I recently returned from the Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) Annual Convention that was held in New York City http://www.abct.org/conv2016/.
It was an exciting conference, as it was the 50th anniversary of the association. ABCT is an organization that is committed to advancing scientific approaches for understanding and improving conditions of human functioning.
One of the key reminders, for me, from this conference was that CBT is best delivered when the therapist has a good understanding of the science and theory behind the therapy. Unfortunately, some training programs across mental health fields emphasize that therapists learn techniques but it is equally important that therapists learn the theory behind these techniques.
Researchers have asked whether psychological therapy can be effective if there is not a good understanding of the science behind the therapy (Abramowitz, 2013)?
For example, when helping clients to do exposure to feared situations, it is important to understand the theories on how people learn and thus, how fear is extinguished.
Some of my patients have reported that they tried CBT with other therapists but that they were just following the manual. These patients complain that previous therapists chose to focus on only one problem without taking into consideration the complexity of their situation. When a therapist has a strong theoretical foundation, it acts as a road map to guide their assessment and treatment plan.
I have spent my career balancing the practicality of being a clinician with the theoretical background of a scientist. I was fortunate enough to be trained and supervised throughout my PhD by a leading CBT scholar. The theories behind CBT excite me and motivate me to deliver the best treatment to real-world cases each and every day.