Cognitive, or thinking therapy, arose in the 1960s. Dr. Bush describes two main approaches:

  1. Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)
  2. Dr Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy

RET simply wants us to act or think more rationally. The work is to identify our irrational thoughts as they arise and lead to problems, and correct them. Dr. Beck’s cognitive therapy has the same goal as RET. He began to identify many different types of cognitive errors, and developed many ways to correct these thought patterns. [1]

An example of a cognitive problem could be – someone cuts you off in traffic; the thought arises in your mind that that person hates you. From this faulty thought, you begin to have thoughts about how many people in your life don’t like you. You become depressed. This depression has no reality behind it. You don’t know why the person cut you off most likely it was because she was not paying attention. If you change your thoughts to how the other driver may have been having a bad hair day and was easily distracted, your chain of reasoning would lead you to a completely different conclusion. Rather than being depressed, you may instead send a wish to the other driver; you may wish for her to calm down, put on a hat, and enjoy her day in peace and safety.

CBT begins with the premise that outside events and other people are not what cause us problems; what causes all our problems is the way we react or think about these outside situations. It is the way we respond that makes all the difference in our life. This is akin to the Buddha’s statement that life contains pain, but our suffering is optional. Once we recognize our response, we work to change it. And it is work! This is not easy, but if the student or client is determined to change suffering into joy, the work will bear fruit.

  1. — Dr. Beck is considered the father of CBT and has written many books on the topic. Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders is an excellent introduction to the subject. Dr. Beck works today with his daughter Judith, expanding our understanding of cognitive centered therapies. More information can be found at