3. Cognitive specificity Essential concept: The really helpful idea to get hold of about cognitive specificity is that different cognitive themes are associated with different problem areas – for example, the theme of loss and defeat is associated with depression, while danger and threat is associated with anxiety. Equally, these themes of appraisal are associated with different types of emotion and behaviour, as discussed in 1.) above. This has been an important idea in CBT because it has allowed therapists to focus on certain types of cognition known to be active in specific problem areas. The examination of different types of cognitive themes also allows researchers and therapists to determine likely useful starting points for intervention strategies. The cognitive specificity concept should, however, be regarded as a useful starting point rather than an end point. Therapists should never assume that any clients will show a particular type of theme in their cognitive systems, but rather be aware that their cognitive systems may be unique to them. Understanding can, however, be aided by knowing likely cognitive themes that may trouble them. Classic early statement: Beck, A.T. (1976) Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. 47–101. More recent summary: Clark, D.A. & Steer, R.A. (1996) The empirical status of the cognitive model of anxiety and depression, in P. Salkovskis (ed.) The frontiers of cognitive therapy. New York: Guilford Press, pp. 75–96.
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