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Christine Yang-Dai

Student ID: 1842411

Psychotherapeutic Approaches:

Beck’s Cognitive Therapy and Drug Therapy

Introduction to Psychology

350-HAS-03 - Section: 08

Bonnie Sonnenschein

April 30th, 2018


This paper will be comparing drug therapy and Beck’s cognitive therapy. While Beck’s cognitive

therapy presents less risk than drug therapy, drug therapy can address some more serious mental diseases.

The main points that will be discussed are the methods, the targeted psychological disorders and the benefits

and disadvantages of each treatment.

Drug therapy focuses on the biological causes of mental disorders. (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, &

Desmarais, 2017, p. 397). A variety of drugs are used to treat several mental illnesses. For instance,

antipsychotics, anti-depressants, lithium, and other minor tranquilizers are common drugs that are

prescribed to treat chemical imbalance in the brain. Professionals use them to respectively target

schizophrenia, depression or anxiety, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, &

Desmarais, 2017, p.397-398). Most of the drugs functions by constraining the reuptake of neurotransmitters

that are associated with the disorder. For example, some antipsychotics, used to control symptoms of

schizophrenia functions by restraining the activity of dopamine in the brain.

On the other hand, Beck’s cognitive therapy is based on the link between cognitive distortion and

unhealthy behaviors and feelings. In that way, diseases caused by a defective cognitive process such as

depression, anxiety, bulimia or panic disorder is treated by modifying the cognition of the patients (Wood,

Wood, Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.394). Automatic thoughts are irrational and imposed thoughts

about oneself. They cause the patient to create a negative perspective of themselves, of their environment

and of their future. This causes dysfunctional feelings linked to mental illnesses. The goal of the treatment

is to help the patient to overcome their irrational thoughts by debunking their beliefs and re-enforcing a

more objective viewpoint (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.395). This is done by making

the patient reevaluate their own thoughts as they experience them through assignements.

One of the main mental illness targeted by drug therapy is schizophrenia. This uncommon

psychological disorder only prevalent in 1% of the population, according to Wood, displays some of the

most serious symptoms (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.368). Some of the positive

symptoms, that is symptoms that are abnormal, are hallucinations, delusions, disturbance in the form of

thought or speech, disorganized behavior and inappropriate affect. (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, &

Desmarais, 2017, p.368-369). Auditory hallucination such as hearing voices absent in reality is common

among patients. Furthermore, there are also negative symptoms, which are normal behavior that are lacking,

such as a deficiency in cognition, social isolation and apathy. According to the previous edition of the DSM,

schizophrenia can be categorized into 4 main type: catatonic schizophrenia, an alternation between

immobility and agitation; disorganized schizophrenia, characterized by social isolation, hallucination and

delusions; paranoid schizophrenia, that manifest by delusion of persecution or of grandeur; and finally

undifferentiated schizophrenia for all the unclassified cases (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais,

2017, p.370). It is suggested that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of factors: the genetic

inheritance, the environment and an excess of several neurotransmitter in the brain including dopamine,

glutamate and GABA (Wood, Wood, Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.372).

On another side, Beck’s cognitive therapy is used to treat major depression. People who suffer from

depression feel negative emotions like overwhelming sadness and worthlessness (Wood, Wood, Boyd,

Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.372). It also causes physical symptoms like weight gain or loss due to appetite

changes, sleep trouble, fatigue and difficulty to focus on tasks. In more severe cases, patients can experience

delusion or hallucination. Depression is one of the most common mental. Several factors influence the

likelihood of experiencing a major depressive disorder. For instance, a family history of depression

increases the chance of developing depression of 38% according to Kendler (as cited in Wood et al., 2017,

p. 374). In addition, a distortion in the cognition can generate a negative perspective of the future and of

oneself. It can create, in the patient’s minds, a feeling of being lacking or inadequate by, for example,

blaming failure on themselves.


While the take of drugs can alleviate serious diseases difficult to cure, cognitive therapy is safer

and more practical. The intake of drugs comprises risks like overdose and health hazards (Wood, Wood,

Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.397-398). Some drugs involve unpleasant side effects like energy and

weight gain for antidepressants. Also, not all patients respond to the treatment and withdraw can cause

relapses. Many research have been done to demonstrate the results of Beck’s cognitive therapy are

successful for cases not too severe; patients who follow this therapy have less chance to relapse (Wood,

Wood, Boyd, Wood, & Desmarais, 2017, p.395). However, not all disorders can be treated with cognitive

therapy. Antipsychotic is still one of the best method for managing schizophrenia in a way that allows

patients to be functional.

In conclusion, Beck’s cognitive therapy presents less hazard than drug therapy while drug therapy

can be used more widely. Drug therapy uses a biological approach of the disorder: it targets the physical

process in neurotransmitters in the brain. Beck’s cognitive therapy is based on the cognition of the patient:

the treatment suppresses the negative thoughts to undo unhealthy behavior. Since Beck’s cognitive therapy

does not have side effects, it is safer. However, some disorders are not caused by defect cognition, thus drug

therapy is a good alternative for some other illnesses.

Word count: 793 words



Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., Boyd, D., Wood, E., & Desmarais, S. (2017). The world of psychology. Upper
Saddle River, New Jersey, United States: Pearson Education Inc.