The theoretical construct known as information processing is a primary concept within cognitive therapy. Use this concept to discuss how one’s belief regarding his/her academic ability may impact decisions regarding study habits, the choice to peruse a college degree or some other choice one may make which could impact his/her life. Then consider the outcomes of changing one’s beliefs regarding his/her academic ability. What steps do you think a therapist, using cognitive therapy, may use to facilitate a client on the verge of improving his/her life situation by returning to school to receive education/training for a better job?
Here is a good summary of CT from Wikipedia: “Cognitive therapy (CT) is a type of psychotherapy developed by American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck. CT is one of the therapeutic approaches within the larger group of cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) and was first expounded by Beck in the 1960s. Cognitive therapy is based on the cognitive model, which states that thoughts, feelings and behavior are all connected, and that individuals can move toward overcoming difficulties and meeting their goals by identifying and changing unhelpful or inaccurate thinking, problematic behavior, and distressing emotional responses. This involves the individual working collaboratively with the therapist to develop skills for testing and modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, relating to others in different ways, and changing behaviors. A tailored cognitive case conceptualization is developed by the cognitive therapist as a roadmap to understand the individual's internal reality, select appropriate interventions and identify areas of distress.”
First, consider our society and the huge number of negative messages that a child must process: “You’ll never amount to anything”, “Hurry up or I’ll leave you,” “Why are you always …?” These contribute to a warped self-perception. They are “The Little Train Who Couldn’t.” There’s no “I think I can; I think I can…” And the success of others is usually stated in a comparative way that makes a person feel like a “loser.” So, success in any area – sports, computers, art… -- becomes a stimulus for specialization so that the person can achieve success and recognition. All that many people need is to hear is a sincere, “You can do it!” or “Go for it!”
Think about any life-change activity – for example, quitting smoking. The information about smoking is important; examples of success stories are encouraging; but progress on a chart of your own has phenomenal impact. This is also true of weight loss, career advancement, and family life.
The facts are super-important; a person’s perception is not reality! That’s why minor, measurable goals must be carefully constructed – success builds success. Rewards are wonderful motivation (study for an hour, then take an ice cream break) and don’t simply reward the grade, reward the effort.
As a college freshman taking Psych 1, I volunteered for an experiment that upper-division Psych students were performing. I completed a simple puzzle in what they called “record time” as they praised my work. Then, I had difficulty matching some complex words (which they said that all college students should know). Then I got to do a more difficult puzzle with a reward offered. I excelled. Much later, I realized what the experiment was about. I lived “up to” or “down to” the description of my ability and the expectations that they “pinned on me.” Later, I learned how to set my own realistic expectations and goals, to measure them, to monitor planned vs. actual progress, to mitigate risk, and to reward success. Now, I have a lot of years’ experience and two certifications in Project Management. My quotation is: “With good people, a better process generally produces a better product.”
Instead of comparing one’s self to others, one must compare his performance to his own stated goals – and, if they are planed realistically, there will be observable positive change.