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1.Purpose: facilitate an in-depth engagement with specified components Aaron Beck’s theories. Students will draw on relevant theoretical material and subjective experience to analyse one of their own self-identified negative beliefs.

2. Explain Aaron Beck’s assertion that schemas influence the way people process information about themselves, and that dysfunctional schemas (negative beliefs) may cause depression and other emotional disorders.

Engage with relevant theoretical material and subjective experience to analyse one of your self-identified negative beliefs and critically reflect on the application of Aaron Beck’s theory.

Helpful stimulus questions include, “In what ways has Aaron Beck’s theory been applicable to your own negative belief?” and “What are the limitations of Aaron Beck’s perspective?”

When evaluating your personal view of reality, you should draw on cognitive therapy techniques such as the Socratic dialogue.
Your reflective essay should include:
• an overview of the relevant theory
• brief overview of the subjective experience (i.e. negative belief)
• application of the relevant theoretical material to the subjective experience
• critical reflection on the benefits and limitations of applying this theoretical material to the subjective experience
• evidence of familiarity with relevant literature and theory
• evidence of self-awareness and ability to self-reflect

Overview of Beck's Cognitive Theory of Depression

In Beck’s cognitive theory of depression, he states that depression is instituted by how one views him/ herself and not that one have’s negative views towards him/herself as a result of depression. This greatly affect us socially on how we perceive others and associate our dissatisfactions with others. Different theories suggest that depression come as a result of irrational or faulty cognitions in form of distorted judgment or thoughts. It can also result from lack of experiences that enable development of adaptive skills of coping (Beck, 2009) This paper provides a summary of literature concerning to Beck’s Cognitive of depression. It also contains a general overview of his theory. in his theory, he believes the negative thoughts is what is central to depression and not low rates of reinforcement or hormonal changes as described by other theories

According to cognitive behavioral theory, people who are depressed think in a different manner as compared to non-depressed individuals.  The difference between their thinking makes them to the depressed. For instance, depressed individuals view themselves, their future, and their environment in a pessimistic negative way. This makes them to misinterpreted facts negatively which makes them to blame themselves for the misfortunes that face them (Jacobs, 2004) The pessimistic thinking and judgment makes them to view situations worse than they really are. Theses stressful situations increases the chances of developing depressive symptoms or even mental disorder.  Dr. Aaron Beck believed that negative thoughts formed from dysfunctional beliefs are the main cause of symptoms of depression. She explained that the more one has negative thoughts the more depressed on becomes (Beck, 2002).

Beck asserts there are three primary dysfunctional beliefs schemas that are dominant in the thinking of depressed people. These include; one, “I am inadequate or defective”, two, “all my dealings result to failure or defeat” and finally, “I have a hopeless future”. The three schemas are referred to as the Negative Cognitive Triad. When one has these beliefs depression is likely or has already occurred. Beyond the negative thought, the belief can shape or wrap what one pays attention to. Depressed individuals pay selective attention to various aspects of their surrounding which shows what they know and does that even when there is enough evidence to the contrary. The failure of paying proper attention is known as faulty information processing (Otto, 2010).

These people are characterized by failure of information processing. For instance, they will tend to display selective attention to information that matches their negative expectation and less attention to information which contradicts these expectations.  They tend to magnify the meanings of negative comments or events and take the positive events less seriously. This makes them to remain negative in their thoughts and failure in their future even when there is vivid evidence of things turning better (Simons, 2010).

The Role of Negative Thoughts in Depression

 In my personal experiences, I have ever experienced this feeling of taking things negatively and viewing all my dealings as failure.  This was once when I did not perform well in one of my semester’s exams. The poor scores that I used to get in my academics made me view my school environment negatively. I did not have hopes of performing better in future. This made me have the thoughts that my future would be miserable and was not ready to face it. Any comments from my peers, teachers or parents seemed to be mocking me. I believed they hated me and they knew I could not perform well anymore in school. This also affected my reading habits. I stopped putting efforts and when reading I would just read to pass time in mind I would never perform again in my academics. The notion of viewing myself as a failure always come in my mind. Whenever I tried to concentrate in my studies the thought that eventually I would fail always come in my mind. This experience almost made me to be depressed. As portrayed in Beck’s work, depression would be related to my negative way of processing personal information. The issue would be solved by use of by being treated. Counselors and therapists would do well to closely at my cognitive thoughts as a way of assisting me t in recovery. The results were positive as the cognitive treatment for depression and Beck’s cognitive therapy would work out to minimize depression (Turner, 2007).

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat with wide range of mental disorders. It is based on the idea that cognition, emotions and behavior of a person interact together. How we think determines how we feel and act. CBT enables people to tell when they make unrealistic or negative interpretations, and actions which reinforce negative thinking. People are able to come up with alternative ways of thinking and acting. This reduces their mental distress. Victims comes up with their negative belief and proves them wrong. This makes their belief to start changing (Sensky, 2010). Cognitive therapy enables clients to recognize their negative thoughts that makes them to be depressed. The therapist guides the victims to challenge and question their dysfunctional thoughts, come up with new interpretations and eventually apply the alternative thinking in their daily lives (Goodman, 2009).

There are various advantages and disadvantages of cognitive therapy. Some of its advantages includes but are not limited to: one, the model is important since it focuses on how human being thinks. Human cognitive abilities helps us to accomplish our goals in life and is also responsible for the problems we face. Two, it has been seen to be effective for treating depression and anxiety problems. Three, many clients with psychological disorders have been found to show maladaptive thoughts and assumptions. It also has a number of limitations; these include ethical issues. Some cognitive therapy such as RET focus on changing cognitions forcefully. This kind of approach may be regarded as unethical by some people (Butler, 2016). Another limitation is that cognitive can be considered as a narrow scope. This is because it thinking is just but a single portion the broad human functioning, there are other border issues which also need to be addressed (Clark, 2012).

The Three Primary Dysfunctional Beliefs Schemas

In addition, the role of cognitive processes has not been determined yet.  Studies shows that, it’s not yet clear if faulty cognition is the core cause of psychopathology or if it’s the effects of it. According to (Joe, 2008) on a study carried out on a group of people before they got depressed, it was found out that people who are depressed did not more have negative thoughts are compared to those who were not depressed. This suggested that negative thinking and individuals being hopeless is mainly what causes depression and not depression being the cause of people being hopeless, viewing themselves as worthless or having negative thoughts. The theory disqualified emotions. As much as the theory focuses on how the client thinks it’s important to take in consideration of his feelings which may result to depression.

Another weakness on the theory is that it’s too logical (Clak, 2013). Not everyone can respond to thinking, others respond to their emotions. Emotions play a great role on how some people act or perceive themselves. Sometimes it’s not easy to change how we think. Thinking is too powerful and at times we can identify the problems but focusing our minds to change becomes a difficult task (Rector, 2001). Another challenge is that some people who use this therapy may end up feeling guilty and blamed. Making someone to realize he/she is wrong will only make them feel blamed other than changing their pattern of thinking. Finally, it does not consider some ethnical/culture origins. These are some communities who believes on emotional reasoning. Recommendations is that we can involve emotions as part of the guide towards one’s behavior (DeRubeis, 2001).

Beck identifies different illogical thinking processes which are self-detesting and may lead to depression or anxiety for individuals. Some of them include; arbitrary interference, this is where one draws conclusions based on irrelevant evidence. For instance, one viewing him/herself worthless since it has rained and had he was going to the market (Foa, 2001). Selective abstraction, this is where one focuses on just one aspect of a certain situation and ignoring the others. For instance, identifying yourself as the cause of your team losing in a football match yet you are just a single player in the team. Magnification, this is where the individual exaggerates the outcome of undesired events. For example, when one blames himself as a failure for not being position one in his/her class and views himself as a worthless (Haslam, 2014).

Depression and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Another undesired thought is minimization; this is where the client underplays the importance of an event. For instance, when the teacher congratulates you for the work well done but you take it as trivial. Overgeneralization, this is jumping to an overall negative conclusion on basis of a failed event. When you perform poor in a certain unit, you believe that that semester you will not perform. personalization, this where the client characterizes the negative feeling of others to themselves (Burns, 2011). Another cognitive distortion is mental filtering, the client focuses on one negative event as the target. For example, focusing on how the teacher keeps looking at you in class. Labeling or mis-labeling, the individual sees himself as the cause of the problem instead of describing how the situation was. For example, seeing himself as stupid for not submitting his assignment on time. Emotional reasoning, the victim feels his negative emotions is the truth and not an error (Beck, 2014).


In conclusions, from Beck’s theory its evident that depression comes as a result on negative thoughts about oneself, his environment and being hopeless about the future. It is therefore important for each and every person to control his/her thinking patterns to avoid in all ways negative thoughts (Beck, 2017). In Beck’s Cognitive model of depression, dysfunctional beliefs are as a result of earlier experience. Cognitive thoughts are described as the leading cause of depression. However, this study does not fully support Beck’s theory. this is a demonstrated in the limitations of Beck’s cognitive theory.


Beck, A. T. (2002). Cognitive models of depression. Clinical advances in cognitive psychotherapy: Theory and application, 14(1), 29-61.

Beck, A. T. (2014). Thinking and depression: II. Theory and therapy. Archives of general psychiatry, 10(6), 561-571.

Beck, A. T. (2017). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Beck, A. T., & Alford, B. A. (2009). Depression: Causes and treatment. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Burns, D. D., & Beck, A. T. (2011). Feeling good: The new mood therapy (p. 738). New York: Avon. Safren, S. A., Sprich, S., Mimiaga, M. J., Surman, C., Knouse, L., Groves, M., &

Butler, A. C., Chapman, J. E., Forman, E. M., & Beck, A. T. (2016). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: a review of meta-analyses. Clinical psychology review, 26(1), 17-31.

Clak, D. A., & Beck, A. T. (2013). Scientific foundations of cognitive theory and therapy of depression. John Wiley & Sons.

Clark, D. A., Beck, A. T., & Brown, G. K. (2012). Sociotropy, autonomy, and life event perceptions in dysphoric and nondysphoric individuals. Cognitive Therapy and research, 16(6), 635-652.

DeRubeis, R. J., Tang, T. Z., & Beck, A. T. (2001). Cognitive therapy. Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies, 2, 349-392.

Foa, E. B., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2001). Treating the trauma of rape: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD. Guilford Press.

Goodman, W. K., Maser, J. D., & Rudorfer, M. V. (2009). Cognitive behavior therapy and pharmacotherapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder: The NIMH-sponsored collaborative study. In Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (pp. 333-352). Routledge.

Haslam, N., & Beck, A. T. (2014). Subtyping major depression: A taxometric analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103(4), 686.

Jacobs, G. D., Pace-Schott, E. F., Stickgold, R., & Otto, M. W. (2004). Cognitive behavior therapy and pharmacotherapy for insomnia: a randomized controlled trial and direct comparison. Archives of internal medicine, 164(17), 1888-1896.

Joe, S., Woolley, M. E., Brown, G. K., Ghahramanlou-Holloway, M., & Beck, A. T. (2008). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory–II in low-income, African American suicide attempters. Journal of personality assessment, 90(5), 521-523.

Otto, M. W. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy vs relaxation with educational support for medication-treated adults with ADHD and persistent symptoms: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 304(8), 875-880.

Rector, N. A., & Beck, A. T. (2001). Cognitive behavioral therapy for schizophrenia: an empirical review. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 189(5), 278-287.

Sensky, T., Turkington, D., Kingdon, D., Scott, J. L., Scott, J., Siddle, R., ... & Barnes, T. R. (2010). A randomized controlled trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for persistent symptoms in schizophrenia resistant to medication. Archives of general psychiatry, 57(2), 165-172.

Simons, A. D., Padesky, C. A., Montemarano, J., Lewis, C. C., Murakami, J., Lamb, K., ... & Beck, A. T. (2010). Training and dissemination of cognitive behavior therapy for depression in adults: A preliminary examination of therapist competence and client outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(5), 751.

Turner, J. A., Holtzman, S., & Mancl, L. (2007). Mediators, moderators, and predictors of therapeutic change in cognitive–behavioral therapy for chronic pain. Pain, 127(3), 276-286.

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