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An appraisal of scientific reasoning as therapy in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular schools of contemporary psychotherapy. One of the reasons for CBT ’s success is its ability to present itself as ‘scientific’. This claim to scientific legitimacy not only influences how CBT ’s efficacy is established, but also influences its therapeutic techniques.

Aspects of scientific reasoning and the scientific method are used as part of CBT ’s arsenal of therapeutic techniques. For instance, clients are encouraged to evaluate problematic thoughts – referred to as ‘cognitive distortions’ – by testing them as if they were hypotheses.

In this paper, I will examine CBT ’s account of cognitive distortions and the way in which scientific reasoning is used to evaluate and rectify them. I shall suggest that these therapeutic techniques cannot be working in the straightforward manner that CBT claims they are, as they fall afoul of some traditional objections from the philosophy of science.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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