Cognitive Behavioral Psychology

The Development of Cognitive Psychology

Pivotal Moments

Cognitive behavioral psychology started out as a philosophical concept of studying thoughts. Today, according to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavioral psychology “reflects an experimental-clinical approach distinguished by use of principles of human learning and development and theories of cognitive processing to promote meaningful change in maladaptive human behavior and thinking” (2016). There are a great deal of individuals who have contributed to the development of cognitive behavior psychology.

Some of the early influences include J.S. Mill whose mental chemistry essentially laid the groundwork for cognitive psychology as an experimental science (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014, p. 585). Furthermore, Fechner proved how cognitive events could be studied while Ebbinghaus emphasizes learning and memory in cognition (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014, p. 586). Additionally, William James discussed other possibilities for cognitive research (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014, p. 586).

Recent Information

In a recent article published in the American Journal of Family Law, instances of high-conflict divorce were reviewed. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was used as a treatment approach in family therapy. The therapy brings together a combination of communication skills and compassion while promoting use of positive words during therapy. Additionally, there is a focus on not dwelling in the past and focusing on the present and future (Haddad, Phillips, & Bone, 2016, p. 249). Although this particular study was not proven to be successful as only one family was studied, CBT can be used effectively in a variety of settings. Since CBT is centered on the thoughts that an individual has, these thoughts can be directed to more positive thinking in order to avoid maladaptive behaviors. For instance, in a situation where an individual has a drinking problem, a therapist may focus on identifying thoughts or situations where the person feels the need or want to drink such as high anxiety situations or points of depression. When the triggers are identified, the individual can learn different ways of dealing with the specific situations rather than taking to drinking.


American Psychological Association. (2016). Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology. Retrieved from

Haddad, L., Phillips, K. D., & Bone, M. (2016). High-conflict divorce: a review of the literature. American Journal of Family Law, 29(4), 243-258. Retrieved from Academic OneFile database

Hergenhahn, B., & Henley, T. B. (2014). An Introduction to the History of Psychology. Belmont, CA : Wadsworth.