email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing StoriesA Clinician's Guide to Legal Issues in PsychotherapyA Map of the MindA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyACT With LoveActive Treatment of DepressionAffect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of SelfAlready FreeBad TherapyBecoming an Effective PsychotherapistBecoming MyselfBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBetrayed as BoysBeyond Evidence-Based PsychotherapyBeyond MadnessBeyond PostmodernismBinge No MoreBiofeedback for the BrainBipolar DisorderBody PsychotherapyBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBrain Science and Psychological DisordersBrain-Based Therapy with AdultsBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCase Studies in DepressionCaught in the NetChild and Adolescent Treatment for Social Work PracticeChoosing an Online TherapistChronic DepressionClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCognitive Therapy for Challenging ProblemsCompassionConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsControlConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCoping with BPDCouch FictionCounseling in GenderlandCounseling with Choice TheoryCouple SkillsCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating HysteriaCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDeafness In MindDecoding the Ethics CodeDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeep Brain StimulationDemystifying TherapyDepression 101Depression in ContextDialogues on DifferenceDissociative ChildrenDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTE-TherapyEarly WarningEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveErrant SelvesEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExistential PsychotherapyExpectationExploring the Self through PhotographyExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFear of IntimacyFlourishingFolie a DeuxForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFrom Morality to Mental HealthFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGod & TherapyHalf Empty, Half FullHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHeinz KohutHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHigh RiskHistory of PsychotherapyHow and Why Are Some Therapists Better Than Others?How Clients Make Therapy WorkHow People ChangeHow Psychotherapists DevelopHow to Fail As a TherapistHow to Go to TherapyHypnosis for Inner Conflict ResolutionHypnosis for Smoking CessationI Never Promised You a Rose GardenIf Only I Had KnownIn Others' EyesIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInside the SessionInside TherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsItís Your HourLearning ACTLearning from Our MistakesLearning Supportive PsychotherapyLetters to a Young TherapistLife CoachingLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMadness and DemocracyMaking the Big LeapMan's Search for MeaningMaybe You Should Talk to SomeoneMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMind GamesMindfulnessMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMoments of EngagementMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessMultifamily Groups in the Treatment of Severe Psychiatric DisordersNarrative PracticeNietzsche and PsychotherapyOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOur Last Great IllusionOutsider ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsOverexposedPathways to SpiritualityPersonality and PsychotherapyPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical Issues in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPillar of SaltPlan BPlato, Not Prozac!Polarities of ExperiencesPower GamesPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyProcess-Based CBTPromoting Healthy AttachmentsPsychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy East and WestPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersPsychotherapy Is Worth ItPsychotherapy Isn't What You ThinkPsychotherapy with Adolescent Girls and Young WomenPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy without the SelfPsychotherapy, American Culture, and Social PolicyRapid Cognitive TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRebuilding Shattered LivesReclaiming Our ChildrenRecovery OptionsRelationalityRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulScience and Pseudoscience in Clinical PsychologySecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSelf-Disclosure in Psychotherapy and RecoverySerious ShoppingSex, Therapy, and KidsSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySigns of SafetySoul Murder RevisitedStaring at the SunStraight to JesusStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyTales of UnknowingTalk is Not EnoughTalking Cures and Placebo EffectsTelling SecretsThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Couch and the TreeThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Cure of SoulsThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Ethical Treatment of DepressionThe Ethics of PsychoanalysisThe Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Healing JourneyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Heroic ClientThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Incurable RomanticThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mindful TherapistThe Mirror Crack'dThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New Rational TherapyThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Other Side of DesireThe Pastoral Counseling Treatment PlannerThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Pornographer's GriefThe Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem of EvilThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy of HopeThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to PsychopharmacologyThe Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe Trouble with IllnessThe UnsayableThe Way of the JournalTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapy with ChildrenTherapy's DelusionsTheraScribe 3.0 for WindowsTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThinking for CliniciansThinking for CliniciansThoughts Without a ThinkerThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreating Attachment DisordersTreatment for Chronic DepressionTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety DisordersUnderstanding Child MolestersUnspeakable Truths and Happy EndingsWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom?What Works for Whom? Second EditionWhen the Body SpeaksWhispers from the EastWise TherapyWittgenstein and PsychotherapyWorking MindsWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting About PatientsYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga Therapy

Related Topics
The Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyReview - The Problem with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
by Kristy Hall and Furhan Iqbal
Karnac Books, 2010
Review by R.A. Goodrich, Ph.D.
Nov 16th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 46)

One ringing endorsement of cognitive behavioural therapy is Lord Richard Layard's The Depression Report of June 2006. He extols it as the "most developed" amongst the "evidence-based," "short, forward-looking treatments" (2006: 3), treatments that are positively re-enforcing and "cost effective" means of countering depression and anxiety disorders (2006: 6ff.).  As Kirsty Hall and Furhan Iqbal openly state, their booklet, The Problem with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, wishes to question "whether Layard's assertions are entirely justified" (xi).  They contend that this is especially needed when cognitive behavioral therapy is no longer targeting depression, but nowadays is in fact employed by practitioners from a variety of professional backgrounds for debilitating illnesses ranging from arachnophobia and bulimia nervosa to chronic fatigue and schizophrenia.  In what follows, we shall firstly review the crucial kinds of questions raised by Hall and Iqbal before concluding briefly with one about the role of language that they fail to pursue fully.


Psychological hypotheses and their attendant patterns of treatment have often been characterized by lengthy periods of largely unchallenged if not always uniform adherence by practitioners.  Part of the reason may well lie in the sheer persistence and personality of their founders.  Part of the reason might equally centre upon the interlocking endorsement by clinical, educational, and governmental institutions.  The longevity of cognitive behavioral therapies in the Anglophone world seems to be a case in point.  Whilst cognizant of the successes and spread of such therapies, Hall and Iqbal are certainly not prepared to leave them unchallenged.

Whilst initially surveying socio-political and intellectual factors behind the rise of cognitive behavioral therapies, Hall and Iqbal proceed by recapitulating their evolution from behavioral antecedents onwards first highlighted by Stanley Rachman in the late 'nineties (7ff.).  However, it immediately becomes obvious that they are pre-occupied with one major variant of the melding of behavioral and cognitive approaches, namely, Aaron Beck's so-called cognitive therapy that emerged after the mid-'seventies.  Omitted from their account are, for example, the rival claims of Arthur Ellis' rational emotive behavior therapy that arose in the late 'fifties.  No explanation is proffered why Beck, but not Ellis, is regarded as crucial to the hold cognitive behavioral therapy has upon current practice (cf. 11).  Nor, for that matter, is the debate between both men in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy of 2003 and 2005 over their empirical rather than theoretical credentials given any attention.

Concluding their survey with the present British context, Hall and Iqbal direct their readers' attention to the seeming efficacies of cognitive behavioral therapy in what is at times a politically charged synopsis.  The apparent strengths of the merging of behavioral and cognitive strands are said to be at least four.  These include, firstly, the focus upon accessible "consciously experienced thoughts and images"; secondly, the direct involvement with "human experience and behaviour" without deviating into analogies with other species and laboratory experiments;  thirdly, the "sophisticated formulations and targeted interventions," thereby maintaining the "legitimacy" and "hegemony of scientific discourse"; and, fourthly, the growing appeal to the "middle classes" where "a reframing of individual problems" from an hierarchical, bio-medical towards an egalitarian, "talking therapies" perspective has taken place (12-14).

Conceding that different disorders involve different emphases, the second of the four main chapters of The Problem with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy aims to disclose the underlying nature of Beck's handling of depression.  In brief, depression is construed in terms of cyclical negative attitudes permeating past, present, and future experience.  For Hall and Iqbal, Beck's "central...assumption" is that

individuals' emotions (affects) and behaviours are dependent on how the individual organises his/her experience of the external or internal world.  The importance of cognitions, images, and verbal events consciously stressed; these are deemed to have primacy over emotions and behaviours.  In depression, it is thought that cognitions resulting in disturbance of emotion and behavior are frequently inaccurate.  They are deemed to be the result of faulty information processing (23).

The authors immediately begin to criticize Beck and his followers for not resolving a number of crucial issues.  They question the primacy assigned to cognition as others have done, querying whether, in fact, emotions, behavior, and cognition might have a "reciprocal impact on each other" (23) even when behavioral experiments and tasks, in preference to "dredging the past" (27), are to be sequentially undertaken by patients as steps in the rational monitoring of their own experiences, perceptions, and thoughts.  This is rapidly followed by other questions. For instance, if depression is what is supposedly measured by the Beck Depression Inventory, then is depression unlike personality disorders "in a sense, self-reporting" (28)?  Next, if people need persuading to be rational to use cognitive behavioral therapy, then what makes them non-rational or dysfunctional in the first place and who decided "what constitutes dysfunctional behaviour" and when (30)?  Again, in so far as cognitive behavioral therapy concentrates upon the individual alone, upon his or her rationality and responsibilities, does it ultimately uphold the status quo and, in so doing, deny that social problems such as mass unemployment and the like play any causal role (cf. 38-40)?  Furthermore, are all patients with depression capable of distinguishing between rational and non-rational thinking, and, if not, how can cognitive behavioral therapy gain any purchase with them short of "impos[ing] a structure of thought" (40-41)? 

The third and longest chapter focuses upon two widely disseminated claims about cognitive behavioral therapy: that it is scientific and that it is empirically grounded.  In a section entitled "Philosophical arguments" (38-44), Hall and Iqbal eventually provide a compressed summary of debate over the contested notion of the scientific, as represented by Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, and Paul Feyerabend since the 'sixties, in an effort to demonstrate its socially rather than logically constructed nature (41-43).  Their aim, when concluding that "the reader may wish to bear the debate outlined above in mind," is to cast doubt upon identifying the success of cognitive behavioral therapy with it being "inherently better than other forms of treatment" let alone with it being more "scientific" (44). 

During the course of the next section of Chapter Three, "Statistical arguments" (44-53), supplemented by an Appendix of six critically annotated, frequently cited "earlier foundational papers" (69-79), methodological problems affecting evidence adduced in favor of cognitive behavioral therapy are reviewed.  The need to do so is warranted as the unquestioning acceptance of statistical arguments in support of cognitive behavioral therapy continues unabated as exemplified by even a cursory glance at the 2010 edition of Clinical Guide to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders by Michael First and Allan Tasman.  Hall and Iqbal adroitly probe the appropriateness of variables and measures, sample size and selection, methods and results, especially of randomised control trials, affecting all forms of psychotherapy equally.  The authors then embark upon classificatory changes affecting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases (53ff.).  If, they ask, diagnostic categories prove susceptible to revision with each successive edition of the D.S.M.  or the I.C.D., then are "multiple," if not "conflicting," diagnoses a burden to be borne by all therapies, including the cognitive behavioural (55)? 

Finally, Chapter Three ends by questioning the British Psychological Society's response, prepared by Andrew Gumley and colleagues in December 2008, to the Bristol-based Skills for Health and its proposed professional standards for the practice of cognitive behavioural therapy.  Here, Hall and Iqbal claim, the response shows how a consequence of "an evidence-based approach to mental health...encourages the notion that treatment can consist of a fixed process" (56).  Indeed, they also contend, the demand for intensified accountability in order to minimise malpractice might also run the risk of "ruining the very delicate fabric of words that forms the material of all talking cures" (60). 


It is with the foregoing remark about the "delicate fabric of words" that we shall conclude this paper.  Scattered throughout The Problem with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and embedded within its brief final chapter are the beginnings of a critique of the role of language which many readers may consider worthy of separate treatment.  Early in the booklet is a pointed observation directed at behavioural approaches where

The rather significant issue that alone amongst animals, human beings use language in an extremely complex way was largely ignored as was the related fact that language itself influenced behaviour (9).

Later, psychodynamic interpersonal approaches are also critiqued.  These, not unlike other therapies including the cognitive behavioural, "assume that the patient is capable of making...connections and understanding hypotheses" (52).  And, in doing so, they also presume that "mixed feelings would be part of the process of developing a shared understanding through the development of a language, use of metaphors etc." (52). Yet cognitive behavioural therapy treats language as if it were entirely transparent.  This seems to be the case despite its teachability in the form of manuals which are replete with instructions about the introducing and reviewing, checking and enquiring to be undertaken by practitioners.  The seeming invisibility of language remains despite the hypothetical samples of utterances found in, say, the March 2000 manual focusing upon adolescents with depression by John Curry and colleagues.

You and I will be looking at your emotions, your thoughts, and your activities like scientists working together to understand something better (2005: 38).

Hall and Iqbal believe that cognitive behavioural therapy, in fact,

has little if anything to say about the properties of language.  Yet, like many other forms of therapy, it relies upon speech both as the medium of communication and as a largely undefined means of recording the feelings of the patient (64).

Hence, they would not be satisfied with one recent suggestion about recording the feelings of patients.  It would not be enough, as Alec Grant has done in the second edition of his collaborative anthology Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in Mental Health Care just published, to uphold the use of autoethnographic accounts. Part of the difficulty here is that such a suggestion is modeled on the literary fictional practice of The Ethnographic I  by Carolyn Ellis and fails to confront the implications of her desire to "keep the boundaries blurry and inclusive" (2004: 39). 

As implied but not foregrounded by Hall and Iqbal, perhaps what appears to be needed is to return to a closer examination of how the frameworks of practitioner and patient differ.  For instance, in terms first coined by Elliot Mischler in his 1984 The Discourse of Medicine, how does the contrast between the "voice of medicine" and the "voice of the lifeworld" manifest itself?  Arguably, the former "voice" construes the meaning of events through abstract rules that in effect decontextualize those events from the latter's specific personal and social circumstances.  Or, as Arthur Kleinman in his 1988 volume The Illness Narratives expresses it, the patient's story basically aims to give coherence to the distinctive events and suffering endured; it does not simply reflect his or her experience, but actually contributes to that experience and its symptoms.    The linguistic manifestations of such narratives, of such voices, have already started to be revealed in, for example, the more generalized interactional analysis of therapeutic discourse by William Labov and David Fanshel a generation ago and more recently developed by Kathleen Ferrara amongst others.  It is these writers who are noticeably missing from an otherwise timely and provocative booklet deserving of our attention.


© 2010 R.A. Goodrich


R.A. Goodrich teaches in the School of Communication & Creative Arts, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, co-edits the online refereed arts-practice journal, Double Dialogues, and co-ordinates with Maryrose Hall a longitudinal project investigating behavioral, cognitive, and linguistic aspects of higher-functioning children within the autistic spectrum of disorders.


Welcome to Metapsychology.

Note that Metapsychology will be moving to a new server in January 2020. We will not put up new reviews during the transition. We thank you for your support and look forward to coming back with a revised format.

We feature over 8300 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our Google Group!

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716