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The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy Paperback – September 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This book is a fascinating interweaving of Stoic philosophy and contemporary cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Robertson rightly reminds us of how much CBT owes its philosophical origins to the Stoics but, sadly, how often this debt is insufficiently acknowledged. He urges us to redirect our attention to the past to see how modern CBT still has much to learn from its ancient precursors. Highly recommended.” (Michael Neenan, Co-Director of the CBT Programme)

”Many of us have felt the need for a book that covers the underlying philosophy of the cognitive-behavioural therapies in much greater depth. This book provides us with the missing link between the theory and the philosophy. It is a fascinating read and could be considered as either a prequel or a sequel to the standard textbook read by a trainee or experienced cognitive-behavioural or rational emotive practitioner who wants to understand these approaches to therapy within an historical framework.” (Professor Stephen Palmer, Director)

”The author has uncovered a wealth of connections between modern cognitive-behavioural therapies and ancient Stoic philosophy. It should be read by anyone interested in understanding the historical roots of CBT or in learning about how ancient psychotherapeutic methods can add to the modern therapist’s toolkit.” (Tim LeBon, UKCP registered psychotherapist and author of Wise Therapy)

”Donald Robertson is blazing a trail to discover the sources of cognitive-behavioural therapy, and Stoic philosophy is prime among these. A fascinating work that should be compulsory reading for all practitioners in the field and interested lay people, providing insights into how ancient philosophy can give us the coping and life success strategies we are all looking for, both as professionals and in private life. A great read!” (Tom Butler-Bowdon, author of 50 Self-Help Classics and 50 Psychology Classics)

From the Author

The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a detailed examination of the relationship between modern psychotherapy, especially REBT and CBT, and ancient philosophy, especially Stoicism.  I've tried to make the book readable enough to engage non-academics and non-therapists.  However, I hope that philosophers and psychotherapists will find a common ground here and a basis for further dialogue over these ideas and techniques.  The emphasis throughout the book is upon the practical application of Stoic philosophy to everyday problems of living.  The introduction attempts to summarise the range of strategies and techniques described later in the book, to give a flavour of the practical dimension.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Karnac Books (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1855757567
  • ISBN-13: 978-1855757561
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Donald Robertson, a British therapist who is head of the UK College of CBT, has a new book out called The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which looks at the roots of CBT in ancient Greek philosophy. Donald, like me, is fascinated by the role ancient Greco-Roman philosophy, particularly Stoicism, has played in inspiring the cognitive revolution in modern psychology, and has done a brilliant job at researching this influence, not just on the theoretical side of CBT, but also in terms of practical techniques which therapists use today.

Donald was inspired by his reading of the French classicist Pierre Hadot, who sadly passed away a few months ago. There wasn't a single obituary of Hadot in the British press, although to my mind he was one of the great philosophers of the last 50 years. But he was very humble, shy, didn't give interviews, so he didn't get the media attention he deserved. Perhaps he preferred it that way. Most academics know his ideas, if at all, through Michel Foucault, who was much less shy about media attention.

Hadot transformed the modern understanding of ancient philosophy, by reminding us that, for the ancients, philosophy was a way of life, something that consisted in a set of 'spiritual exercises', which one practiced to transform one's psyche and achieve inner peace. Philosophy provided a sort of first-aid kit which ordinary people could turn to in moments of emotional crisis - or to make themselves more resilient in preparation for those crises.

As Donald shows, many of these 'spiritual exercises' have been picked up and re-used by modern psychology, thanks to the work of Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, the two inventors of cognitive therapy, who were both inspired by their reading of ancient Greek philosophy.
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Every person on earth should read this book. It is chock full of great insights and is very inspiring. The author gets his main points across convincingly. This book is for anyone who wants to learn more about how to use his brain and live his life. An excellent read. I learned a lot about stoicism and CBT while reading this book, and I consider myself fairly well read in these subjects. I intend to read this book a second time (doing this is rare for me).
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Many people are superficially aware that modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational-emotive therapy (RET or REBT) have roots in the Greco-Roman philosophy of the ancient Stoics. For those select few who are interested in knowing more about the nexus between ancient philosophy and modern psychotherapy, this book is a great place to start.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me was learning how little the fundamental problems of being human have changed in 3,000 years - from the time of Diogenes, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Epictetus through to Spinoza and right up to the present day. In the time of the Stoics, philosophy was not an abstract exercise in parsing the meaning of language as it is today, but rather a vital, pragmatic attempt to find the right path in living. This book shows that our modern cognitive-behavioral therapists didn't so much discover solutions to life's worries, but rather re-discovered ideas and formulas first propounded much earlier by the Ancients.

The author discusses a number of interesting topics including: the quest to find the path of "virtue" (i.e., character development) in life; how to find tranquility amid life's chaos; the power of anticipation (e.g., "memento mori") in mitigating life's tragedies; how to manage emotions; and how to live a deeper, more profound life.

Also, the lives of some amazing ancient Stoics, including the former slave turned philosopher Epictetus, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Roman Senator Seneca, and others bring a narrative life to what is otherwise a textbook-like work. In sum, for those with an interest in philosophy, psychology, and classical history, this is a very interesting and enlightening read.
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is certainly one of the therapies people are talking about and governments are investing money in promoting. With good reason, as it is evidence-based and can work a lot more rapidly than many alternatives.
However CBT does have its limitations, one of which, some would say, is the lack of philosophical depth. However whilst CBT can be practised in a superficial, cookbook style, this isn't necessarily so. Particularly when one realises that CBT has very strong connections with centuries of practice in the ancient world. This is one of the reasons why this book is so relevant to modern practitioners and anyone else interested in CBT and REBT.
In this book Donald Robertson, who has a wealth of experience in a number of therapies as well as a very strong academic background, has uncovered a wealth of connections between modern cognitive behavoural therapies and ancient Stoic philosophy. You can read not only about the philosophical origins of CBT but also about the history of Stoicism and other philosophical therapies. If you are keen to learn about practical techniques, there's a lot of them too - a whole section is devoted to what the author calls "The Stoic Armamentarium".
This is an eclectic book -you'll find fascinating accounts of Ellis's REBT, hypnotism and Buddhism as well as Beck, Seneca and the usual suspects. All in all, highly recommended.
This book should be read by anyone interested in understanding the historical roots of CBT or in
learning about how ancient psychotherapeutic methods can add to the modern therapist's toolkit

Tim LeBon, author of
Wise Therapy (The School of Psychotherapy & Counselling)
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