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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Theoretical Basis of the Therapeutic Workbooks by John J. Liptak EdD and Ester R.A. Leutenberg


The adult and teen workbooks are grounded in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the notion that how people think (cognition) determines how they feel (emotion) and how they act (behavior). The workbooks help participants explore their thinking and subsequent feelings and behaviors. In CBT, negative and unrealistic thinking can cause stress and result in everyday issues. When a person suffers from psychological distress, how they interpret situations becomes skewed, negatively affecting their actions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to help people become aware of negative interpretations and behavioral patterns that reinforce distorted thinking. Cognitive therapy helps people develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving to reduce their psychological distress. The workbooks help participants explore and restructure their distorted thinking.

Aaron Beck is one of the primary theorists and practitioners of CBT. His Cognitive-Behavioral Approach suggests that a person’s reaction to specific upsetting thoughts contributes to negative feelings and ineffective behaviors - as people confront many types of life situations, both positive and negative thoughts stream through their heads. Beck calls these unbidden cognitions automatic thoughts.

Beck identified three primary mechanisms that he thought were responsible for the negative thoughts that affect emotions and behaviors:

  1. The cognitive triad of harmful, automatic thinking (negative thoughts about self, the world, and the future)
  2. Negative self-schemas
  3. Errors in logic and faulty information processing


The adult workbooks incorporate the CBT theoretical framework, as well as utilize various aspects of three additional orientations:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Diagram

Baltes Wisdom Management Theory

Baltes provides a theory for enhancing wisdom. He suggests that knowing how people think and act allows them to understand alternative viewpoints about life problems. This knowledge is formed from reflecting on and overcoming challenging life situations. Because reflection enhances wisdom, all our workbooks incorporate an assessment component to allow participants to explore their current functioning level on any given topic. Wisdom becomes apparent when knowledge is applied during problem-solving. Thus, all workbooks incorporate problem-solving and application skill activities and exercises.

Wise people have a broad understanding of options and viewpoints needed to formulate the best possible solution to life's dilemmas. Baltes introduced wisdom as the concept of the fundamental pragmatics of life. Therefore, we design all of the workbooks to be practical and pragmatic. Fundamental pragmatics means knowledge and judgment about the essence of the human condition and the ways and means of planning, managing, and understanding a good life. Baltes suggested that the fundamental pragmatics of life include:

♦ Wisdom is the knowledge of life's obligations and life goals.
♦ Wisdom is an understanding of the socially and contextually intertwined nature of human life.
♦ Wisdom is knowledge about oneself and the limits of one's own knowledge and the translation of knowledge into overt behavior.
♦ Wisdom helps people understand the "spiritual" incomprehensibility of life, such as the mind-body dynamics or the existence of a divine being.
♦ Wisdom is judged to be an exceptional level of human functioning. It is related to excellence and ideals of human development.
♦ Wisdom identifies a state of mind and behavior that includes the coordinated and balanced interplay of intellectual, affective, and emotional aspects of human functioning.
♦ Wisdom is viewed as associated with a high degree of personal and interpersonal competence, including listening, evaluating, and giving advice.

Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory

Mezirow’s theory suggests that our worldview is changed as we learn, which helps people grasp new concepts and ideas. Thus, participants receive new information through critical reflection, evaluating their past beliefs and understanding, and then shifting their view of themselves and the world. Transformative learning goes beyond merely acquiring knowledge and dives into how participants find meaning and understanding in their lives. This kind of learning experience involves a fundamental change in perceptions. As they begin to transform, participants start to question everything they knew or thought before and examine life from new perspectives to make room for new insights and information.

Mezirow says that transformative learning has two primary focuses: instrumental learning and communicative learning. Instrumental learning focuses on task-oriented problem solving and evaluation of cause and effect relationships. Communicative learning focuses on how people communicate their feelings, needs, and desires. Participants need to focus on different types of understanding and view new logical and emotional perspectives to challenge their previous knowledge and understanding. All of the adult workbooks are based on Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory. Mezirow believes that:

♦ People don’t apply their old understanding to new situations. Instead, they find they need to look at new perspectives to get a new understanding of things as they change. All the workbooks focus on taking on new perspectives and ways of interacting with the world.
♦ Critical reflection and critical review could lead to a transformation of their understanding. The workbooks require participants to reflect critically on their past thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Positive Psychology

All of the workbooks help participants focus on the positive aspects of their nature. Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living and of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels: personal well-being, relational well-being, institutional/work well-being, cultural well-being, and global well-being. Positive psychology helps participants explore "the good life," reflect on what holds the greatest value in life, and the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Positive psychology (and the workbooks) focuses on building resilience, general well-being, grit, character strengths, virtue, hope, forgiveness, and meaning.

The work of Martin Seligman is critical in positive psychology. Seligman suggests that positive psychology examines what gives life meaning and purpose and how participants can move beyond surviving to flourishing. Traditionally, psychology has focused on dysfunction and how to treat it. In contrast, positive psychology is a field that explores how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled. One of the workbook series (Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues Through Awareness) helps clients overcome the stigma related to their problems.


For the teen workbooks, the theoretical framework includes the three primary orientations of the adult workbooks (Wisdom Management, Positive Psychology, and Transformative Leaning). Additionally, these workbooks incorporate as much social interaction as possible.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Teen Diagram

Lev Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory

Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist and teacher considered a pioneer in learning in social contexts. He was also the first to examine how social interactions influence cognitive growth. He was convinced that learning occurs through interactions with others. Vygotsky sought to understand how people learned in a social environment and created a unique social learning theory. He encouraged more interactive activities to promote cognitive growth, such as productive discussions, constructive feedback, and collaboration with others. The series' of teen workbooks include various activities, exercises, debates, and collaborative activities to promote cognitive growth through interaction.