Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

David Burns is a cognitive therapist, who in his Feeling Good describes how to overcome depression. He states that depression is a logical result of irrational negative thoughts, which can be generalized to a finite set of thought patterns called cognitive distortions. For example, one such cognitive distortion is over-generalization, an example of a negative irrational thought matching this pattern is "this girl rejected my advances outright, i'll probably never have success with a girl". In general, cognitive therapy states that our thoughts determine emotions, feelings, moods, habits and behaviors. Thoughts here not only mean thought-phrases, but also perceptions, interpretations, attitudes and beliefs.

Allen Carr was a smoking cessation expert, who wrote Easy Way to Stop Smoking. In short, his method revolves around changing your perception of smoking and quitting, and if you succeed, you will quit easily, painlessly and instantly, as if you were never a smoker. First, Carr deconstructs every single argument for smoking, such as concentration, relaxation, stress coping aid, taste, hobby and so on, showing that they are just incorrect rationalizations of an addicted mind. Then he explains the mechanism of addiction — you smoke to relieve the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, your mind associates sense of relief with the cigarette, therefore cigarette deprivation is so painful, even though it itself doesn't bring pleasure, only returns you to the state, in which non-smokers always are. Finally, he goes through the fears of quitting and deconstructs them by showing that physical withdrawal symptoms are mild, and the cravings are creatures of the deluded mind, that quitting is not a sacrifice and a chore, and the only obstacle was fear.

Carr meticulously describes every facet of smoking, therefore his book doesn't propose written exercises and ideally takes only one reading through to quit smoking. Burns's approach, in contrast, is generic and gradual, he gives you some tools, namely, list of cognitive distortions and a vast amount of written exercises, and asks you to manually apply them in everyday situations. His therapy course lasts for several weeks.

My question is, can Carr's method viewed as a kind of cognitive therapy? What is its relation to a vast ontology of cognitive-behavioral therapy variants, what is the same and what is different? Do mainstream cognitive therapy academics acknowledge Carr's method and his similarities with their approach?

share|improve this question

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.