Using Cognitive Therapy to treat Delusions

Dr. Aaron Beck recently responded to an interviewer’s questions about addressing delusions among Schizophrenic patients. One of the central tenets of Cognitive Therapy is that individuals learn to evaluate their thinking and look for evidence that supports and/or contradicts their perceptions. The interviewer asked Dr. Beck how this pursuit of evidence plays out when individuals are having delusions and literally ‘seeing’ objects/people that aren’t really there.

Interviewer: How… do you persuade someone to ignore the evidence of their own eyes and believe you? 

Dr. Aaron Beck: The treatment of delusions and schizophrenia is a very tricky one. One of the definitions of delusions is that they do not yield to corrective feedback from other people. Consequently, attempting to persuade an individual that the delusion is incorrect is obviously self-defeating. There is a whole body of literature on how to address delusions. In brief, questioning the patient like a journalist without indicating disbelief is one way. This tends to get the patient into a questioning mode. Read more