becomes reinforced, especially if there are
no more adaptive emotion regulation skills present.
Eventually bingeing becomes an overlearned dysfunctional
response to dysregulated emotions. The longer-term effects
of bingeing or bulimic behaviors are secondary emotions
Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Eating Disorders
such as feeling ashamed that can also promote the eating
disordered behavior.
DBT argues that the extreme weight loss seen in AN is
an escape from tolerating primary or secondary affect in the
absence of other more adaptive emotion regulation skills.
These emotions may be generated by cues such as developmental challenges, perfectionist standards, low self-esteem,
situations involving perceived loss of control (e.g., eating,
interpersonal or familial situations), or an extreme desire to
be thin. These cues may be multiple and may vary from individual to individual.
Previous treatments for eating disorders have focused on
various factors maintaining ED symptoms including: the violation of dietary restraint (cognitive–behavioral therapy for
BN) or interpersonal problems (interpersonal psychotherapy
for BN), or maturational difficulties (Crisp’s psychobiological
theory of AN), or a combination of clinical perfectionism, low
self-esteem, mood intolerance, and interpersonal difficulties
(transdiagnostic theory of ED). Parsimoniously, DBT theory
suggests that the processes purported to maintain disordered
eating (distorted body image, interpersonal difficulties, poor
self-efficacy for meeting pubertal demands, perfectionist
standards, and pervasive low self-esteem) are mediated by
the effects of emotional responses and the inability of the
individual to prevent, tolerate, or modulate these emotional
responses. So, for instance, DBT postulates that it may be the
secondary emotion of shame that is the important mediator in
the relationship between self-critical thoughts and binge eating. Empirical research on the precursors of ED will be
important in generating hypotheses about (1) specific
emotions, (2) their degree of intensity, and (3) the kinds of
emotional contexts related to the maintenance of particular
ED (e.g., fear of “growing up” in AN, extreme shame in the
obese client with BED with chronic and pervasive low selfesteem). Until this research is done, DBT emphasizes the
necessity of evaluating the specific pattern of emotions, their
precipitants, and their contextual associations, and the individual’s skill level. DBT targets disordered eating behaviors
directly and as emotions are generated by efforts to regulate
eating, treatment targets the increase of distress tolerance and
emotion regulation. Emotion regulation from this point of
view includes both the reduction of emotional vulnerability
and the increase of emotion modulation.
There are four treatment stages matching four levels of
severity, each with a hierarchy of treatment targets. Stage I
focuses on increasing behavioral control of clients meeting
ED and BPD criteria who engage in parasuicidal behaviors
or clients whose ED behavior puts them at imminent high
risk of death or self-injury. The hierarchy of treatment
targets is: (1) life-threatening behaviors (e.g., starvation,
ipecac abuse, or fluid restriction in AN clients with an
extremely low BMI, vomiting despite risk of heart attack,
and bingeing and purging in diabetic clients who risk inducing diabetic shock), (2) therapy-interfering behaviors (e.g.,
AN clients falling below an agreed outpatient weight range
or refusing to discuss their restriction in therapy), (3) eating
disorders (e.g., bingeing, restriction, laxative, diuretic, and
diet pill abuse), (4) problems interfering with quality of
life (e.g., unemployment), (5) increasing skills to facilitate a
life worth living, and (6) other individual goals. An example of
Stage I treatment is described in an uncontrolled DBT trial
with ED clients meeting BPD criteria (Leicester General
Hospital, UK; Palmer et al., 2003). Stage II involves exposure to avoided emotions associated with “quiet desperation” as a way of preventing a recurrence of life-threatening
behavior. Otherwise the majority of clients with ED who do
not have complex out-of-control behaviors fall into Stage
III, where ED behavior interferes with quality of life.
Stanford University was the first to develop and evaluate
Stage III DBT and their hierarchy involves stopping:
(1) therapy-interfering behavior, (2) binge eating, and
decreasing: (3) mindless eating, (4) cravings, urges, and preoccupation with food, (5) capitulating, and (6) apparently
irrelevant behaviors (e.g., weighing). Weight loss is not a
goal of treatment. Stage IV treatment for recovered ED
clients would involve focusing on developing relationships,
careers, and hobbies.
This section will describe dialectical, core (change and
validation), communication, and case management strategies
that have been or are being developed for ED (e.g., McCabe,
La Via, & Marcus, in press). See the manual for protocols
for crises management, suicidal behaviors, and relationship
Dialectical Strategies
The dialectical philosophy that informs treatment
views the aim of DBT as replacing extreme and rigid
response patterns with more synthesized and balanced ways
of thinking and doing, using dialectical strategies (e.g.,
metaphor, paradox, cognitive restructuring). One exemplar
of this application of dialectical philosophy, borrowed from
DBT for substance abuse, is in the concept of “dialectical
abstinence,” which synthesizes the goal or thesis of treatment as binge abstinence with the antithesis: acceptance and
preparation for the possibility of lapses. Other areas where
170 Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Eating Disorders
synthesis is important are: encouraging a more moderate
standard of achievement than extreme perfectionist standards; challenging the illusion of control motivating
overeating; and accepting the changes a client is currently
making but also encouraging further change. This latter
dialectic is important in targeting clients’ ambivalence about
treatment and the frustration and hopelessness that therapists
and family may experience.
Change Strategies
In Stage III DBT, at each session, a diary card modified
for ED is reviewed (including ratings of urges to binge,
binge eating, mindless eating, apparently irrelevant behavior
[e.g., easy access to binge foods], goal capitulation, food
cravings, food preoccupation, and weekly weight). The
client reports on the key link in the chain analysis (a description of the problem, its antecedents, its consequences, and
its context) that led to the bingeing, or otherwise, a lowerranked target for behavioral change, and what skills the
client has used or will use in the future (solution analysis).
The therapist establishes reasons for skills failure, reinforces
approximations of skills, and ensures broad skills use rather
than overreliance on one skill.
As ambivalence is a major barrier to success in ED treatment, commitment strategies (e.g., highlighting the freedom
to make the choice of continuing treatment in the absence of
alternatives, given their health, or analysis of pros and cons of
behavior) are used throughout. In the initial session, the devil’s
advocate strategy is used to elicit reasons for bingeing abstinence from clients if they wish to have a life worth living.
The use of didactic strategies is typical of the Stanford
program which is based on teaching three skills modules
(Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance)
and the Leicester General Hospital program which adds an
“Eatingness” module that includes didactics about the invalidating cultural and nutritional environment, weight regulation, and the effects of starvation.
Exposure and response prevention in the context of
“opposite action” (where urges to engage in dysfunctional
behavior are overcome by doing the action opposite to the
urge) are important in targeting urges to avoid (difficult
foods, eating situations or body image situations, negative
moods, interpersonal situations, maturational situations) and
urges to engage in repetitive acts (e.g., body checking).
In these situations, clients are asked to construct a hierarchy
of avoided situations and exposed to these with plans to prevent the old dysfunctional response and to engage in new
adaptive behaviors. The aim would also be to generalize new
adaptive responses to other situations and contexts.
Other change strategies important in the treatment of
ED include contingency management using the therapeutic
relationship (e.g., by making outpatient DBT contingent on
the client observing weight limits) and cognitive modification strategies to reappraise weight and shape concerns, the
self, interpersonal relationships, and perfectionist beliefs.
In DBT for ED, every change strategy is paired with an
acceptance-based validation strategy. Validation involves
responding in a genuine way to the client’s thoughts and feelings as understandable given his or her current situation, learning history, beliefs, and in terms of the model of ED behavior.
It does not involve validating the invalid. Thus, if a client comments that he feels fat but is in the normal weight range, then
it is important to validate the feelings of fatness as a habitual
thinking pattern that occurs after eating a meal, although commenting that it is a thought, not a feeling, and that there is no
evidence for this thought being true, given his weight.
Communication Strategies
Standard DBT communication strategies for building
a collaborative relationship (e.g., warmth) and to shift
the client’s attention from dysfunctional interactions or
behaviors (irreverence) are also used in DBT for ED.
Case Management Strategies
The consultation-to-the-therapist strategy, which involves
the use of the consultation team of therapists, is important as:
(1) ED often involve intense feelings on the therapist’s part and
(2) it may draw on the expertise of differently trained professionals (e.g., medical doctors, nutritionists), vital in the treatment of chronic ED (e.g., AN). Finally, other case
management strategies are important for ED clients in coaching them to manage an often extensive health provider network
and to build a sense of control and self-efficacy and thus to
meet maturational and interpersonal goals.
Treatment Structure
Stage I DBT for ED with BPD (e.g., Leicester General
Hospital) includes weekly: individual psychotherapy (1 hour),
skills group (2 hours), consultation team for therapists
(2 hours), and out-of-session phone consultation, and ancillary
treatments (e.g., pharmacotherapy). Individual psychotherapy
involves focusing on the highest behavior according to the
treatment hierarchy. Skills group involves four modules:
mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation,
and distress tolerance. The Leicester General Hospital trial
included these modules and an Eatingness module (five to six
sessions). This involves didactics as described but also
Disruptive Anger
application of mindfulness to eating (e.g., mindfully planning,
regular eating), problem-solving and distress tolerance skills
for urges to binge and purge, and radical acceptance of body
image. Stanford’s Stage III DBT program involves three
skills modules delivered in groups (BED) or individually
(BN) (20 sessions).
DBT and BED and BN
One uncontrolled trial and two randomized controlled
trials have been conducted on Stanford’s adaptation of DBT
for Stage III clients. In a randomized controlled trial that
compared DBT to wait-list control in obese BED women,
there were no differences between treatments in dropouts.
Those in DBT compared to controls reported significantly
greater abstinence from bingeing (89% versus 12.5%)
and significantly improved body image, eating concerns,
and reduced urge to eat when angry. At 3-month follow-up,
67% of 18 in DBT were abstinent and at 6-month follow-up,
56% of 18 were abstinent. These results for DBT were consistent with those of the smaller uncontrolled trial of DBT.
Another randomized controlled trial compared individual DBT for BN clients with a wait-list control. DBT
was well accepted and there was a median purge reduction
of 98% and an abstinence rate of 28.6%, which was similar
to findings in a large multisite CBT for BN trial at posttreatment. DBT appeared to improve urges to eat in response
to negative emotions.
Finally, in an uncontrolled trial of DBT (6 to 18 months)
for clients with ED and BPD (Leicester General Hospital),
clients (3/7) who had inpatient stays before the program, had
no hospital days 12 months after DBT. There was a decrease
in self-harm episodes 18 months after DBT in the clients
(4/5) who self-harmed before the program. No other standardized outcome measures were used although ED symptoms
improved in all and notable psychosocial changes (e.g.,
employment progress) at posttreatment were described. While
the results of this trial are anecdotal, they are suggestive.
The promising results from the Stanford trials using
DBT for ED and the preliminary findings of Leicester
General Hospital suggest that further treatment development
work and clinical trials are warranted for DBT for ED and
for DBT for ED and BPD. The current absence of empirical
work examining DBT for clients meeting AN and BPD is
also notable.
See also: Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa
DBT for ED and BPD
Palmer, R. L., Birchall, H., Damani, S., Gatward, N., McGrain, L., &
Parker, L. (2003). A dialectical behavior therapy program for people
with an eating disorder and borderline personality disorder description
and outcome. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33, 281–286.
Safer, D. L., Lively, T. I., Telch, C. F., & Agras, W. S. (2002). Predictors of
relapse following successful dialectical behavior therapy for binge eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 32, 155–163.
Safer, D. L., Telch, C. F., & Agras, W. S. (2001). Dialectical behavior therapy
for bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 632–634.
Safer, D. L., Telch, C. F., & Agras, W. S. (2001). Dialectical behavior
therapy adapted for bulimia: A case report. International Journal of
Eating Disorders, 30, 101–106.
Telch, C. F., Agras, W. S., & Linehan, M. M. (2000). Group dialectical
behavior therapy for binge-eating disorder: A preliminary, uncontrolled trial. Behavior Therapy, 31, 569–582.
Telch, C. F., Agras, W. S., & Linehan, M. M. (2001). Dialectical behavior
therapy for binge eating disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 69, 1061–1065.
Wiser, S., & Telch, C. F. (1999). Dialectical behavior therapy for bingeeating disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, 755–768.
Descriptions of DBT, AN, and ED
McCabe, E. B., La Via, M. C., & Marcus, M. D. (in press). Dialectical
behavior therapy for eating disorders. In J. K. Thompson (Ed.),
Handbook of eating disorders and obesity. New York: Wiley.
McCabe, E. B., & Marcus, M. D. (2002). Question: Is dialectical behavior
therapy useful in the management of anorexia nervosa? Eating
Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 10(4), 335–337.
Disruptive Anger
Howard Kassinove and
Raymond Chip Tafrate
Keywords: anger, aggression, hostility, experiences, expressions,
Anger is a basic human emotion (Plutchik, 1980, 2000).
When it is mild, infrequent, and fleeting, it can be helpful as
an alerting stimulus or a motivating force. In contrast, when
it is strong, frequent, and enduring, anger is highly disruptive
to effective functioning. Practitioners certainly know that
strong anger is a major presenting and continuing problem in
child, adolescent, and adult cases. Yet, much more of our
172 Disruptive Anger
research and clinical efforts have been devoted to the treatment of anxiety and depression; anger has been relatively
ignored. This is surprising since effective treatments for
anger reduction do exist. In fact, meta-analytic reviews of
treatment outcome studies indicate a moderate to large magnitude of improvement across a variety of subject samples
(Beck & Fernandez, 1998; Bowman-Edmondson & CohenConger, 1996; DiGiuseppe & Tafrate, 2003; Sukhodolsky,
Kassinove, & Gorman, in press; Tafrate, 1995).
Anger is defined as a negative psychobiological state,
of varying intensity and duration, which is reported by verbal
labels such as “annoyed,” “pissed-off,” “angry,” and “furious.”
Angry states are associated with cognitive distortions and
unrealistic evaluations of the triggering stimulus, moderate to
high autonomic reactivity, private experiences that often
include fantasies of revenge, and public expressive behaviors
that may include yelling, gesturing, and profanity. Whether or
not public behavioral expressions of anger actually emerge
will vary, based on the individual patients’ social learning history and the contingencies of the present environment.
Although anxiety and depression are also negative, anger
is an energizing emotion that typically elicits retaliatory fantasies and behaviors. In contrast, anxiety typically elicits
avoidance behaviors. Depression is not at all energizing. When
anger occurs with significant frequency, across a variety of
situations, it is conceptualized as a personality trait.
Although traits are interesting and important for theory
building, practitioners can only work with the individual
anger episodes of their patients in order to understand their
response patterns and reduce the likelihood of anger
responses in the future.
Anger is different from hostility, which is defined as a set
of attitudes that may lead to anger, and from aggression, which
is defined as overt motor behavior with the intent to harm
others. Recognizing the confusion that has existed, Spielberger
(1988) called anger, hostility, and aggression the “AHA” trio
to highlight the fact that they are different phenomena. He also
noted that anger can be conceptualized as a trait or a state, both
of which are measured by his State–Trait Anger Expression
Inventory (STAXI-2; Spielberger, 1999). Persons high on trait
anger are more likely to experience states of anger in a variety
of situations and in response to varying stimuli. Although
interesting, traits are hypothetical entities inferred from states.
Thus, practitioners focus on the individual anger episodes of
their patients in order to understand their response patterns and
reduce the likelihood of anger in the future.
Kassinove and Tafrate (2002) developed a five-stage
anger episode model to guide treatment (Figure 1). They
recommend that the model be used as a reference point for
joint practitioner–patient understanding of anger as well as
an idiographic assessment strategy. Elements of the model
have been validated by Kassinove, Sukhodolsky, Tsytsarev,
and Solovyova (1997) and Tafrate, Kassinove, and Dundin
Triggers. Each episode begins with a triggering event.
These triggers are usually unwanted behaviors of persons
who are well-known or loved and are most likely to occur at
home in the afternoon or evening hours. By objective standards, the triggers are usually negative and may consist of
insults, neglect by loved ones, unfair treatment, and the like.
Some triggers, however, are objectively neutral or may even
be positive, as when unwanted compliments are repeatedly
received from disliked persons. If fact, almost any stimulus
can be a trigger for anger.
Appraisals. Aversive triggers lead to a general state
of arousal (Berkowitz, 1990, 1993). In order for the arousal
to then emerge as “anger,” the triggers must be appraised or
interpreted in specific ways. Tafrate, Kassinove, and Dundin
(in press), using a community sample, found that adults high
on the trait of anger endorsed a greater number of dysfunctional cognitions than did low-trait-anger adults and were
particularly prone to believe that the triggering events for
their anger were “awful” (as opposed to simply very bad)
and “intolerable” (as opposed to difficult to manage), to
engage in distortions, and to believe they were bad people
(see Beck, 1999; Ellis, 1994). In addition, the angry person
may believe that he or she does not have the skill to deal
with the instigator. This conclusion, of course, may or may
not correspond to reality.
The combination of triggers and appraisals leads to
anger as a specific emotional response. The internal, private
part of the response is the anger experience. The external,
public part of the response represents the expression of anger.
Experiences. Private experiences may consist of
thoughts about the importance of retaliation, images of
harming others, or physiological arousal unseen by others.
Adults high on the trait of anger seem to experience anger
episodes of greater intensity and longer duration than do
low-trait-anger adults. The most common physical sensations associated with anger are muscle tension, rapid heart
rate, headache, and upset stomach.
Expressions. Study of the expressive behaviors associated with anger leads to some surprising conclusions. For
example, aggression is not commonly reported by nonspecific samples of angry adults. The most common expressive
pattern is verbal and consists of shouting, demanding, use of
sarcasm, and profanity. Physical aggression is typically
reported to occur only about 10% of the time. However,
aggression is more common among high-trait-anger adults
and is likely to be more prominent in selected samples (e.g.,
Disruptive Anger
Figure 1. The anger episode model.
clients in criminal justice settings, schools for disturbed
children). Differences in expressive patterns between men
and women are minor.
Outcomes. Anger becomes a clinical problem when the
outcomes are more negative than positive. Outcomes can be
interpersonal, emotional, cognitive, and medical. At the
interpersonal level, relationships are likely to be weakened
following an anger episode as less time is spent with the
person viewed as the instigator Also, angry people are
avoided by others. This leads to additional problems such as
job dissatisfaction, greater likelihood of disagreements at
work, and more conflict with friends and romantic partners.
Anger is also likely to be followed by other negative emotions
such as continued irritation, sadness-depression, disgust, concern, and guilt. These are especially likely to emerge for persons high in trait anger. It is also important to note that some
positive feelings may also emerge including a feeling of relief
and satisfaction. Some people do report that their anger serves
them well. Nevertheless, for high-trait-anger adults, short- and
long-term outcomes of anger are twice as likely to be negative
rather than positive.
Cognitively, anger is associated with rumination about
the trigger. This rumination is likely to increase the intensity
and duration of the episode, and sets the stage for additional
anger as a negative distorting filter likely to be applied to
further actions by the trigger. Angry adults who are high on
trait anger also report more mental health problems such as
depression, anxiety, panic attacks, substance use, and marital
problems, all of which have strong cognitive elements.
The medical problems associated with anger are particularly problematic since they often are not linked to anger
episodes by patients. Outcomes linked to a stimulus are
likely to be those that are close in time. Thus, patients are
most likely to see the interpersonal costs of anger. In contrast, many medical anger outcomes are like those associated
with cigarette smoking—they do not appear for years.
Nevertheless, the data show that longer term, persistent anger
is associated with hypertension, stroke, myocardial infarction, and cancer. For example, Williams and her associates
(2000) completed a large-scale prospective study of the relationship of trait anger to cardiovascular heart disease (CHD).
Middle-aged men and women (n ⫽ 12,986), initially free of
coronary disease, were followed for a mean of 53 months.
Results indicated that among adults with normal blood pressure, the risk of coronary events increased directly with
increasing levels of trait anger. High-anger adults were 2.6
174 Disruptive Anger
times more likely to have a cardiac event than low-anger
adults. The risk posed by high trait anger was found to be
independent of other established biological risk factors.
These and other data strongly suggest the importance of
treating high-trait-anger persons.
CBT treatment for anger (Kassinove & Tafrate, 2002)
consists of four stages: (1) preparing the patient for intervention, (2) working toward anger reduction through behavior
change, (3) reducing anger by developing acceptance skills,
and (4) preparing the patient for relapse.
Preparation. Angry patients are often resistant to treatment. As compared to anxious or depressed patients, who
often seek help on their own, angry patients are typically
referred by others. Moreover, when they do come for treatment, it is often the trigger (e.g., their husband, wife, child,
employer, or employee) that they want to change—not themselves. Thus, angry patients must often be prepared to accept
treatment. This process begins by assessing motivation for
change (which is typically low) and by developing a strong
therapeutic alliance. Trust will be enhanced by agreeing on
the goals and methods to be used. In addition, it is important
to develop and increase awareness of the short- and long-term
consequences associated with individual episodes of anger.
These preparations for the main CBT intervention strategies,
noted below, will increase the likelihood of success.
Behavior Change. Five CBT procedures can be used
for the treatment of anger. As a short-term solution, avoidance and escape are useful. Avoidance from aversive stimuli
(such as a verbally combative colleague) or escape (as when
one leaves an unpleasant meeting) prevent escalations and
allow for a time delay for cognitive reevaluation of the problem situation. Since anger is associated with discomforting
physical sensations, deep muscle relaxation, or a variant,
helps change response patterns to aversive stimuli and
increases a sense of control. In addition, it gives patients a
sense of confidence in their therapist. Muscle relaxation
remains one of the most powerful techniques for CBT
practitioners (Deffenbacher et al., 1996). Sometimes, skill
training is important. Anger can be reduced if the patient has
a true sense of competence (such as a typist, computer repair
person, chef) in areas of importance. Of course, conflicts
emerge for everyone. Thus, anger management includes
the development of social problem-solving skills and
assertive verbal behaviors. Finally, imaginal and in vivo
exposure sessions help patients become desensitized to the
aversive triggers in their lives.
Acceptance. Even in the best of cases, with a skilled
practitioner and a motivated patient, many anger triggers will
continue. Some triggers will be novel, as when “sweet” children enter adolescence and become noncompliant and moody.
Others will be repeated triggers, as when a boss continues to
make unrealistic demands, even after assertive discussions.
Thus, anger management also consists of learning to see the
world realistically and developing a flexible philosophy.
Often, for example, patients overgeneralize with statements
such as “My child never listens” or “My husband is a total
slob.” It is always useful to help them see that it is more realistic to talk about the specific behaviors of their child or
spouse rather than exaggerated and unrealistic statements that
contain words such as “always” or “is” (see Beck, 1999;
Korzybzi, 1933). It is also useful to teach patients that their
anger is increased when they appraise realistically bad triggers as “awful” or “horrible” and when they believe they
“can’t stand” what has happened. Verbal discrimination training, with the goal of semantic precision (e.g., “that was very
unpleasant and I am finding it difficult to cope with it”), is
likely to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of anger
episodes (Tafrate & Kassinove, 1998). Finally, patients can be
taught to forgive and let go of the negative feeling associated
with the anger trigger. This does not mean they are to forget
about it, nor to accept it. Rather, they are to remember what
was done by their family member, friend, or stranger and
to work to reduce the likelihood that it will occur again.
However, they are taught that recall of past problems is best
done with mild arousal rather than in anger or rage.
Relapse Prevention. Seasoned practitioners know well
about relapse. A large number of patients with all sorts of
presenting problems return to treatment after a period of
time. This is not unusual and represents either some kind of
spontaneous response to old stimuli or is a response to a new
situation that was previously not dealt with. It is useful to
prepare patients, and plan, for this likelihood as treatment
reaches the final stages. When done as part of the basic
anger management program, it is less likely to cause patient
Anger is a basic and common emotion. It begins with
a triggering event that is appraised in a manner that turns
general arousal into anger. The private anger experience consists of thoughts and fantasies, often of revenge, and physiological reactions. The public expression most often consists of
verbal responses such as yelling, insulting, and profane exclamations. Anger is associated with many negative short- and
long-term outcomes including interpersonal maladjustment
and medical problems. Angry people are often avoided by others, resulting in isolation and occupational difficulties. A good
anger management program consists of preparation, teaching
strategies for change and acceptance, and preparing for
relapse. One useful adjunct to the methods presented above is
for practitioners to reflect on their personal anger experiences
and to share some examples with patients as to how these have
been handled constructively. In some ways, practitioners and
patients are “in the same boat.” Anger is universal and we all
develop personal methods that work for us.
See also: Adolescent aggression and anger management,
Anger—adult, Anger control problems, Anger management therapy with adolescents
Beck, A. T. (1999). Prisoners of hate: The cognitive basis of anger,
hostility, and violence. New York: HarperCollins.
Beck, R., & Fernandez, E. (1998). Cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of anger: A meta-analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research,
22, 63–75.
Berkowitz, L. (1990). On the formation and regulation of anger and aggression: A cognitive–neoassociationistic analysis. American Psychologist,
45, 494–503.
Berkowitz, L. (1993). Aggression: Its causes, consequences, and control.
New York: McGraw-Hill.
Bowman-Edmondson, C. B., & Cohen-Conger, J. C. (1996). A review of
treatment efficacy for individuals with anger problems: Conceptual,
assessment, and methodological issues. Clinical Psychology Review,
16, 251–275.
Deffenbacher, J. L., Oetting, E. R., Huff, M. E., Cornell, G. R. et al. (1996).
Evaluation of two cognitive–behavioral approaches to general anger
reduction. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 20, 551–573.
DiGiuseppe, R., & Tafrate, R. (2003). Anger treatment for adults: A metaanalytic review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 70–84.
Ellis, A. E. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy: Revised and
updated. New York: Carol Publishing.
Kassinove, H., & Sukhodolsky, D. G. (1995). Anger disorders: Basic science and practice issues. In H. Kassinove (Ed.), Anger disorders:
Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment (pp. 1–26). Washington, DC:
Taylor & Francis.
Kassinove, H., Sukhodolsky, D. G., Tsytsarev, S. V., & Solovyova, S.
(1997). Self-reported constructions of anger episodes in Russia and
America. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 12, 301–324.
Kassinove, H., & Tafrate, R. C. (2002). Anger management: The complete
practitioner’s manual for the treatment of anger. Atascadero, CA:
Impact Publishers.
Korzybzi, A. (1933). Science and sanity: An introduction to nonAristotelean systems and general semantics. Lakeville, CT: The
Institute of General Semantics.
Plutchik, R. (1980). A general psychoevolutionary theory of emotion.
In R. Plutchik & H. Kellerman (Eds.), Emotion: Theory, research,
and experience: Vol. 1. Theories of emotion (pp. 3–31). New York:
Academic Press.
Plutchik, R. (2000). Emotions in the practice of psychotherapy.
Washington, DC: APA Books.
Spielberger, C. D. (1988). Professional manual for the State–Trait Anger
Expression Inventory. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment
Spielberger, C. D. (1999). Manual for the State–Trait Anger Expression
Inventory—2. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Sukhodolsky, D. G., Kassinove, H., & Gorman, B. S. (in press). Cognitive
behavioral therapy for anger in children and adolescents: A metaanalysis. Aggression and Violent Behavior.
Tafrate, R. (1995). Evaluation of treatment strategies for adult anger disorders. In H. Kassinove (Ed.), Anger disorders: Definition, diagnosis,
and treatment. Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.
Tafrate, R., & Kassinove, H. (1998). Anger control in men: Barb exposure
with rational, irrational, and irrelevant self-statements. Journal of
Cognitive Psychotherapy, 12, 187–211.
Tafrate, R., Kassinove, H., & Dundin, L. (2002). Anger episodes in high
and low trait anger community adults. Journal of Clinical Psychology,
58, 1573–1590.
Williams, J. E., Paton, C. C., Siegler, I. C., Eigenbrod, M. L., Nieto, F. J.,
& Tyroler, H. A. (2000). Anger proneness predicts coronary heart disease risk. Prospective analysis from the Atherosclerosis Risk in
Communities (ARIC) Study. Circulation, 102, 2034–2039.
Arthur Freeman and Beverly White
Keywords: dreams, images, dream images, imagery
When one thinks of dreams as part of the raw material for
psychotherapy, one immediately thinks of Freud and his
“royal road to the unconscious.” Dreams have traditionally
been an important part of psychotherapeutic treatment since
the days of the early pioneers in the development of psychotherapy. Freud, Adler, Jung, and others, despite major
disagreements on the foci or overall goals of treatment, all
agreed on the importance, if not the primacy, of the dream
as one of the most essential psychotherapeutic tools. Freud’s
notion was that through an understanding of the dream
theme, content, images, and subsequent associations, the
analyst could understand the workings of the patient’s
unconscious. Conflicts as yet unspoken or dynamics not
fully understood (by patient or analyst) could be clarified
through the interpretation to the patient of the symbols of
the dreams. For Jung, the dream symbol was important, as it
reflected not only the personal unconscious of the individual
but also the collective unconscious of the group.
The dream became the way of fulfilling desires that
could not otherwise be fulfilled during the waking life for
176 Dreams
any of a number of reasons. The effect of the dream could
have an impact and manifestation into the waking state that
might affect one’s mood (feeling down), one’s behavior
(wakefulness), one’s pleasure (arousal and sexual release),
or one’s cognition (being scared).
For Adler, however, the patient’s dream life corresponded directly and entirely to the dreamer’s world picture
or lifestyle. The dream state, according to Adler, was part of
a continuum of consciousness that allowed for problem
solving when the demands of reality were far less pressing.
Ideally, this would allow for the possibility of more creative
problem solving without the constraint of reality. Adler
(1927) states: “The purpose of dreams must be in the feelings they arouse. The dream is only the means, the instrument to stir up feelings” (p. 127).
Whether the dreams are upsetting and frustrating, or
gratifying and pleasurable, patients may bring their dreams
to the therapy work. As any practicing clinician will affirm,
dreams are commonly mentioned or referred to in therapy.
This can present a dilemma for any therapist who has limited
training in the use of dreams as grist for the therapeutic mill.
Dreams have not been a part of CBT, because cognitive
therapists generally come from a more behavioral tradition
and orientation. Their clinical training might have had little
or no reading, training, or supervision in the use of dreams
in the therapeutic encounter. There have been few resources
that have offered guidelines for using dreams. There has
been no manual developed for CBT dream work. As another
source of data, the dream can become a valuable tool in the
overall CBT armamentarium, and a fruitful area for exploration (Mahoney, 1974).
From the classical psychoanalytic perspective, two
types of dream content were identified, manifest content and
latent content. The manifest content was the way the dream
appeared to the dreamer (a much more direct and conscious
focus), while the latent content reflected the unconscious
conflicts. It is necessary to view dreams as reflecting the
cognitions and affective responses of waking experience and
of the patient’s life in general rather than as mysterious
reflections of so-called “deeper” issues.
Dreams and CBT
The first CBT outline for dream work was formulated
by Beck (1971). Beck regarded dreams as a snapshot or sort
of biopsy of the patient’s psychological process and
processing style. The patient’s dreams were seen to be idiosyncratic and dramatic expressions of the patient’s view of
self, the world, and the future. Given that the dream material
reflected the cognitive triad, it would follow that the dream
would also embody the patient’s cognitive distortions in
those three broad areas. Beck (1967) pointed out that concentrating on the manifest content (the aware and easily
described aspect of dreams) is far more satisfactory than
attempting to infer underlying processes which may be
vague or unreachable. Since the manifest content is readily
available to the dreamer and can be reported to the therapist,
it is available for immediate use in the therapy session.
Utilizing material that is readily available, the patient can
obtain a sense of mastery and self-knowledge without
depending on the therapist to interpret the symbolism of the
dream. Beck states, “If the patient has a dream in which he
perceives other people as frustrating him, it would be more
economical to simply consider this conception of people as
being frustrating rather than to read into the dream an underlying ‘masochistic wish’ ” (p. 180). Further, Beck found
that “dream themes are relevant to observable patterns of
behavior” (p. 181), and that “dreams were analogous to the
kind of suffering the depressed patient experienced in his
waking life” (p. 208). These findings are in full accord with
Adler’s contention that the dream themes are directly relevant to the patient’s waking life and identified behavioral
Dreams are the product of the dreamer’s internal world,
but maintain an essential continuity with the waking thought
process. In studying typical dreams of psychiatric patients,
Ward, Beck, and Roscoe (1961) and Beck and Ward (1961)
found dream themes characteristic of the particular disorder
manifest in the patient’s waking experience. Beck (1967)
states: “In the course of the psychotherapy of patients with
neurotic-depressive reactions, it was noted that there was a
high incidence of dreams with unpleasant content” (p. 170).
As treatment progresses, and the individual is better able to
meet and overcome the day-to-day problems of life, the
dream content will change to reflect the waking changes.
Beck had suggested in 1971 that the dominant cognitive patterns (or schemata) of waking life not only structure the content of waking ideational experiences but also have the
capacity to exert varying degrees of influence on dreams. As
a result, he suggested, dream reports in clinical contexts
might function as a kind of “biopsy” of the client’s dysfunctional schemata. Doweiko (2004) and Freeman and White
(2004), working in the Beckian tradition, suggest that
the themes of a client’s manifest dream content often reflect
the client’s waking cognitive distortions. The dreams, they
argue, are amenable to the same cognitive restructuring and
“reality” testing procedures that may be applied to the
client’s nondream realm of automatic thoughts and beliefs.
Freeman (1981) and Freeman and Boyll (1992)
addressed the use of dreams and attendant imagery integrating both Beckian and Adlerian perspectives. Doweiko
(1982, 2004), using a rational emotive (RET) approach, suggested that the therapy could help the patient to directly
challenge depressive cognitions reflected in the dream. This
would have the effect that the depression would not be so
powerfully reinforced. Doyle (1984) tested whether dreamers could learn to control their dream content through several skills training sessions using cognitive restructuring,
self-instruction techniques, and maintenance of a dream log
in which they recorded their dreams on a daily basis. She
found that the group trained in the restructuring strategies
was able to control the dream content in a pleasurable direction. Rosner (1997) suggests that the Constructivist
approach of helping patients to understand the reality that
they construct is applicable to the dream phenomenon and
would be a useful approach to cognitive therapy work with
dreams. Perris (1998) described the use of dreams in the
cognitive therapy of chronic psychiatric patients. She found
that using dream work was well accepted by the patients and
easily integrated into the broader treatment that examined
the patient’s automatic thoughts and schemas. More
recently, Rosner, Lyddon, and Freeman (2003) have compiled
the first collection of CBT-oriented dream work.
The volume includes an overview of the intellectual
and social history behind the development of Beck’s dream
theory and behind his decision to stop pursuing dream
research in the early 1970s (Rosner, 2003). From a narrative–constructivist perspective, Goncalves and Barbosa
(2004) describe a cognitive, narrative approach to dream
work designed to (a) expand the client’s sensorial, emotional, and cognitive experience and (b) allow for the emergence of a coherent and meaningful dream narrative
organized around a central or root metaphor. Once the
metaphor is constructed, the client is encouraged to project
an alternative and potentially more viable dream metaphor.
Leijssen (2004) brings the focusing technique of
Gendlin (1996) to cognitive therapy by suggesting that
the lived and “felt sense” of cognitions in dreams can enrich
and deepen therapeutic work. Leijssen’s five steps of entering,
elaborating on, and challenging dream images introduce the
experience of the body, as it tells and inhabits dreams, as an
additional source of information in testing hypotheses. In a
similar vein, Hill and Rochlen’s (2004) cognitive–experiential
model of dream work underscores an active and creative role
for clients as they explore their dreams, achieve insights into
the meaning of their dreams, and take action by making
changes in their dreams (and in their lives), and then use this
new meaning to guide future decisions and actions.
An example of a marker of movement or improvement
in therapy might be the patient who previously had dreams
of helplessness or failure and now begin to have dreams that
reflect his or her coping, mastery, and success.
The cognitive view of dreams is that the dream material is idiosyncratic to the dreamer. It is essential that the
therapist avoid the pitfall of universal dream symbols, e.g., a
certain symbol always has the same meaning. The therapist
must work to understand the dream content and the broader
dream themes in the context of the patient’s life, experience,
and base of knowledge. Since the dream is not fettered by
the constraints of the waking state, e.g., attending to necessary or vital circumstances such as watching the road while
driving, the dreamer is freer to express a broad range of
ideas, utilize magical thinking, and be as creative and unreal
as possible. Some dreams may goad the person into action,
and may presage activities. In keeping all possible avenues
opened for data collection in the therapy, the dream can add
immeasurably to the therapy work. It should be stressed that
not all patients will come in reporting their dreams. The
therapist need not suggest or require that the patient record
and report his or her dreams, but should be prepared to deal
with them when offered.
Recording and Reporting Dreams
Two reporting techniques are used, the Dream Log
(DL) and the Dream Analysis Record (DAR), an adaptation
of the Dysfunctional Thought Record (DTR). Both are done
as homework, though the DAR can be used in the office as
part of the session. For the dream log, patients keep a small
notebook near their beds so that they can record dreams,
dream fragments, and images. They are also asked to record
affective responses and physiological responses. For the latter issues, they are also asked to use scaling to identify their
level of response on a 0–10 scale, e.g., “woke up scared—8.”
Or, “the dream was sad—4.”
The DAR asks the patient to enter the date of the dream
in column 1. In column 2 they enter the highlights of the
dream. In column 3 they give their affective reactions, and
rate the degree of their reaction. In column 4 they include any
thoughts that were associated with the dream image. In column 5 they enter the restructuring of the image. In column 6
the patient gives a reassessment of the degree of emotion
associated with the dream image.
Guidelines for Using Dreams
The following guidelines can assist the clinician in
utilizing dreams within the context of CBT.
178 Dreams
1. The dream needs to be understood in thematic
rather than symbolic terms. The particular images
and ideas scale the level of emotion.
2. The thematic content of the dream is idiosyncratic
to the dreamer and must be viewed within the context of the dreamer’s life.
3. The specific language and imagery of the dream
are important to the meaning.
4. The affective responses to the dreams can be seen
as similar to the dreamer’s affective responses in
waking situations.
5. The particular length of the dream is of lesser
import than the content.
6. The dream is a product of, and the responsibility
of, the dreamer.
7. Dream content and images are amenable to the
same cognitive restructuring as are any automatic
8. Dreams can be used when the patient appears
“stuck” in therapy.
9. The dream material and images will reflect the
patient’s schema.
10. Dreams need to be dealt with as part of the session
agenda setting.
11. Encourage a system and regimen for the collection
and logging of the dream material.
12. Help the patient develop skill at restructuring negative or maladaptive dream images into more functional and adaptive images.
13. Use the collection and analysis of the dream content as a standard homework task.
14. The dream images can be used, as appropriate,
as a shorthand in the therapy.
15. Have the patient try to capsulize and to draw a
“moral” from the dream.
Dreams and Related Imagery
Using dreams in therapy requires the use of the associated imagery. The dream restructuring process is, by definition, an exercise in imagery. Since few patients can describe
symptoms without describing accompanying images, the
image is a ready and accessible entry point for cognitive intervention. Images may be visual, auditory, gustatory, or olfactory. They may utilize an economy of words, but they provide
a directness of meaning and a vivid affective experience for
the patient. The affect-laden image can often penetrate the
depression and isolation of the lonely patient just as the calming image can reduce the arousal of the anxious patient.
The image-maker does not always have to be the
patient, since the therapist can suggest images and imagining techniques to effectively break through a number of
symptoms. Images can be made more powerful and evocative
through the inclusion of multisensory elements. Beck,
Laude, and Bohnert (1974) observed that with the onset or
exacerbation of anxiety, many patients have thoughts or
visual fantasies revolving around the theme of danger. The
anxiety, they conclude, was a direct result of the visualization of the danger-laden image. Their observations have
direct implications for the treatment of anxiety.
The imaging can become part of the homework assignment arrived at between the patient and the therapist. The
patient can be asked to develop a number of images that help
focus on the particular symptoms currently being addressed in
treatment. The therapist can, of course, utilize imagery and
imaginal restructuring as a major tool for both dream-related
images and waking images (Edwards, 1989). Krakow’s (2004)
imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT) has been developed with
groups of survivors of sexual abuse suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to reduce the number, intensity,
and intrusiveness of nightmares. Repeated rehearsals of alternate imagery offer the patients a feeling of mastery over the
intrusive and noxious stimuli and help them sleep through the
night. Improved sleep, Krakow suggests, is then instrumental
in reducing other symptoms of PTSD.
While dreams have historically been an important part
of the psychotherapeutic process, the therapist trained in
CBT is frequently not trained or prepared to work with
dreams. The cognitive model sees the dreamer as idiosyncratic and the dream as a dramatization of the patient’s view
of self, world, and future, subject to the same cognitive distortions as the waking state.
The cognitive therapist can enrich his or her armamentarium by including dreams and imagery as part of the psychotherapeutic collaborative process. They offer an
opportunity for the patient to understand his or her cognitions as played out on the stage of the imagination and to
challenge or dispute those depressogenic or anxiogenic
thoughts, with a resultant positive affect shift.
The dream would not then necessarily be the royal road
to the unconscious. It is far more a commonly traveled route
toward the individual’s conscious personal interpretations of
that most human of experiences, the dream.
Adler, A. (1927). The practice and theory of individual psychology.
New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co.
Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical
aspects. New York: Harper & Row. (Republished as Beck, A.T.
Dual Diagnosis
(1972). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press.)
Beck, A. T. (1971). Cognition, affect and psychopathology. Archives of
General Psychiatry, 24, 495–500.
Beck, A. T., Laude, R., & Bohnert, M. (1974). Ideational components of
anxiety neurosis. Archives of General Psychiatry, 31, 319–325.
Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Beck, A. T., & Ward, C. H. (1961). Dreams of depressed patients:
Characteristic themes in manifest content. Archives of General
Psychiatry, 5, 462–467.
Doweiko, H. E. (1982). Neurobiology and dream theory: A rapprochement
model. Individual Psychology: The Journal of Adlerian Theory,
Research, and Practice, 38(1), 55–61.
Doweiko, H. E. (2004). Dreams as an unappreciated avenue for cognitive–
behavioral therapists. In R. I. Rosner, W. J. Lyddon, &
A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive therapy and dreams. New York: Springer.
Doyle, M. C. (1984). Enhancing dream pleasure with the Senoi strategy.
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40(2), 467–474.
Freeman, A. (1981). The use of dreams and imagery in cognitive therapy.
In G. Emery, S. Hollon, & R. Bedrosian (Eds.), New directions in cognitive therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
Freeman, A., & Boyll, S. (1992). The use of dreams and the dream
metaphor in cognitive behavior therapy. Psychotherapy in Private
Practice, 10(1–2), 173–192.
Freeman, A., & White, B. (2004). Dreams and the dream image. In
R. I. Rosner, W. J. Lyddon, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive therapy
and dreams. New York: Springer.
Gendlin, E. T. (1996). Focusing-oriented psychotherapy: A manual of the
experiential method. New York: Guilford Press.
Goncalves, O. F., & Barbosa, J. G. (2004). From reactive to proactive
dreaming. In R. I. Rosner, W. J. Lyddon, & A. Freeman (Eds.),
Cognitive therapy and dreams. New York: Springer.
Hill, C. E., & Rochlen, A. B. (2004). To dream, perchance to sleep:
Awakening the potential of dream work in cognitive therapy. In
R. I. Rosner, W. J. Lyddon, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive therapy
and dreams. New York: Springer.
Krakow, B. (2003). Imagery rehearsal therapy for chronic posttraumatic
nightmares: A mind’s eye view. In R. I. Rosner, W. J. Lyddon, &
A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive therapy and dreams (pp. 89–112).
New York: Springer.
Leijssen, M. (2004). Focusing-oriented dream work. In R. I. Rosner,
W. J. Lyddon, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive therapy and dreams.
New York: Springer.
Mahoney, M. J. (1974). Cognitive behavior therapy. Cambridge, MA:
Perris, H. (1998). Less common therapeutic strategies and techniques in the
cognitive psychotherapy of severely disturbed patients. In C. Perris
and P. D. McGorry (Eds.), Cognitive psychotherapy of psychotic and
personality disorders. New York: Wiley.
Rosner, R. I. (1997). Cognitive therapy, constructivism, and dreams: A
critical review. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 10(3), 249–273.
Rosner, R. I. (2003). Aaron T. Beck’s dream theory in context: An introduction to his 1971 article on cognitive patterns in dreams and day
dreams. In R.I. Rosner, W. J. Lyddon, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive
therapy and dreams (pp. 9–26). New York: Springer.
Rosner, R. I., Lyddon, W. J., & Freeman, A. (Eds.).(2004). Cognitive therapy and dreams. New York: Springer.
Ward, C. H., Beck, A. T., & Roscoe, E. (1961). Typical dreams: Incidence
among psychiatric patients. Archives of General Psychiatry, 5,
Dual Diagnosis
Michael Petronko and
Doreen M. DiDomenico
Keywords: developmental disabilities, mental retardation, dual
diagnosis, anger management, social skills training
There is a widely held, albeit elitist, opinion among mental
health professionals that cognitively based treatments cannot
be applied to cognitively challenged individuals. Indeed,
save for rare exceptions, one will not find mention of this
population in any evidence-based CBT treatment manual or
text on empirically validated treatments. It is a bias that
unfortunately judges the book by its proverbial cover. This
article seeks to change this travesty, both because of the overwhelming needs of this population for treatment and the
concomitant potential success of a CBT approach.
Mental health professionals have long been aware of the
concept of “dual diagnosis” as it applies to the comorbidity
of mental illness and substance abuse. The application of the
concept to the existence of psychiatric disorders in persons
with developmental disabilities only dates back to the
midtwentieth century, and still remains largely unrecognized
by the mental health community. Current research suggests
that psychiatric disorders are at least three to four times more
prevalent among people with MR/DD than among the general population. Such a high prevalence statistic is not surprising on consideration of the physical, psychological, and
social vulnerabilities of persons with DD. Many individuals
with mental handicaps are now facing new tensions as they
assimilate to life in the community while the national deinstitutionalization movement continues to press forward.
Attitudinal Biases
Several explanations may account for professionals’ lack
of familiarity with this population of the “other” dually diagnosed. The most basic misconception underlying this
unawareness is that people with MR are immune to mental illness. A seminal body of research on attitudinal biases originated in the early 1980s with the concept of diagnostic
180 Dual Diagnosis
overshadowing (Reiss, Levitan, & Szyszko, 1982). Diagnostic
overshadowing conjectures that psychiatric symptoms are not
independently identified as mental health problems, but are
instead attributed to the condition of mental retardation.
A historical review of psychotherapy effectiveness
research from the 1950s through the 1970s revealed an overall level of ineffectiveness, which was attributed to the failure of therapeutic techniques. Interestingly, however,
research conducted during the same time on persons with
MR attributed psychotherapy ineffectiveness to the character
and limitations of this disabled population.
Practical Factors
Another professional issue, more realistic in nature than
prejudiced, is that practitioners are not trained in the unique
manifestation of symptoms and treatment modifications for
this specific subset of patients. For those who operate from a
scientist-practitioner model, the scarcity of research on which
to take direction adds to the mystification of clinicians.
A myriad of other practical factors complicate the
competent execution of assessment and treatment with
dually diagnosed individuals. The pursuit of diagnostic evaluation reveals that standard classification systems are not
tested on people with intellectual disabilities, whose psychiatric symptoms may manifest differently and/or not conform
to the range of symptoms necessary to yield a diagnostic
label. The mental status examination is rarely a reliable
endeavor when the person with MR/DD is the sole reporter.
Developmentally disabled individuals may exhibit response
biases of acquiescence, suggestibility, and confabulation
when being interviewed. A comprehensive evaluation relies
on the reports of care providers who are subjective in their
view of the referred patient, and cannot reliably report on
unobservable psychic phenomena (e.g., hallucinations).
Some practical issues that interfere with the treatment
of dually diagnosed individuals involve their care providers
to a great extent. If a person with MR/DD does not self-refer,
which is typically the case, assessment and treatment rely on
the identification of a problem and the pursuit of services by
others closely involved with the individual. Often, another
person must agree to bring the person to treatment sessions
and reliably and consistently assist with CBT homework.
Optimal Patient Characteristics
There are, without a doubt, certain characteristics that
render some individuals with MR/DD as more suitable
candidates for CBT than others. It has been recommended
that assessment should be done in the following areas before
embarking on CBT: communication skills, cognitive aptitude (e.g., understanding of concepts of gradation), capacity
to identify emotions, and capacity to understand the CBT
model (Hatton, 2002). With regard to this last requisite,
research has been conducted on whether persons with MR
could distinguish an activating event, its meaning, the emotional and behavioral consequences, and especially the concept that beliefs may mediate these reactions (Dagnan,
Chadwick, & Proudlove, 2000). Researchers found a higher
success rate of individuals with MR/DD correctly linking
situations to emotions than identifying the potential mediating cognitions.
Informed Consent
According to U.S. legal criteria, the general requirements for informed consent for treatment include knowledge, capacity, and voluntariness. These decisions must be
made free from coercion. The AAMR Expert Consensus
Guidelines on the treatment of psychiatric and behavioral
problems in MR/DD (2000) additionally emphasize the
considerations of the involvement of families/guardians in a
collaborative decision-making team, the provision of information to the individual in a form he or she can understand,
and the view of informed consent as an ongoing process (as
opposed to a discrete event).
There are several challenges faced by treatment
providers in acquiring informed consent from persons with
MR/DD. Possible deficits in comprehension, memory and
verbal expression, problem-solving difficulties, concreteness, and problems processing complex sequences of information challenge the requirements of knowledge and
capacity. Tendencies toward acquiescence, and limited
experience with decision making challenge the requirement
of voluntariness.
Several studies have investigated the ability of individuals with MR/DD to provide informed consent and found that
approximately two-thirds of their subjects with MR/DD were
able to consent to at least one form of proposed treatment.
Motivation and Active Participation
The provision of informed consent to treatment typically implies one’s motivation to participate in the treatment
and achieve the desired results. However, given the fallibility
of achieving consent from individuals with DD that is fully
informed and/or fully voluntary, the assumed motivation for
treatment also comes into question. Exacerbating this issue
further is the fact that more often than not, dually diagnosed
individuals do not self-refer, i.e., they are typically brought to
Dual Diagnosis
treatment by care providers or court mandate and often do
not even acknowledge their current condition as problematic
in any way. Nezu, Nezu, and Gill-Weiss (1992) identify such
motivational issues as examples of initiation difficulties in
that their presence may obstruct the conduct of assessment
and treatment in these individuals.
In contrast to other modes of clinical intervention,
cognitive–behavioral therapy requires active participation on
the part of the “patient,” to the extent that many conceptualize CBT patients as becoming their own therapists/trainers
through the use of many self-directed treatment techniques.
Compounding the motivation issue further is the fact
that many cognitive–behavioral treatment approaches
require exposing the individual to the source of his or her
distress in order to desensitize negative emotion and practice
coping skills. Without the overriding intrinsic motivation to
overcome the presenting emotional challenge, an individual
with MR is likely to resist treatment techniques that exacerbate distress in the moment.
Motivation is often enhanced in treatment with developmentally disabled individuals via the use of contingent
reinforcement for all phases of assessment and treatment,
from session attendance and participation to practicing coping skills and other therapeutic “homework.”
Choice of Treatment Techniques
Nezu et al. (1992) list the following special considerations for using CBT strategies with clients with MR: incorporate strategies for maintaining attention to optimize social
learning; make use of modeling, especially peer models;
acknowledge the need for repetition and extended time for
learning to occur with the need for later booster sessions to
promote generalization; use concrete examples from a variety
of situations; and utilize contingent positive reinforcement to
strengthen the practice and retention of newly learned skills.
The use of technology may facilitate treatment with
individuals with MR/DD. Some studies showed the successful use of biofeedback to help individuals recognize the differences in their emotional states via an objective external
measure. In situations where such advanced technology is
not available, trained care providers can act as feedback
sources relying on observable changes in mood and behavior.
Collaboration with Care Providers
Utilizing family, staff, and other care providers as collegial partners in clinical intervention has been a preferred
treatment practice for individuals with dual diagnoses who
reside in the community, especially for those individuals
with more severe cognitive and adaptive deficits (Petronko,
Harris, & Kormann, 1994). The care providers must receive
parallel psychoeducation to take on the task of being a treatment partner—prompting the individual in specific situations, helping to identify apparent emotions, triggers, and
behaviors for the person to promote and reinforce learning,
to help the person practice skills at home, to begin to verbally direct the person to relax and other methods at first
sign of marked anxiety, and to communicate regarding these
experiences with the therapist.
Nezu, Nezu, Rothenburg, DelliCarpini, and Groag
(1995) found that cognitive models can account for depression in individuals with MR. Their results revealed higher
rates of automatic negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness, and lower rates of self-reinforcement and social
support in the dually diagnosed patients they studied. Studies
have also shown similarities in the social interaction patterns
in depressed adults both with and without DD. Hurley and
Sovner (1991) suggest that patients with social skills deficits
as part of their depression are good candidates for CBT. The
treatment package that Hurley and Sovner recommend
includes the reinforcement of behaviors incompatible with
depression (e.g., making eye contact), improvement of social
skills, and the challenging of negative interpretations.
Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety has been demonstrated to be a very common
mental health problem in people with DD. The complete
spectrum of anxiety disorders is represented in this population
as opposed to their noncognitively challenged counterparts.
Relaxation training is a common component in a CBT
approach to treating anxiety. Individuals with MR/DD are
reported to have better results learning relaxation training
when modeling and physical guidance were used to teach
the difference between tense and relaxed states. It is essential to include methods of physical relief in anxiety management with dually diagnosed individuals as it may be more
difficult to teach and convince these individuals that some
physical sensations can be psychological in nature, i.e., that
there is nothing physically wrong and that they are not sick.
Without this acknowledgment, cognitive methods to relabel
and address the physical sensations may be ineffective.
Simple phobias in individuals with DD often resemble
typical fears of children of similar developmental level/
mental age. In vivo desensitization has been reported to be the
treatment technique of choice for this problem. In individuals
with MR/DD, external reinforcement is typically needed to
182 Dual Diagnosis
motivate the individual to remain in the phobic situation, and
exposure to these situations may always need to be therapistor other-assisted, rather than a progression to self-exposure.
Participant modeling has been reported to be successful
in treatment of dually diagnosed individuals. In this
approach, the subject observes the “model” approach to the
feared object or situation without the experience of the feared
negative consequences, which then facilitates the person’s
own approach. Again, individuals can be reinforced with
praise or tangible rewards for their attempts to approach the
feared stimulus.
Self-instruction training has much potential for use
with people with dual diagnosis. With the initial aid of a
therapist and the eventual goal of internalization, this technique seeks to change maladaptive self-statements or insert
positive ones into performance or social anxiety-provoking
In contrast to the better representation of phobias in the
professional literature, other anxiety disorders have rarely
been investigated. For example, there are few reports of
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in persons with DD.
In reality, individuals with DD are more likely to be abused
physically, emotionally, and sexually and because of their
cognitive deficits, may be more vulnerable to the emotional
sequelae of traumatic experiences. Some reported biases
specific to this disorder revealed that mental health professionals again claimed their belief that persons with MR do
not experience trauma. Many persons with MR/DD who
have suffered abuse have never been asked about this experience in mental health or other evaluations. Screening
measures developed for use with the dually diagnosed
typically do not include PTSD as a diagnostic category.
Recommended treatment in the literature for PTSD in persons with MR/DD involves the judicious use of medication,
habilitative modifications to monitor and contain traumatic
stimuli, and psychotherapy to work through grief and learn
to feel safe.
Research on the treatment of Obsessive–Compulsive
Disorder (OCD) in persons with MR/DD has demonstrated
an overreliance on behavioral approaches, e.g., utilizing
overcorrection to accomplish response prevention. An
assessment obstacle for this population is the need to distinguish compulsive stereotypic behaviors from compulsive
behaviors performed to alleviate obsessional anxiety. This
may be difficult to ascertain in individuals whose self-report
is nonexistent or unreliable. Another challenge to treating
the mentally retarded individual with OCD is the potential
lack of insight into the irrationality and excessiveness of
the obsessions. This insight is typically helpful in enlisting
the patient to challenge these fears and beliefs through cognitive techniques and exposure exercises.
Anger Management
A widely used treatment package developed by Benson
(1986) is the Anger Management Training (AMT) Program,
which focuses on identification of feelings; recognition of
connections between events and feelings, and feelings and
behavior; relaxation training; self-instruction training utilizing coping statements; and problem-solving training.
Reported results of participation in AMT revealed improvements in other areas as well (even when the actual utilization
of anger management techniques was not necessarily successful), including increase in self-confidence, increase in
personal responsibility, and willingness to address other
problem areas.
As a predominantly behavioral approach, Social Skills
Training (SST) has been one of the major approaches to
working with individuals with dual diagnosis. This is an
important area of focus because a range of social skill
deficits is typically observed in individuals with DD. These
individuals may be reacted to with fear and avoidance; they
are often treated as children; and they are not always held
responsible for inappropriate behaviors. Although SST has
evidenced some success in improving social skills, a high
degree of success is unlikely because of the complex nature
and unpredictability of interpersonal interactions.
The goal of SST is to increase interpersonal functioning in areas of communication, including expressive
elements such as content of message, intended recipient,
and delivery of message (voice volume, nonverbal factors);
and receptive elements, such as attending and listening, and
physical factors such as interpersonal distance. A typical
CBT “package” for SST includes defining the target behavior, providing psychoeducation including a rationale for
change, modeling of the skills, practice of the skills with
reinforcement, and plans for generalization of the skills in
other settings.
SST has also been used to treat the behavioral aspects
of depression. One specific form of SST is assertiveness
training, the goal of which is to teach the skill of defending
one’s own rights in a way that does not violate others’ rights.
The typical passivity and apathy observed in persons with
DD justifies the need to consider assertiveness training;
however, without system reform in the course of social role
valorization, trained skills may not be functional if they are
not reinforced. It is hoped that the assertive efforts of the
self-advocacy movement have effected some progress
in this area.
Dual Diagnosis
Unfortunately, despite increasing awareness and professional interest in dual diagnosis, the research inquiry into
therapeutic effectiveness for this population peaked in the
1980s, rather than demonstrating more linear growth.
Maintenance and generalization are always key areas to
consider when measuring treatment outcomes; however,
these phenomena are especially important for results regarding people with DD, as cognitive deficiencies may well
impact memory and judgment over time.
Reversing attributional biases on the part of CBT
researchers/clinicians represents the most pressing area for
future research. Without this, CBT and/or evidence-based
therapy with this population will continue to be an oxymoron.
See also: Anxiety/anger management training (AMT), Developmental
disabilities in community settings, Mental retardation—adult, Social
skills training
American Association on Mental Retardation. (2000). Expert consensus
guidelines. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 105(3), entire
Benson, B. A. (1986). Anger management training. Psychiatric Aspects of
Mental Retardation Reviews, 5, 51–55.
Dagnan, D., Chadwick, P., & Proudlove, J. (2000). Toward an assessment
of suitability of people with mental retardation for cognitive therapy.
Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24, 627–636.
Hatton, C. (2002). Psychosocial interventions for adults with intellectual
disabilities and mental health problems: A review. Journal of Mental
Health, 11, 357–374.
Hurley, A. D., & Sovner, R. (1991). Cognitive behavioral therapy for
depression in individuals with developmental disabilities. The
Habilitative Mental Healthcare Newsletter, 10, 41–47.
Nezu, C. M., Nezu, A. M., & Gill-Weiss, M. J. (1992). Psychopathology in
persons with mental retardation: Clinical guidelines for assessment
and treatment. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Nezu, C. M., Nezu, A. M., Rothenburg, J. L., DelliCarpini, L., & Groag, I.
(1995). Depression in adults with mild mental retardation: Are cognitive variables involved? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 19,
Petronko, M. R., Harris, S. L., & Kormann, R. J. (1994). Community-based
behavioral training approaches for people with mental retardation and
mental illness. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62,
Reiss, S., Levitan, G. W., & Szyszko, J. (1982). Emotional disturbance and
mental retardation: Diagnostic overshadowing. American Journal of
Mental Deficiency, 86, 567–574.
Exposure Therapy
Victoria M. Follette and
Alethea A. A. Smith
Keywords: exposure, cognitive processing therapy, PTSD, stress
inoculation training
Exposure therapy has increasingly been found efficacious
with a variety of anxiety-related disorders including phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress
disorder. Originally developed using concepts from basic
learning theory, concerns about enhancing the efficacy of
exposure therapy have led to the enhancement of this technique with additional components. The primary augmentation has been the integration of cognitive techniques. As
cognitive conceptualizations of various forms of psychopathology, particularly anxiety and depressive disorders,
became dominant, the integration of cognitive and exposure
strategies grew to be routine practice.
Based in learning theory, exposure techniques have
been conceptualized to function as a form of counterconditioning or extinction. In an early form of exposure therapy
based on counterconditioning, Wolpe (1958) used systematic
desensitization, the pairing of relaxation with confronting
anxiety-producing situations, to weaken anxiety responses.
Mowrer’s two-factor theory (1960) represents yet another
early conceptualization of behavior problems. In Mowrer’s
model, fears are acquired through classical conditioning
processes and maintained by means of operant conditioning.
Specifically, the conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with an
unconditioned stimulus (UCS), which elicits a fear response.
Through avoidance of the CS, the fear is maintained by negative reinforcement. Several significant therapeutic advances
were generated from this seminal work. One of the most
notable of these was the development of implosive therapy,
which used exposure to interrupt the fear process through
extinction (Stampfl & Levis, 1967).
Exposure therapy for anxiety disorders has continued to
be elaborated and comprises a set of techniques designed to
help patients confront their feared objects, situations, memories, and images in a therapeutic manner. Commonly, the core
components of exposure programs are imaginal exposure
(i.e., repeated visualization of images or action or repeated
recounting of memories) and in vivo exposure (i.e., repeated
confrontation with the feared objects or situations). Programs
may also include psychoeducation, relaxation training, processing of the exposure sessions, or combinations of each of
these elements.
While exposure alone does have strong empirical support across a variety of anxiety-related disorders, there have
been several consistent concerns regarding this approach.
First, studies using exposure often report high attrition rates
in the exposure treatment group which is sometimes interpreted as a sign that it is difficult for clients to accept exposure as a treatment modality. Second, the use of exposure
with victims of traumatic events has been criticized as unnecessarily increasing patient suffering and even exacerbating
PTSD and anxiety symptoms. Third, some clients, particularly those with a trauma history, have difficulty with basic
skills including emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and
interpersonal relationships and are thus seen as not having
the capacity to complete an exposure program. Finally, it has
been suggested that exposure should be enhanced in order to
186 Exposure Therapy
address additional problems, such as negative appraisals
including guilt and shame. Client concerns such as anger and
dissociation may also require adjunctive treatments.
Cognitive–behavioral therapy has incorporated basic
learning theory along with cognitive strategies to address
some of the above concerns. One early integrative example
is stress inoculation training (SIT) which uses modified
forms of exposure and cognitive techniques (Meichenbaum,
1974). In addition to exposure, SIT provides patients with
management skills to help them reduce anxiety (e.g., relaxation training, controlled breathing, positive imagery, cognitive restructuring, and distraction). Cognitive processing
therapy (CPT; Resick & Schnicke, 1992) takes a different
perspective, using information processing theory as its theoretical foundation. While somewhat modified in form, it
does merge features of cognitive and exposure therapies.
Clients spend time writing about trauma experiences and
working to restructure core schemas such as safety and trust.
In some cases, therapies are developed that can be conceptualized as incorporating cognitive and exposure strategies, although they do not explicitly address these
constructs. A prototypical example of this is acceptance and
commitment therapy (ACT; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson,
1999). In this approach, efforts are made to reduce experiential avoidance which generally involves changing the
client’s relationship to language as well as exposure to
feared experiences by engaging in behaviors consistent with
valued life goals. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another example of a treatment that
includes cognitive and exposure components, while espousing a different theoretical foundation. This therapy consists
of a form of exposure therapy that involves processing the
traumatic event while engaging in saccadic eye movements
(Shapiro, 1995). Patients are also asked to replace negative
thoughts with more positive or adaptive ones. While the
treatment remains somewhat controversial, particularly with
respect to the mechanism of change, some data suggest there
is utility in the approach.
There are several studies that support the combination
of exposure therapy with other cognitive–behavioral therapies. Resick, Nishith, Weaver, Astin, and Feuer (2002) compared CPT with prolonged exposure (PE) and a wait-list
control for the treatment of PTSD in female rape victims.
Analysis indicated that both 12 sessions of CPT and 9 sessions of PE were effective in reducing PTSD symptoms in
comparison to a minimal-attention wait-list control group.
At posttreatment, CPT and PE patients showed an average
reduction in PTSD symptoms of 72 and 67%, respectively,
and these results were maintained at a 9-month follow-up.
One difference between the two treatments was that CPT
produced better scores on two of four guilt subscales.
Foa et al. (1999) compared the efficacy of PE alone,
SIT alone, and a combination of PE and SIT. After nine
twice-weekly sessions, PTSD symptom severity decreased
an average of 55–60% for both the PE and PE/SIT groups.
Results for both groups were maintained at a 12-month
follow-up. Blanchard, Hickling, and Devineni (2003) also
used a combined PE/SIT protocol and compared it to supportive counseling for patients with PTSD following motor
vehicle accidents. At posttreatment, individuals in the
PE/SIT group showed an average reduction in PTSD symptoms of 65% compared to 38% for those in the supportive
counseling group and 18% in a wait-list control. Results
were maintained at follow-up.
Several studies have been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of EMDR and the role of the eye movements; several
reviews suggest that compared to no treatment or nonspecific
therapies for PTSD, EMDR is successful. However, a metaanalytic review found EMDR less effective than other exposure therapy programs (Davidson & Parker, 2001). In
addition, Devilly and Spence (1999) compared EMDR to a
modified version of combined PE and SIT. At posttreatment,
PE/SIT reduced symptom severity by 63% versus 46% in the
EMDR condition and 3-month follow-up showed an average
symptom reduction of 61% for PE/SIT and only 12% for the
EMDR condition.
A different approach has been to introduce another CBT
component separate from the exposure intervention. Cloitre,
Koenen, Cohen, and Han (2002) randomly assigned women
with PTSD related to childhood abuse to either a two-phase
cognitive–behavioral treatment or a wait-list control. The
first phase of the treatment consisted of 8 weeks of skills
training in affective and interpersonal regulation. The second
phase consisted of 8 weeks of modified PE. Compared to
those on the wait list, participants in the skills/PE condition
showed significant gains in affect regulation, interpersonal
skills deficits, and PTSD symptoms. Gains were maintained
at both 3- and 9-month follow-ups. Furthermore, Cloitre
et al. showed that Phase 1 negative mood regulation skills
and therapeutic alliance measures were predictive of success
in reducing PTSD symptoms during Phase 2.
Finally, several studies have examined the effect of
augmenting exposure therapy with other CBT techniques.
Most of these studies show very little augmenting effect.
The Foa et al. (1999) study discussed above showed no significant differences between the PE condition and a condition combining PE and SIT. Foa (Foa, Rothbaum, & Furr,
2003) reports on a study comparing PE to a combination of
PE and cognitive restructuring (CR) and a wait-list control.
In this study the PE condition showed an average symptom
Exposure Therapy
reduction of 78% while the combined PE/CR condition
showed an average symptom reduction of 62%. In both of
the above studies, Foa and her colleagues suggest that the
CBT therapies may not be augmenting the exposure therapy
due to increased demands on the patients. The PE condition
alone is more efficient and more time may be needed to
successfully implement a combined approach.
Marks, Lovell, and Noshirvani (1998) also conducted a
study comparing exposure and CR. In this study they had an
exposure alone condition, a CR alone condition, a combination exposure/CR condition, and a relaxation control. The
exposure used in this study consisted of five sessions of imaginal exposure followed by five sessions of in vivo exposure.
Results of the study are mixed. At follow-up, there were no
significant differences in PTSD severity between any of the
groups including the relaxation control condition with an
average severity reduction between 35 and 50%. At 6-month
follow-up, the conditions that received exposure alone or CR
in combination with exposure seemed to show further
improvement while the CR alone condition did not.
Reductions in symptom severity were 81, 53, and 74% for the
exposure alone, CR alone, and combined exposure/CR conditions, respectively. These findings do not support the hypothesis that CR augmented exposure. However, exposure did
seem to augment CR at least for the follow-up assessment.
Paunovic and Ost (2001) were also unable to find support for augmenting PE with CR in a population of Swedish
refugees with PTSD. Comparing PE alone to a combined
PE/CR condition, PTSD symptoms were reduced by 53%
and 48%, respectively. Similar patterns were maintained at
6-month follow-up and across measures of depression and
One study that did find an augmentation effect (Bryant,
Moulds, Guthrie, Dang, & Nixon, in press) compared conditions of imaginal exposure, imaginal exposure with a cognitive component, and supportive counseling. Symptom
reduction at treatment end was 48%, 67%, and 22%, respectively, and this pattern of results was maintained through
follow-up. While this does give support for an augmentation
effect, it is also important to note that this study did not
incorporate an in vivo exposure component, which is found
in all of the previous studies.
Exposure therapy has increasingly been used in conjunction with other cognitive–behavioral therapies in a variety of formats and techniques, particularly in the treatment
of anxiety disorders. Reasons for the addition of cognitive
enhancements to exposure therapy include concerns for
client well-being and/or an interest in increasing client willingness to engage the treatment. Other newer therapies such
as CPT, ACT, and EMDR, while based in differing theoretical paradigms, incorporate cognitive and behavioral strategies that are consistent with exposure and cognitive change.
Several empirical studies support combinations of
exposure and other cognitive–behavioral therapies.
However, studies evaluating a possible augmenting effect of
other CBT components have generally shown equally promising effects with exposure alone and exposure combined
conditions. Further research is needed to more fully understand which components of other cognitive–behavioral therapies are most helpful in addressing concerns of using
exposure therapy alone, and the manner in which exposure
therapy can be most effectively integrated.
See also: Panic disorder, PTSD, Severe OCD
Blanchard, E. B., Hickling, E. J., & Devineni, T. (2003). A controlled evaluation of cognitive behavioral therapy for posttraumatic stress in
motor vehicle accident survivors. Behavioral Research and Therapy,
41, 79–96.
Bryant, R. A., Moulds, M. L., Guthrie, R. M., Dang, S. T., & Nixon, R. D. V.
(2004). Imaginal exposure alone and imaginal exposure with cognitive
restructuring in treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 706–712.
Cloitre, M., Koenen, K. C., Cohen, L. R., & Han, H. (2002). Skills training
in affective and interpersonal regulation followed by exposure: A
phase based treatment for PTSD related to childhood abuse. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 1067–1074.
Davidson, P. R., & Parker, K. C. H. (2001). Eye movement desensitization
and reprocessing (EMDR): A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology, 69, 305–319.
Devilly, G. J., & Spence, S. H. (1999). The relative efficacy and treatment
distress of EMDR and a cognitive–behavioral trauma protocol in the
amelioration of posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Anxiety
Disorders, 13, 131–157.
Foa, E. B., Dancu, C. V., Hembree, E. A., Jaycox, L. H., Meadows, E. A., &
Street, G. P. (1999). A comparison of exposure therapy, stress inoculation training, and their combination for reducing posttraumatic stress
disorder in female assault victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 67, 194–200.
Foa, E. B., & Rothbaum, B. O. (1998). Treating the trauma of rape. New
York: Guilford Press.
Foa, E. B., Rothbaum, B. O., & Furr, J. M. (2003). Augmenting exposure
therapy with other CBT procedures. Psychiatric Annals, 33, 47–53.
Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and
commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change.
New York: Guilford Press.
Marks, I., Lovell, K., & Noshirvani, H. (1998). Treatment of posttraumatic
stress disorder by exposure and/or cognitive restructuring: A controlled study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55, 317–325.
Meichenbaum, D. (1974). Cognitive behavior modification. Morristown,
NJ: General Learning Press.
Mowrer, O. A. (1960). Learning theory and practice. New York: Wiley.
188 Exposure Therapy
Paunovic, N., & Ost, L. (2001). Cognitive–behavior therapy vs. exposure
therapy in treatment of PTSD in refugees. Behavior Research and
Therapy, 39, 1183–1197.
Resick, P. A., Nishith, P., Weaver, T. L., Astin, M. C., & Feuer, C. A. (2002).
A comparison of cognitive processing therapy with prolonged exposure and a waiting condition for the treatment of chronic posttraumatic
stress disorder in female rape victims. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 70, 867–879.
Resick, P. A., & Schnicke, M. K. (1992). Cognitive processing therapy for
sexual assault victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
60, 748–756.
Shapiro, F. (1995). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic
principles, protocols, and procedures. New York: Guilford Press.
Stampfl, T. G., & Levis, D. J. (1967). Essentials of implosive therapy: A
learning based psychodynamic behavioral therapy. Journal of
Abnormal Psychology, 72, 496–503.
Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press.
Family Caregivers
Ann M. Steffen and Kristin R. Mangum
Keywords: formal caregivers, informal caregivers, activities of daily
living, older adults
The focus of this article is on informal, family caregivers who are providing assistance with both ADLS and
IADLS in older adults with a dementia. Concern about the
mental health needs of such family caregivers of impaired
older adults continues to be high. This interest exists for
good reasons; most older adults live in noninstitutional settings, and families remain the most common source of assistance for community-dwelling older adults who have some
functional impairment. Ory, Yee, Tennstedt, and Schulz
(1999) provide a review of definitions and prevalence of
family caregiving, caregiver characteristics, and health
effects. According to their review, family caregivers provide
assistance with a wide variety of tasks, ranging from light
assistance with independent activities of daily living (e.g.,
accompanying on medical visits, shopping, transportation)
to intensive in-home care. The majority of caregivers are
either spouses or adult children of the impaired individual.
Although women more commonly assume the caregiving
role, approximately 30% of all caregivers are men. These
male caregivers remain an understudied population in
terms of their needs and responsiveness to psychosocial
Although there is a great deal of variability in individuals’ responses to the challenges of providing care, family
caregiving is associated with higher rates of psychosocial
distress and mental health problems. This is especially true
for family caregivers of individuals with dementia. Studies
of dementia family caregivers have found elevated rates of
depressed, irritated, and anxious mood, clinical depression,
and generalized anxiety disorder among this population. In
addition, dementia family caregivers tend to report poorer
perceived sleep and general health, and an increased use of
psychotropic medications (Ory et al., 2000). These declines
in psychosocial functioning not only affect the caregivers’
general well-being and quality of life, they also can affect
their ability to provide care. Thus, interventions that aim to
reduce caregiver psychosocial distress are extremely important. Before we begin our review of such interventions, however, we want to highlight that levels of emotional distress
and psychiatric impairment in caregivers are quite variable,
and are only indirectly related to the degree of physical and
cognitive impairment in the family member receiving care.
Most community-based interventions for family caregivers, whether they involve educational programs, support
groups, respite services, or case management, share an interest in multiple outcomes. That is, many programs aim to
190 Family Caregivers
improve caregivers’ problem-solving abilities, reduce their
emotional distress, and improve their management of patient
care. Some programs also seek to improve interpersonal
family relationships or to delay institutionalization of the
patient. Behavioral and cognitive treatments are distinguished from others, not necessarily by the expected outcomes, but by the conceptualization of the problem(s) and
proposed mechanisms of the intervention. The following
limited summary is by no means an exhaustive review of
cognitive–behavioral interventions for family caregivers of
cognitively impaired older adults. Rather, this section
describes several exemplars that demonstrate the usefulness
of individual and group-based cognitive and behavioral
interventions for this population.
Individual-Based Approaches
Individual cognitive–behavioral approaches have been
used to reduce depression and other forms of psychosocial
distress in caregivers of impaired and disabled older family
members. For example, in a randomized clinical trial,
Gallagher-Thompson and Steffen (1994) assigned depressed
family caregivers of physically and cognitively impaired
older adults (N ⫽ 66) to time-limited (i.e., 16–20 sessions)
cognitive–behavioral or brief psychodynamic individual
psychotherapy. They found that participants with longer
caregiving careers (i.e., 4.5 years or more) benefited more
from and showed clinically significant benefits from the
cognitive–behavioral intervention. Notably, these longerterm caregivers are also the group most likely to seek help
for emotional distress, perhaps due to the depletion of social
and personal resources that occurs over time.
In addition to the psychosocial distress of family caregivers, both physically and cognitively impaired older adults
have increased rates of clinical depression, relative to
healthy controls. In impaired older adults, this depression
results in additional (“secondary”) disability and tends to
exacerbate their cognitive and/or physical impairment.
Thus, with good reason, patient depression is very concerning to family caregivers. Additionally, because improved
management of depressive symptoms and other patient
problem behaviors reduces the number and severity of caregiving stressors, it logically follows that interventions aimed
at reducing patient depression may also positively impact
caregiver mental health. For example, Teri and her colleagues have demonstrated the efficacy of training family
caregivers in the use of behavioral strategies to reduce
patient depression, with a resulting decrease in caregiver
depressive symptoms as well (Teri, Logsdon, Uomoto, &
McCurry, 1997). Two active behavioral interventions (i.e.,
behavioral activation, problem solving) were shown to be
superior to control conditions (wait-list, treatment as usual)
in reducing depression for dementia patients and their
family caregivers. This study is notable in that its target was
both the caregiver and the dementia patient. It is only one of
a number of studies conducted by Teri and colleagues that
have successfully demonstrated the efficacy of behavioral
interventions for both dementia patients and their caregivers.
Individual cognitive and behavioral interventions for
family caregivers of older adults are also firmly rooted in
the nursing intervention literature. An 8-week cognitive–
behavioral nursing intervention focused on training dementia family caregivers (N ⫽ 65) to handle dressing and eating
deficits of persons with dementia (Chang, 1999). Female
caregivers, primarily spouses, were randomly assigned to
either attention-only telephone calls, or video- and telephonebased training in behavior management of specific deficits.
Compared to control participants, caregivers in the cognitive–
behavioral intervention showed a reduction in their level of
depression over the course of the intervention (Chang,
1999). In a different nursing intervention utilizing a larger
sample of caregivers (N ⫽ 237), dementia caregivers were
taught how to manage behavioral problems of dementia
patients using a conceptual model based on behavioral principles (Gerdner, Buckwalter, & Reed, 2002). Relative to
control participants, caregivers receiving the behavioral
intervention evidenced lower rates of emotional distress
(i.e., lower depression, anxiety, anger, and fatigue) and
reported less upset following memory and behavior problems in the patient. Interestingly, psychoimmunology study
from this research group examined a subset of these participants and found that intervention participants showed
stronger T-cell proliferative responses to both PHA and Con A
challenges at follow-ups than did control participants. This
suggests that the behavioral intervention not only changed
the caregivers’ emotional state, it also appeared to have had
a positive effect on their physical health as well.
Unfortunately, until recently, well-constructed and
large-scale clinical trials of interventions for emotionally distressed family caregivers have been quite rare (Schulz et al.,
2002). In 1995, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and
National Institute on Nursing Research (NINR) sponsored a
multisite intervention research program called Resources for
Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH). The
REACH program was designed to test the effectiveness of
multiple different interventions, as well as to evaluate the
overall pooled effect of REACH interventions. The interventions varied across sites, and site-specific outcomes for
the REACH studies are currently in press (Schulz et al.,
2003). Because of the focus of this article, we will describe
the two intervention sites that are notable for their use of
cognitive–behavioral conceptualizations and strategies and
their success in involving an ethically diverse pool of
research participants. At one site, Gallagher-Thompson and
colleagues (in press) used a cognitive–behavioral group format with Latina and European American female caregivers;
Family Caregivers
their study and findings will be reviewed in the following
section on group-based interventions.
At another site, Burgio, Stevens, Guy, Roth, and Haley
(2003) used cognitive–behavioral skills training implemented primarily in the homes of African American and
European American family caregivers.
In their study, African American (n ⫽ 48) and
European American (n ⫽ 70) dementia caregivers were randomly assigned to either the active intervention or a minimal
support condition. After attending a 3-hour group workshop
that introduced behavioral management, problem solving,
and cognitive restructuring skills, caregivers in the active
intervention participated in 16 in-home treatment sessions