Topic 2: Cognitive Theories {by 9/12}

There are three readings due this week (Beck, A. T.; Beck, J. S.; Volungis).  For this discussion, share at least two thoughts: (1) What is your understanding of Lazarus’ and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT?  (2) What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist?   (I realize many of you do not yet have any therapy experience.  However, now is a good time to start thinking about being a CBT therapist.  Many of you will be starting your practicum next summer!)  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 9/12.  Have your two replies posted no later than 9/14.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katrina Piangerelli
    Sep 09, 2019 @ 18:50:40

    (1) What is your understanding of Lazarus’ and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT?

    Cognitive appraisal is an evaluative cognitive process that occurs between the encounter and the reaction. This is similar to an automatic thought that happens instantly and automatically sometimes without the person even acknowledging or knowing that it has happened. There are three different kinds of appraisals that may take place. The first is the primary appraisal, which includes the judgment that an encounter is either irrelevant, benign-positive, or stressful. A secondary appraisal is involved in what might and can be done, such as coping strategies. Reappraisal is the last type of appraisal, and refers to when an appraisal is changed based on new information from the person or environment. This can sometimes happen as a result of coping in certain situations.
    Coping involves changing cognitive and behavioral reactions to manage specific external and internal demands that may be too much for the person to handle for various reasons. Problem-focused coping occurs when the environment is being managed or altered by the problem, which has caused distress. Emotion-focused coping is when the emotional response to the problem is being regulated, usually from exposure to stressors, which then change the meaning of the stressor. This may be in the form of a reappraisal.
    Lazarus’ and Folkman’s descriptions of cognitive appraisal and coping are closely related to the goals of CBT. Cognitive appraisal involves the automatic thoughts and consideration of coping strategies that follow an encounter. CBT focuses on these automatic thoughts and ineffective coping methods, so making a person aware of the cognitive appraisal process is crucial to changing these thoughts and behaviors.
    In the primary appraisal, a person determines whether the event was positive, irrelevant, or stressful, based on that person’s interpretation of the event and prior experiences. It is important for the person to become aware of this initial reaction, because labeling an event as stressful may lead a person toward damaging automatic thoughts or ineffective coping methods. A maladaptive functioning individual might display extreme negative thoughts and amplify perceived threats, while minimizing positive thoughts. Becoming more aware of this primary appraisal can help this individual to evaluate and modify these extreme thoughts, replacing them with more realistic ones.
    In the secondary appraisal, a person considers the options and coping strategies that are available to manage the situation. CBT focuses on refining these strategies, identifying effective ways to handle the situation and working to avoid the ineffective methods that a person has used in the past. In this way, CBT depends heavily upon being aware of the cognitive appraisal process. By examining, evaluating, and modifying these thoughts and coping strategies, and identifying more helpful ways of coping, a person can work to respond to situations in more constructive ways.

    (2) What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist? (I realize many of you do not yet have any therapy experience. However, now is a good time to start thinking about being a CBT therapist. Many of you will be starting your practicum next summer!)

    My initial impression of the basic principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is that it seems to be a strong form of therapy that will make a difference in many people’s lives. CBT is based on how our emotions and behaviors are influenced by our environment and how we perceive different situations. This means that it focuses on the thoughts occurring in response to a situation that determine how we react emotionally. Individuals who function maladaptively may experience negative thoughts that are more extreme, perceived threats that are more amplified, and positive thoughts as well as rewards may be reduced. The primary goal of CBT is ultimately to help a client identify, evaluate, and modify his or her thoughts that are negative and automatic. Recognizing and modifying the automatic negative thoughts that an individual may be experiencing can lead to the individual breaking down these thoughts, leading to changes in thoughts, mood, and behavior. I think that the goal of CBT is very important, as it can help clients to think more rationally and develop better coping strategies.
    It is important for therapists practicing CBT to develop expertise in this field, which is built through three stages. The first stage involves learning the basic skills of conceptualizing a case and the cognitive terms that are gathered from the intake and evaluation. In the second stage, a therapist becomes proficient in integrating his or her conceptualization into the knowledge that he or she has about the techniques being used. The last stage includes automatically integrating new information into this conceptualization.
    Through readings and coursework, I believe that I have developed a basic understanding of the principles of CBT. However, I want to continue learning about it in order to gain a deeper understanding of these principles. I am less confident in my ability to consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist, particularly since I lack experience in this area. Being a therapist that practices CBT is something that I would like to work on and develop my skills so that I am able to consistently apply the basic principles of CBT. I am looking forward to practicing the process of identifying automatic negative thoughts, evaluating their effectiveness, and finding ways to help clients modify these thoughts.


    • Adam Rene
      Sep 10, 2019 @ 16:49:34


      Thank you for your post. I see that you and I came to a lot of similar conclusions regarding the ties between cognitive appraisal and coping with CBT. I enjoyed how you made strong connections between the appraisal process and negative thoughts, as this was helpful for my understanding of how this appraisal process connects with CBT principles.

      I would imagine that most if not all of us are in the same boat as you with regard to feeling competent in practicing CBT – we just don’t know yet! As I read your answer I was reminded of the different levels of ‘competence’ that we learned in our ‘Counseling Principles’ course last semester. The hope, I would imagine, is that we grow from conscious incompetence (I know I don’t know) to operating from a conscious competence (I know that I know). I appreciate your openness here and I agree, with continued exposure to CBT principles and having the opportunities to practice through our internship and practicum I would imagine our answers will change!


    • Zacharie Duvarney
      Sep 11, 2019 @ 10:20:42


      Your response was insightful and well articulated. It seems that you and I arrived at many of the same conclusions, though our description of how cognitive appraisal and coping relate to CBT varied slightly.

      You and I both share the sentiment that professional competence is something we wish to improve. I agree with you that understanding basic CBT principles has been relatively simple. I also agree with you that it is more important to be able to employ these concepts as a professional, and that will be a more arduous task. Overall, I have no doubt that we will be able to improve our professional competence and integrate these CBT principles into practice.


  2. Adam Rene
    Sep 10, 2019 @ 16:41:39

    1. Lazarus and Folkman state that cognitive appraisal occurs when a person considers their situation and how it could affect them. Cognitive appraisal is broken into two parts: primary and secondary. Primary appraisals involve the process of estimating the severity of the particular stressor and asking the questions, is this a threat? Is this a challenge? Is this irrelevant? Now that the ‘threat’ has been identified, a secondary appraisal is utilized to examine if anything can be done to overcome or prevent harm from this threat. This is where coping strategies come into play. I liked how Lazarus and Folkman describe a coping function versus an outcome. According to the reading, a coping function refers to the purpose a strategy serves and an outcome refers to the effect a strategy has. Emotion-focused coping and problem-focused coping are two main strategies depicted by Lazarus and Folkman. The goal of emotion-focused coping is to lessen the emotional distress through various strategies such as avoidance, minimization, or selective attention. The goal of problem-focused coping is to define the problem and generate solutions to then act on the problem. Finally, there are reappraisals – an appraisal that’s changed based upon the introduction of new information. An example could be an instance where a primary appraisal labels something a threat, but a reappraisal with new information changes this threat to a ‘challenge.’ Cognitive appraisals and coping strategies through this mindset acknowledge that stressors and circumstances change over time, thus requiring new appraisals and new coping strategies to be utilized.

    With regard to connections with CBT, I see both cognitive appraisal and coping to be heavily related to CBT. Cognitive reappraisals can be used as a means of challenging negative automatic thoughts. It can be said that primary and secondary appraisals happen so quickly it can be hard to distinguish them, which sounds very similar to how automatic thoughts can occur in an individual. These reappraisals aren’t meant to be labeled as ‘positive thinking’ but focusing on what is evident, realistic, and accurate. Reframing a situation from being a ‘threat’ to a ‘challenge’ can have a drastic impact on how that situation is interpreted and practicing this can lead to future appraisals of a similar style when faced with new stressors (which WILL come).

    2. I feel that throughout the course of professional life, I have been exposed time and time again to the tenants of CBT. Each time I encountered a worksheet I found online when searching for interventions and reviewed it I found myself saying the same thing – this just makes sense. I feel that CBT has easily understood principles – I do not mean to imply that CBT is “easy,” however. CBT’s principles are well researched, tested, and evidence-based and thus represent a firm foundation to stand behind and practice in a professional therapeutic setting. CBT’s present focus I find to be particularly important while also not excluding the past. Clients are coming in for real problems that are distressing to them right now and CBT is well equipped to understand and therapeutically ‘tackle’ those problems in a safe setting. CBT really promotes a partnership between therapist and client, especially around the idea of giving homework. As I’ve heard it said many times, our presence in our client’s life is a tiny blip in their overall schedule on a week-to-week basis. It is then vitally important that our client’s become their own ‘therapists’ to start using these skills to regain and maintain mastery over their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Thoughts can be confusing and having a framework that is able to accurately describe how these thoughts can have an impact on cognition and behavior is fascinating. A phrase that we use around my office is that my goal is to ‘work myself out of a job with your child.’ I want my clients to get to a point where they can function adaptively and independently, as I certainly cannot be a part of their life forever.
    So far, the principles that I have learned regarding CBT are clear and concise and I feel that I am understanding them well. I am thankful to have peers alongside me who are actively seeking to better understand this field that we feel called to work and serve in. I look forward to continued instruction in this course as well as future courses to better understand how to become a competent CBT practicing professional.


    • Zacharie Duvarney
      Sep 11, 2019 @ 10:27:46

      You consistently provide real-life examples of concepts, which has certainly been insightful. I am intrigued by your professional endeavors, and am glad to know you are already working to integrate CBT principles into your professional practice. I feel that your understanding of class material is enhanced by your professional experience. I look forward to reading more accounts of how CBT has influenced your professional life.

      In regard to your understanding of the readings, it seems that you and I have arrived at essentially the same conclusions. It was reassuring to know that others are comprehending this material in a similar fashion.


    • Bianca Thomas
      Sep 11, 2019 @ 15:50:31

      Adam, you did a great job of integrating how appraisals and coping strategies are dependent on each other, and I also appreciated the differentiation between the coping function and the coping outcome, it definitely helped to understand the goals and reasons behind the actions taken. You also had a clear understanding of how these related to CBT with the cognitive appraisals being used as a way of challenging negative automatic thoughts, and how the reappraisals aren’t meant to be “positive thinking” but on focusing the reality of the situation.

      With regard to the second question, I completely agree with you that the collaboration between the client and therapist is critical, and that teaching the client to “be their own therapist” is so important for helping the client to become functionally adaptive.


    • Tricia Flores
      Sep 11, 2019 @ 20:31:16

      Adam- I appreciated your idea of working your way out of a job. My experience with therapeutic mentors very much reminds me of strategies utilized in CBT. It is meant to be a short-term treatment that is meant to have a lasting impact. While it is true that a clinician’s part in a client’s life is a “tiny blip,” I also appreciate the strategies CBT utilizes to assist the client to have their lives possibly change trajectory based on their work in treatment.


    • Katrina Piangerelli
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 20:18:14

      Adam, I think that your breakdown of primary and secondary appraisal was really insightful. You described what each of these look like, and then addressed coping strategies. You went into detail about problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping, which really helped me understand the basic meaning and goals of each of these two different methods of coping. Then you wrote about reappraisals and explained how all of these things connect to CBT. You described automatic thoughts as similar to primary and secondary appraisals. I think that this is a great connection and similar to what I thought as well.
      I really like the way that you answered the second question and how you described CBT as being well equipped to understand and tackle problems. When I was reading your description of CBT, it went into detail about different aspects of CBT, and it seems as though you have a great foundation of knowledge for CBT. I like the phrase that you said you used around your office at work. I think that it makes sense and really describes what we have been learning throughout the semester.


  3. Zacharie Duvarney
    Sep 11, 2019 @ 10:15:42

    1. What is your understanding of Lazarus and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT?

    Folkman and Lazarus define cognitive appraisal as a mediating process where individuals determine to what extent environmental encounters are relevant to their well-being. Cognitive appraisals are divided into 2 types; primary and secondary. In primary appraisal, the individual determines what is at risk relative to the environmental occurrence. Essentially, the individual determines whether the event is harmful or beneficial. For example, one may ask such questions as “Will this event negatively impact my relationship with my girlfriend?” or “Will attending this event help me advance my career goals?”. Folkman and Lazarus identify specific personality domains that often influence primary appraisals including; personal values, goals, beliefs, etc.

    Secondary appraisals are when an individual determines what actions they can take to maximize the benefits or negate the risks of an environmental occurrence. This process is often the primary vehicle for selecting specific coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms are meant to alleviate feelings of distress. Various types of coping exist, such as problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping is characterized by the individual managing their environment in order to alter or negate the distressing stimulus. Emotional coping focuses more on internal factors, such as affect regulation. By regulating internal factors (e.g. affective arousal), the appraisal of the stressor can be altered so that the individual feels less distressed. This process of altering the initial appraisal of an event through emotion-focused coping is known as reappraisal.

    Cognitive appraisals and coping are inherently like CBT, given they are conceptualized within a cognitive framework. The practice of altering cognitive appraisals is akin to cognitive restructuring in CBT. Problem-focused coping seems similar to psychoeducation behavioral activation in CBT. Emotion-focused coping is parallel to mindfulness and relaxation exercises often employed in CBT therapies. Thus, it seems that Folkman and Lazarus’ ideas on cognitive appraisal and coping are very similar to specific tenants within CBT.

    2. What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist?

    As far as understanding the basic principles of CBT, I feel that my comprehension has been good so far. I have had no trouble understanding any of the empirical literature I have interacted with. Furthermore, I have quickly grasped the concepts presented in practitioner’s guides such the ones written by Judith Beck and Dr. Volungis. Once I have ascertained a holistic understanding of CBT, I will dedicate myself to applying these concepts into practice. I feel that comprehending the material is easier than utilizing it in mental health practice.

    Obviously, I have no experience working as a licensed therapist. Naturally, experience will come with time, especially with the practicum fast approaching. I have confidence in my ability to develop as a professional, however, I feel that the task of integrating CBT concepts into practice will be difficult. As individuals who specialize in this field, it is easy for us to use the technical jargon of the profession in order to understand these concepts, as well as apply them to our own lives. However, most clients we work with will not have any experience in mental health services. Thus, applying these concepts into practice will be difficult given we need to tailor or language and practice to best serve the individuals we are helping. This is where I wish to develop most in terms of applying CBT principles into practice. I want to become experienced with diverse populations of clients, so that I may effectively apply CBT principles to most clients I serve. It easier to understand CBT concepts than it is to apply CBT concepts to people’s lives for the purpose of producing positive change.


    • Bianca Thomas
      Sep 11, 2019 @ 15:41:52

      Zachary, your interpretation and understanding of coping and appraisal appear to be very thorough and well thought out; you demonstrated that you have a clear understanding of the material through your use of examples and detailed explanations of the topics, such as how specific personality domains influence primary appraisals like personal values, goals and beliefs, and how secondary appraisals are the primary vehicle for selecting specific coping mechanisms.

      With regard to your understanding of the principles and applying them, through reading the material and attentively working towards understanding it, I have no doubt that you will be able to successfully understand and apply the techniques; in our class together last semester (PSY 600) you were able to complete the role play exercises and demonstrate the needed qualities very effectively, and I have no doubt that your understanding and abilities will continue to grow.


    • Kara Rene
      Sep 12, 2019 @ 16:46:29


      I appreciated that you brought up factors that influence primary appraisals as I had forgotten to explore them in my own blog post. Those factors are so important and account for why two individuals may have completely different appraisals of the same event. I also appreciated the link that you pointed out between secondary appraisals and coping!

      As for your appraisal of your ability to use CBT skills in practice, I appreciated your point that there is a difference between understanding a principle and helping others understand and apply it appropriately. It is a good point to keep in mind! I hope that we will have opportunities to apply CBT in practice during our internships, perhaps, so that we can get some experience before we graduate!


  4. Bianca Thomas
    Sep 11, 2019 @ 15:34:36

    (1) What is your understanding of Lazarus’ and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT

    Cognitive appraisal is a three-part phenomenon that describes the ways in which an individual interprets the meaning of an event how it effects their emotion and behavior with regard to the event. Cognitive appraisal allows the individual to evaluate the significance of what is happening, and what can be done about it. Primary appraisal is the initial judgement of the situation; it can either be irrelevant (it has no significance or importance to them), benign-positive (there is a potential positive outcome to the event), or stressful (consisting of harm/loss, threat or challenge). Harm/loss is referred to as damage that the person has already encountered, threat refers to the anticipation of harm and loss, and challenge is events that have a possibility for mastery or gain. Secondary appraisal refers to the judgement of “what can I do/what can be done?” Secondary appraisal involves evaluating different coping strategies, deciding if they have the ability (efficacy) to efficaciously carry out the strategy, and then the action taken. Reappraisal is a change to the primary appraisal based on new information from the environment, and/or the person.

    Coping refers to constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts in order to manage a specific demand that an individual appraises as challenging or exceeding their resources. Coping is concerned with the individual’s thoughts and behaviors in a specific context, and with how these thoughts and behaviors change across the duration of the encounter or in other encounters. Two functions of coping include managing the problem with the environment that is causing the distress (problem-focused coping) and regulating the emotional response to the problem (emotion-focused coping). Both types of coping influence each other in a stressful situation, and they can either aid or hinder each other.

    Cognitive appraisal and coping are directly related to CBT because these are the precise actions taken by individuals (whether consciously or unconsciously) when dealing with stressful situations, that eventually form their issues or neuroses in which they are coming to therapy for. In CBT we use cognitive restructuring to aid the individual in adaptively appraising situations and providing them with tools in order to functionally cope/respond to the situation, as opposed to in a maladaptive function. For example, if an individual has a fear of dogs, their primary appraisal will be stressful, and most likely threatening. Due to the believe that the individual is unable to take action or help themselves when confronted by a dog, their coping strategy may become something maladaptive such as avoiding dogs all together, experiencing anxiety when thinking about dogs, and intense fear and inability to control themselves when near a dog. The cognitive behavioral therapist will aid the individual in adjusting their appraisal of the dog, provide some sort of exposure therapy with the individual, and collaboratively come up with ways for dealing with future dog sightings.

    (2) What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist?

    Based on the material we have read so far, as well as the in class discussions of the material, I believe I have a good understanding of the basic principles of CBT, and I also believe that with enough practice and repetition I will be able to very functionally and successfully apply these principles in therapy with a client. I know that it will be difficult in the beginning, and as the readings in previous classes, as well as conversations with other students have shown, I will have doubts and fears, but through practicing and experience I believe I will be able to efficiently learn and apply the needed skills.


    • Paola Gutierrez
      Sep 12, 2019 @ 10:34:56

      Bianca — I found your example of the relationship between cognitive appraisal and coping to CBT helpful. I think that the relationship between the cognitive appraisals/coping with the issues/problems that bring clients into therapy is somewhat understated. In your example, you talk about how the client’s perception of dogs as threatening may lead them to avoid dogs altogether, which may be a reason why they are seeking treatment (if avoiding dogs has led to other problems). You also tied self-efficacy into the situation in that the individual believes they are unable to handle being around dogs. In this way, you integrated information from past lectures clearly and effectively, which was helpful for my understanding of how these concepts connect to one another.


    • Anthony Mastrocola
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 14:34:21

      Hi Bianca,

      I found that your examples for the different forms of appraisal and coping were effective in helping me understand the material. Overall, I found that you were clear in differentiating between the different forms of appraisal. I also liked how you defined what maladaptive coping would look like in the dog example, and how a therapist would address those behaviors. I also agree with your last part about confidence in CBT that practice and repetition will be the best ways to improve confidence and ability.


  5. Paola Gutierrez
    Sep 12, 2019 @ 10:12:48

    1) Cognitive appraisal refers to an internal evaluation of an event or stimulus from the environment which acts as an interceding cognitive process between the event and emotional/behavioral responses. Appraisal is described as a process because the individual has to judge a situation or an event as either irrelevant (i.e., no impact/effect, lacks significant meaning) as benign-positive (beneficial) or negative (harm/loss, threat, or challenge). Threats and challenges comprise the most salient appraisal processes. A threat appraisal is when an individual evaluates a situation to be threatening or dangerous that could result in harm/loss. A challenge, on the other hand, is when an individual perceives something to be stressful but has the possibility of learning/opportunity. For example, an individual may be stressed and anxious about attending a social gathering, but is also excited at the opportunity to make new friends. These types of appraisals described are referred to as primary appraisals because they serve as evaluations of the situation at hand (or a future situation). Secondary appraisals are when an individual has evaluated the situation and now has to decide what to do about it. For instance, an individual could utilize coping strategies to deal with what a situation they have deemed as threatening (the primary appraisal). Reappraisal is possible, where a situation that was once evaluated one way is now evaluated a different way. For example, a threat can be re-evaluated as a challenge. For example, I had a job interview that I was very anxious about. I appraised the situation as a threat because I was certain I would not get selected for the position (primary appraisal – threat). However, I utilized problem-solving coping strategies such as rehearsing my interview with a friend to gain interview skills (secondary appraisal). After I felt more confident in my ability to succeed in the interview, my appraisal of the situation shifted from threat to challenge, in which I now saw the interview as an opportunity to showcase myself as a strong applicant (re-appraisal). Cognitive appraisal relates to CBT in that appraisals describe how we derive internal meaning from our external environment. CBT is concerned with cognitions and their relationship with behaviors (and vice versa). Cognitive appraisal is that critical link between thoughts and behaviors. Appraisals are also closely tied to automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts are situation-specific, seemingly spontaneous thoughts that are quick and evaluative, which is similar to the case of appraisal. A case example of this connection could look like this: Amy and Julie (who are friends) had plans to go out for dinner. The night of the dinner, Amy tells Julie she can’t make it to the dinner. Julie appraises the situation as harm/loss (of the friendship itself or the opportunity to spend time with her friend) and has the automatic thought “See? I knew Amy doesn’t actually like me.” CBT and cognitive appraisal are also connected in that both hold that the situation itself does not directly result in the emotional and/or behavioral response, but rather the appraisal/perception of the situation mediates these responses. Thoughts and cognitions drive emotions and behaviors in a cyclical, dynamic process.

    Coping can be considered as a form of secondary appraisal, in the sense that utilizing coping strategies is one way to respond to a stressful/distressing situation or event. Problem-solving is another secondary appraisal form. Coping is described as the constantly changing cognitive or behavioral efforts to manage the internal and/or external demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the person’s resources. Coping mechanisms are categorized into two groups: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Both strategies can be utilized simultaneously or one before the other, depending on the situation. Problem-focused coping deals with changing or modifying the stressor itself, which can be environmental or internal (focused on the self). For example, if an individual’s stressor is the social environment he/she is in, a problem-focused coping strategy can be changing the social environment. Emotion-focused coping is often used when the situation is unchangeable (at least immediately) to regulate the emotional response to the event. CBT focuses on modifying and refining both emotion-focused and problem-focused coping strategies so that individuals can respond to stressful situations more effectively and adaptively. CBT is specifically oriented to help individuals effectively solve their own problems, and incorporates problem-solving coping and emotion-focused coping, with problem-solving seen as the most effective method over the long-term.

    2) I chose this graduate program because of its emphasis of CBT because I believe in evidence-based interventions that actually help people deal with their everyday lives and problems. CBT has consistently demonstrated to be effective with a wide range of clinical populations. Every time I compared CBT with other therapeutic modalities, it always came back to “CBT is so practical and user-friendly.” While there is some theoretical jargon, the psychological theories behind CBT are not so extraordinarily complex that I would have an extraordinary amount of trouble explaining it to others (or clients). I understand the tenets and core principles of CBT, such as its collaborative nature, and its time-limited and present-focused basis. The last thing I want is for clients to be in therapy forever, with little (or no) change and improvement in their lives. I especially appreciate that CBT aims for clients to become their own therapists and to be able to effectively manage their own problems. This makes CBT more accessible for a diverse population, such as economically disadvantaged individuals. I also have a firm grasp of the CBT model and case conceptualization, with the focus on cognitions (automatic thoughts, core beliefs) and their precipitants and responses. What I appreciate most about the cognitive conceptualization is that it is based on data (from the client) and that it is a collaborative effort as the therapist tries to understand the client and his/her problems. I think where I get a little confused is distinguishing between core beliefs and automatic thoughts, because I imagine that sometimes core beliefs can take the form of automatic thoughts or come up at the same time. For example, thinking “I’m stupid” after failing an exam or “No one likes me” after a friend doesn’t respond to a text message. Of course, I haven’t yet administered CBT with clients, so I am lacking confidence in my ability to apply these basic principles, but I am excited to learn more about CBT so that I can successfully formulate cases and implement treatment plans with clients. I think as I have the opportunities to practice and refine my skills as a CBT therapist, my self-efficacy as an effective therapist will increase.


    • Kara Rene
      Sep 12, 2019 @ 16:37:15


      I enjoyed your use of examples while explaining cognitive appraisals- especially the example from your own life! Thank you for sharing! Your examples applied the concepts to real life and made them more compelling and understandable. I also really enjoyed your explanation and case example for how cognitive appraisal relates to CBT.

      I am glad that you feel confident in your ability to understand principles of CBT. I agree with you that it is hard to know how well we will be able to apply the principles with clients before we have actually done so- only time will tell! But it sounds like, with your understanding of the principles and this program’s reputation for teaching students how to use CBT, you will make a great therapist!


    • Kelsey Finnegan
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 21:56:00

      Paola, I really enjoyed reading your response! Your use of examples, particularly your own personal experience, helped me further conceptualize the categories of cognitive appraisal. I like that you even included your reappraisal of the situation. That was a very well thought out response.

      Your reasons for choosing this program are similar to my own. After all, if it weren’t for CBT and this program, I would probably not be living in Worcester, MA right now-ha. I also have difficulty distinguishing between core beliefs and automatic thoughts. While I understand that our core beliefs influence our automatic thoughts, it seems to me like they overlap quite a bit and, like you said, may take the form of automatic thoughts themselves at times.


    • Olivia Corfey
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 22:32:06

      I found your examples of explaining of cognitive appraisals to be helpful with my own understanding. Your explanations and connections to coping and CBT were also beneficial. In regard to your second post, I believe we can agree that CBT has a multitude of positive benefits! I admit that I also have some trouble differentiating between core beliefs and automatic thoughts. A few classes along with the assistants of Aaron and Judy Beck will certainly help clarify these concepts.


  6. Olivia Corfey
    Sep 12, 2019 @ 10:21:58

    What is your understanding of Lazarus’ and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT?

    Two individuals could be standing next to each other and witness the same event. However, these individuals may interpret this event in two complete different ways. The environmental stimuli humans encounter is interpreted and responded to. Each individual attempts to make sense of their world, oneself and their future. Cognitive appraisals are considered to be continuous evaluations focused on the meaning or significance of different experiences. These appraisals or interpretations influence one’s coping process and how one reacts emotionally or physiologically. Three types of appraisals are identified: primary, secondary, and reappraisal. Primary appraisal is our quick judgment of irrelevance, benign-positive or stressful. Secondary appraisal is also a quick judgement that is concerned about what can be done such as coping strategies or a particular set of skills. Reappraisal is the only type of appraisal that can be changed based on new information. However, the individual is typically unaware of their appraisals. In relation to CBT, cognitive appraisals are similar to automatic thoughts, in the sense of the interpretation being made through a particular lens. Appraisals could also be a product of core beliefs projecting onto the individual’s interpretations. It is essential to identify and address negative cognitive appraisals that may lead to maladaptive responses to the environment.

    What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist?

    While initially learning the basic principles and concepts of CBT, I feel that my understanding is progressing accordingly. Due to the vast and growing research upon the effectiveness of CBT, the science-based therapeutic orientation is not as abstract as many psychodynamic orientations. This foundation of empirical based evidence is helpful with learning these principles and concepts. Learning the history, reasonings and foundation behind CBT is beneficial with carrying out this orientation throughout my career as a CBT counselor. Along with a firm understanding of the CBT principles, practice and field experience are necessary in order to learn how to apply these concepts with a patient. Initially integrating these concepts and principles will be difficult due to the complexity of a real patient. However, I have confidence in my progressing knowledge and the preparation this graduate program will provide me within the semesters ahead.


    • Anthony Mastrocola
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 13:43:40

      Hi Olivia,

      Really good post. In your second response you talked about the evidence-based aspect of CBT and how the growing research allows for a more complete understanding of the various therapeutic concepts that we’re currently learning about. I definitely agree that the science defending CBT makes the material easier to understand, as oppose to psychoanalysis that is more abstract and lacks scientific validation.


  7. Anthony Mastrocola
    Sep 12, 2019 @ 10:28:09

    (1) What is your understanding of Lazarus’ and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT?

    Lazarus and Folkman address the concepts of appraisal and coping in response to the varying sensitivity and vulnerability that people have to life stressors. Initial perception influences a specific reaction, whether it be positive or negative, which ultimately elicits an emotion. If an individual perceives the situation to be negative or threatening, then a coping strategy may be necessary. Lazarus and Folkman use two groups for appraisals: primary and secondary. Primary appraisals consist of irrelevant appraisals, benign-positive appraisals, and stress appraisals. Irrelevant appraisals are the instantaneous reactions attempting to identify stimuli. This type of appraisal is not particularly beneficial or useful as it gradually fades as awareness decreases. The second primary appraisal is benign-positive appraisals. These types of appraisals are considered to be positive and nonthreatening. The last primary appraisal is stress appraisal, which identifies any form of loss, threat, or challenge. Secondary appraisals evaluate present stressors and immediately considers possible coping strategies. Coping strategies are entirely dependent upon the initial appraisal. Reappraisal is also possible if further information is gathered from the environment to challenge the original appraisal. Appraisals are subjective rather than right or wrong, but can be misconstrued based on information given by the environment.

    Lazarus and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping relates to certain concepts found in CBT. The concept of cognitive appraisal is similar to automatic thoughts found in CBT. Cognitive appraisals and automatic thoughts can be difficult to identify, and directly influence emotions and behaviors. The environment and vulnerabilities specific to the individual influences cognitive appraisals and automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts can be modified through a process of identification and evaluation. Appraisals are treated a bit different. Reappraisals are used to modify misinterpretations. Coping is directly influenced by automatic thoughts and cognitive appraisals. If thought influences emotion and behavior, then coping occurs as a result of perceived threats or challenges. Coping aligns with problem-solving and adaptations to stressors taught in CBT.

    (2) What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist?

    I’m getting increasingly confident in my ability to understand and apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist. At first I was nervous about learning the concepts and eventually applying what I have learned to real cases. My understanding of the material has helped me grow confidence in my abilities as a future therapist. As for now, I am really excited to continue to learn all of the aspects of CBT and eventually practice them leading into practicum and internship. I’m sure once it’s time to work with real clients I will get very nervous, but as for now I feel more excitement. I’m sure that my self-efficacy will increase and decrease at certain points throughout this program and once I become a professional.


    • Paola Gutierrez
      Sep 12, 2019 @ 10:42:18

      Anthony — I appreciated how you emphasized that cognitive appraisals are often different for individuals even if they all experienced the same event because of the different vulnerabilities and sensitivities that people have to life stressors, and because of that, appraisals can be misconstrued or may be a misinterpretation of the event. Appraisals are subjective, and while they may not reflect an accurate interpretation of the situation/event, they can have wide-reaching consequences in the emotional and behavioral responses these appraisals elicit. Your expansion on this component of appraisals not only strengthened my understanding of this information, but how these concepts apply to the real world in that different people usually appraise events differently.


    • Adam Rene
      Sep 12, 2019 @ 12:09:06


      Thank you for your post. I feel that you did a great job describing the different kinds of appraisals here. We certainly came to the same conclusions as others have around the connections between appraisals and automatic thoughts. Continued explanations of this link has been helpful with my understanding not only how cognitive appraisals operate, but how automatic thoughts come into play under the CBT framework.

      I liked your use of the word ‘efficacy’ when discussing your thoughts of applying these principles as a future therapist. Excited is a great way to put it, as I can see that you’re ‘appraising’ this task of learning about CBT as a ‘challenge’ rather than a ‘threat.’


    • Katrina Piangerelli
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 20:18:48

      Anthony, your interpretation of appraisals and coping are both very similar to my interpretation. I think that your descriptions of secondary and primary appraisals are both very helpful and understandable. When I read your response to the first question, your description of appraisals and specifically the last sentence in your first paragraph stood out to me. I thought that it was a great description and that it showed that you understand the material. We also shared similar thoughts about how cognitive appraisal and coping are related to CBT. You compared cognitive appraisal to automatic thoughts and noted their similarities, such as being difficult to identify and the ways in which they influence emotions and behaviors. You then described reappraisals as being used to modify misinterpretations, and noted that coping is similar to the problem solving that is used with stressors in CBT.
      In the second question, you said that you were initially nervous about learning the concepts of CBT and applying them. I think that many of us felt this way, and are growing increasingly more comfortable as we learn more and have more opportunities to practice in our classes. It seems as though many of us have mixed emotions when it comes to practicing CBT.


  8. Kelsey Finnegan
    Sep 12, 2019 @ 15:19:01

    1.) Lazarus and Folkman define cognitive appraisal as a cognitive process that occurs in between a precipitating event and the individual’s response to that event. Put simply, cognitive appraisal is assessing a situation. Rather than simple information processing, it is an evaluative cognitive process that focuses on the significance of an encounter and the affect it will have on one’s well-being. Cognitive appraisal is divided into two categories: primary appraisal and secondary appraisal. During primary appraisal, the individual determines the implication the event has on his or her well-being. Generally, events are classified as either irrelevant, positive, or stressful. Stressful events are further appraised as either harmful/loss, threatening, or challenging. Subsequently, the secondary appraisal process is when one determines how they will respond to the event and which coping option they will be able to effectively apply to the situation. Cognitive appraisal goes hand in hand with CBT because CBT focuses on assessing and altering these cognitive processes and ultimately developing more adaptive coping strategies, which involves cognitive restructuring.
    2.) My initial impressions about my ability to understand and apply the basic principles of CBT in therapy are positive overall. The goal oriented and problem-focused nature of CBT is what initially interested me in this type of therapy. I think most people enter therapy with the expectation that they will find a solution to their issues and get relief from their emotional distress. For this reason, I feel most comfortable practicing solution-focused, evidence-based therapy, which is what CBT is. I want to be able to effectively help my clients work towards making lasting changes in their lives. CBT teaches the individual to be their own therapist and emphasizes relapse prevention, which are both necessary for lasting changes to occur. I want my clients to feel capable of managing their emotional distress on their own, without fostering a sense of dependency, because it is typically not practical nor healthy for someone to remain in therapy for the remainder of their lives. CBT’s strong emphasis on psychoeducation is part of what makes this possible. Additionally, CBT requires the client to be an active participant in the therapeutic process and collaborate with the therapist. I think this principle of CBT may be the most difficult to apply because we will inevitably encounter clients who do not wish to be active participants in their therapy, and are not willing to put in the necessary effort. It will be a challenge to motivate clients such as these, but if you are ultimately unable to do so then CBT will not be effective for them.


    • Olivia L Corfey
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 22:06:54

      I really enjoyed reading your post! It was thoughtful and thorough in detail. In particular I appreciated your connection with cognitive appraisal and cognitive restructuring. I agree it is essential in order to foster adaptive responses. We also had similar thoughts about finding comfort in evidence-based therapy! Having a structure and goals not only help the clients but also ourselves. Thank you for sharing!


  9. Kara Rene
    Sep 12, 2019 @ 16:01:48

    (1) What is your understanding of Lazarus’ and Folkman’s conceptualization of cognitive appraisal and coping in relation to CBT?

    Cognitive appraisal refers to the way that we cognitively evaluate an event in terms of its level of significance or threat to us. Appraisals can be primary or secondary. Primary appraisals are concerned with the level of threat or benefit related to the event causing the appraisal. Primary appraisals can be irrelevant, benign-positive, or stressful. An irrelevant primary appraisal occurs when the event carries no implications for the person’s well-being and the person is not invested in the outcome. Lazarus and Folkman point out that this response is useful because it prevents individuals from constantly mobilizing to respond to events that don’t need a response, thus saving individuals their emotional, cognitive, and physical resources. A benign-positive appraisal occurs in events where the outcome is interpreted as positive for the individual. These appraisals are connected to positive emotions such as happiness or peacefulness. Stress appraisals occur when the event in question includes a degree of threat to the individual. The treat can include harm/loss, in which some damage has already been inflicted upon the individual. Or, the threat may include anticipated harm or losses. Lastly, the threat may be a challenge, which is different from the other two kinds of threats because it causes the individual to instead focus on the potential for gains if they mobilize. I believe that in this case, I believe that self-efficacy plays a role in the appraisal, because if the individual does not think they have the resources necessary to rise to the threat, they will likely not interpret it as a challenge. Secondary appraisals involve evaluating what the individual could do to respond to the event. It takes into account what coping resources the individual has, outcome expectancies, and efficacy expectation. Outcome expectancies refer to the individual’s expectation that a certain action will create a certain outcome, while efficacy expectations refer to an individual’s level of confidence that they can competently do what needs to be done to gain the desired outcome.
    Coping refers to the way an individual attempts to deal with situations that are threatening or taxing. Coping is a process that changes constantly as the individual appraises and reappraises the situation they are in. Although Lazarus and Folkman review studies examining different stages of coping in different types of situations, they point out that coping should not be viewed as formulaic. Coping can be emotion-focused, in which the individual takes steps to manage their emotions about the event, or problem-focused, in which the individual takes steps to aid in the problem-solving process.
    I think that cognitive appraisal and coping are very important in relation to CBT. CBT focuses on how our thoughts make us act and feel, and cognitive appraisal plays a significant role in how our thoughts about an event are shaped. If we appraise an event as threatening, our response will be very different than if we appraise an event as irrelevant. Knowing the role of cognitive appraisals points to the importance of paying attention to a client’s cognitive “life”. Similarly, cognitive appraisal affects coping, because the appraisal of an event determines whether an individual feels coping is necessary.

    (2) What are your initial impressions in your ability to understand and consistently apply the basic principles of CBT as a therapist?

    I have very much enjoyed beginning to learn about the basic principles of CBT. As I have learned about them I have also found myself using them to better understand my own thoughts. As someone who has anxiety, I often have inaccurate thoughts that result in be feeling stressed or anxious. Learning these basic principles has helped me to view these thoughts more objectively and feel less stressed as a result. I do think (and hope!) that as a therapist I will be able to consistently apple the principles of CBT as a therapist because I have been starting to apply some of them on a personal level, but more so because I trust this program to prepare me well to be a proficient CBT therapist, as long as I do my part!


    • Kelsey Finnegan
      Sep 13, 2019 @ 21:30:41

      Kara, I enjoyed reading your description of cognitive appraisal. It was thorough and well organized. I like the connection you made between cognitive appraisal and self-efficacy. Someone with low self-efficacy is more likely to perceive events as threatening to their well-being, which will also have an effect on the coping strategies that individual will choose.

      I appreciate you sharing how learning the principles of CBT has helped you view your anxiety provoking thoughts more objectively. I have also started to become more aware of some of my own cognitive distortions, and I think it is good practice to apply these principles on ourselves. It has definitely helped further my understanding of CBT.


  10. Tricia Flores
    Sep 19, 2019 @ 21:03:50

    1. Cognitive appraisal is the step between an event and a response. It primarily uses past experience and involves judgment, activity choice, and discrimination. Through the process of cognitive appraisal a person determines if an event is related to well-being. The steps of cognitive appraisal are primary appraisal, secondary appraisal, and at times reappraisal.
    Primary appraisal is when it is determined if a person is at risk or will benefit, when and in what way. A person determines if the event is irrelevant, benign-positive, stressful- harm/loss, stressful- threat, or stressful- challenge.
    Irrelevant is when an encounter has no implication- no loss or gain. Benign-positive is when the outcome is thought of as positive and either maintains or increases well-being or will in the future. This determination may have a level of apprehension still. An event that is thought of as stressful- harm/loss is one in which a person has incurred damage already. It is also tied with threat. Stressful- threat is when the harm has not yet occurred, but it is expected to. A person will react with emotions of fear, anger, and anxiety. Stressful- challenge is when a person recognizes an event for its possible growth potential. Instead of fear and anger, it is characterized by more pleasant emotions like excitement and eagerness. A person can have a combination of components together, one can have fear while also experiencing excitement and what is experienced can change, as an example, the initial reaction may be fear, but develop into primarily excitement and exhilaration. How a person approaches life events impacts their wellbeing including functionality and health. A person who conceptualizes the same events another might consider as a threat instead as challenges as opposed to threats has the advantage of improved functioning. CBT teaches clients to identify, evaluate, and respond to thoughts and beliefs that are dysfunctional. A person who responds with stressful-threat may learn that their response to the stress is dysfunctional and needs to be revaluated to approach it in a more stressful-challenge way.
    The secondary appraisal is when it is determined what can be done. The primary appraisal may have indicated an event as a threat, but what can occur to overcome the harm or improve a benefit, these not being mutually exclusive. The secondary appraisal determines coping options. This takes into account both outcome and efficacy expectancy. Outcome expectancy is what the perceived result of a behavior will be. Efficacy expectancy is the person’s perception of his ability to carry out the required behavior. A person judges both what he thinks will happen, how effective he will be. This determination impacts the level of stress and emotional reaction.
    A third step occurs when the person reappraises based on new information. This can be both positive and negative. A reappraisal can be used to change the approach to a stressor. A CBT therapist could use psychoeducation, Socratic questioning, and other techniques to come to the automatic thoughts that resulted in which path the person took and ultimately uncovering and changing core beliefs.
    Coping is a person’s efforts both cognitive and behavioral, to deal with internal and external stressors. The three features of coping are process oriented, contextual, and adaptive. Process is what is thought and done during an event considered stressful. The automatic thought concept of CBT relates in that it would the initial thought that results in what is thought during an event. Contextual is considering the event in relation to what is available for resources. Adaptive is the process of changing types of coping due to relationship changes.
    Coping can be emotion focused or problem focused. Emotion focused is when the emotion is regulated as a response. It often is utilized when the event is unchangeable. The result is decreasing emotional distress. An example is cognitive reappraisal, changing the cognitions associated with the situation thus changing the meaning. Another example is distracting. The result is maintaining or increasing optimism.
    Problem focused coping is typically used when the stressor is changeable. The strategies used in problem-focused coping are dependent on the type of problem. Which form is better? One is not inherently better than the other. Problem focused may be better in reducing stress long-term and emotional focused may be needed at first before moving on to problem focused, if possible. The successful use of problem focused and emotional focused coping in non-dysfunctional ways can be used to decrease the impact of events through CBT.

    2. My initial impression on my ability to understand and consistently apply the principals of CBT is good. I initially sought out this problem because of its focus on CBT and CBT’s history of being based on methods backed up by peer reviewed studies showing results that are statistically significant.
    The cognitive conceptualizations of core beliefs, developed over time and representative of the core of a cognitive disturbance, intermediate beliefs, such as attitudes and assumptions, and automatic thoughts, preconscious, and reflexive in nature, are all logical concepts to me that I can relate to my own thoughts. My buy-in on the method is also a result of CBT’s problem-oriented focus, individualized approach, and most importantly building skills to prevent relapse. I relate this to the philosophical idea of being self-actualized.
    The case management work that I have done with clients over the course of my career helps me value a time and cost effective method of treatment CBT provides. It is my opinion that not using treatments that are found to be statistically effective is, to a degree, unethical.


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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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