Medical Definition of Cognitive therapy

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cognitive therapy: A relatively short-term form of psychotherapy based on the concept that the way we think about things affects how we feel emotionally. Cognitive therapy focuses on present thinking, behavior, and communication rather than on past experiences and is oriented toward problem solving. Cognitive therapy has been applied to a broad range of problems including depression, anxiety, panic, fears, eating disorders, substance abuse, and personality problems.

Cognitive therapy is sometimes called cognitive behavior therapy because it aims to help people in the ways they think (the cognitive) and in the ways they act (the behavior). Cognitive therapy has, for instance, been used to help cocaine-dependent individuals become abstinent from cocaine and other substances. The underlying assumption is that learning processes play an important role in the development and continuation of cocaine abuse and dependence. These same learning processes can be used to help individuals reduce their drug use.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017

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