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The Use of Hope in Cognitive-behavioral Theory

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Hope is one of the four common factors that are important for the counseling process. It is a future-oriented view that one will have an optimistic potential, and it can be helpful for people who seek counseling for various psychological disorders. Hope facilitates the formation of a clinical relationship between a counselor and a client and is important for the maintenance of that bond. In addition, it is an important variable for change, as it can help therapists to recognize clients’ perceptions and help them rationally define their goals. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also an effective method of counseling, and it facilitates change through the modification of clients’ thought processes. The idea is that clients’ thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all related, and hope can help clients to fully participate in the counseling process. Hope can also aid clients in their abilities to reframe their thought processes and establish subgoals that help them to achieve their main goals. For all of these reasons, hope is an important part of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The Use of Hope in Cognitive-Behavioral Theory

There are four common factors in the High Capacity Model of Resilience and Well-Being, which was developed by Barclay (2016) and maintains that hope, commitment, accountability, and passion are present in many counseling theories and lead to effective treatments. Hope specifically is an important part of the counseling process and facilitates change in counseling sessions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also is effective in bringing change by helping people to modify their thought processes in order to change their behaviors. Therefore, hope is a vital aspect of cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the two work together to produce change in the lives of clients.

Review of Hope

Defining Hope

There are many features of hope, but O’Hara (2013) defines it as belief in an optimistic future that is both cognitive and emotional. Barclay (2016) then summarizes hope as a belief that anything could be possible even if it has not happened. The apostle Paul stated, “…Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”. This illustrates that hope exists for an unseen future, and though people can think positively about it, they still must patiently wait for the hopeful future to become a reality. There are many different components of this hope factor, including its significance to individuals, importance to quality of life, and implications for both present and future goals.

Hope as a Part of the Counseling Process

Research has found that hope is an important aspect of the counseling process. In many cases, hope is the driving force behind clients’ desires to seek counseling and continue attending sessions. To examine this, Larsen and Stege (2012) conducted a case study of ten clients and five counselors who were trained in incorporating hope into counseling sessions. Researchers interviewed the clients after their sessions about their feelings toward the incorporation of hope and identified three categories of counseling experiences. The clients reported that hope that is found in the relationships between them and their therapists, and it comes from the therapists presenting the clients with acceptance, understanding, and engagement. In addition, they experienced hope in their counseling sessions through the therapists’ encouragement of positive reflections. A final note is that the clients found hope through learning to change their perspectives. Overall, this study found hope to be a crucial part of clients’ counseling experiences.

Edey and Jevne (2003) researched methods of making hope a main aspect of the counseling process. One is for the counselors to ask the clients direct questions about hope, which leads to hope directing their future thoughts. It is also important for the counselors to express hope to the clients and receive it from them in return. These researchers maintain that recognizing hope can be difficult for both clients and counselors, but it is an important factor to consider in the counseling process.

Hope’s Role in Bringing Change

To examine the degree of change that hope can bring, Thomas (2006) studied both therapists and clients. Each participant completed a survey about their perceptions of common factors and their abilities to produce change. The collected data then suggested that therapists believed that 27% of change is a result of hope, whereas the clients believed it was 30%. These results indicate that hope is a significant factor of change, and knowledge of clients’ perceptions of it can help therapists to learn what the clients view as valuable. For these reasons, it is important to recognize the role that hope can play in bringing change during counseling sessions.

Cognitive-Behavioral Theory

Cognitive-behavioral theory posits that thoughts and behaviors influence each other and the counseling process. It integrates both cognitive and behavioral theories to determine how one affects the other to influence a person’s life. This theory combines the studies of environmental influences with those of individual perceptions and results in therapies that can bring change for clients. Major tenants of cognitive-behavioral theory include rational emotive behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, complex cognitive therapy, and social cognitive theory.

Major Tenants

Rational emotive behavior therapy was developed by Albert Ellis, and its main goal is to change negative thoughts to positive ones. This therapy is based on the A-B-C model of personality, which suggests that there are precipitating events that work with individuals’ perceptions to cause responses. The perceptions of these events can be either rational or irrational, and many times the rational perceptions can lead to changes in behavior. The objective of the therapy is therefore to help clients think rationally and behave in ways that will help them manage negative emotions and achieve their goals. Ellis practiced this by asking clients direct questions and determining each part of the A-B-C model that existed in the specific situations. Clients who are counseled in this way generally feel that their therapists are listening to and understanding them, which can have positive results. Overall, rational emotive behavior therapy seeks to integrate thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to help clients think clearly.

Cognitive therapy was developed by Aaron Beck and focuses on the effects that thoughts have on behaviors. Beck created the concept of schemas, which are mental structures that people form of different objects or events. These can influence perceptions and lead to both positive and negative thought processes. Therapists can help clients to recognize automatic thoughts that are harmful and teach them to apply coping skills before psychological disorders develop. Therefore, the main goal of cognitive therapy is to help clients function by bringing positive thought processes that eliminate the lies that they believe. A similar therapy known as complex cognitive therapy was later developed by Judith Beck, but it shares more commonalities with psychoanalysis in that it highlights clients’ pasts. Overall, both cognitive and complex cognitive therapies seek to reframe thinking so that clients can find healing from or establish prevention of psychological disorders.

Another major tenant of cognitive-behavioral theory is social cognitive theory, which was developed by Albert Bandura and is similar to behavioral theory in some ways. This theory also studies behaviors, but it focuses on the covert ones such as thoughts and emotions. In addition, this theory posits that behaviors are learned through observing others and modeling their actions. Individuals also must learn self-awareness and the ways that their internal behaviors influence the external ones. This differs from behavioral theory in that it integrates both overt and covert behaviors, which cognitive-behavioral theory views as two different areas of study. It also puts focus on observational learning, rather than simply reinforcement, to determine the development of behaviors. Social cognitive theory is important in a unique way to the study of cognitive-behavioral theory as a whole.

Facilitation of Change

One way that cognitive-behavioral theory facilitates change in clients is through the introduction of adaptive coping strategies. Busscher and Spinhoven (2017) examined this through studying individuals who received cognitive behavioral therapy as an attempt to treat their fear of flying. The results showed that the participants’ adaptive coping strategies increased over time and the maladaptive strategies decreased, which helped to lessen their flight anxiety. Therapists can help clients learn adaptive coping strategies through behavioral experiments, which involves helping the clients visualize the situations that make them anxious and stopping them from responding with maladaptive coping strategies. This helps them to change their perceptions and use adaptive coping strategies when they are actually presented with anxiety-inducing stimuli. In these ways, cognitive-behavioral therapy can promote change through the encouragement of adaptive coping strategies.

Another way that cognitive-behavioral theory facilitates change is through restructuring clients’ thoughts. Rational emotive behavior therapists do this by examining perceptions of events and helping their clients make their thinking rational in order to view situations positively. Similarly, cognitive therapists help clients embrace positive thought processes through examining schemas and automatic thoughts to determine the areas in which change is needed. Reframing clients’ thoughts is the most common way that cognitive-behavioral therapists help to bring change.

Use of Hope Within Cognitive-Behavioral Theory

Hope and cognitive-behavioral therapy work together to provide healing for clients. It is important that both clients and therapists have hope that treatments will work and healing will be found, because that will help to foster growth and the development of an effective clinical relationship between them. Hope can increase motivation and assist clients with changing their thought processes through effective reframing. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy can produce hope in clients as they consider pathways and learn how to accomplish goals. For these reasons, hope is an important factor in cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Client Participation

Clients must fully participate in their counseling processes in order to notice change, and hope is crucial for their involvement. Hope is important to the process of cognitive-behavioral therapy, because clients who have hope that change is possible will be more likely to actively participate in the therapy and work to produce healing in their lives. Clients who believe that the therapy will work and that they will have optimistic futures because of it will often increase their motivation, which can help the clients to change their patterns of thinking. In addition, hope can bring together clients and therapists, because it causes them both to be focused on the expectation of change. Furthermore, hope helps clients to successfully learn how to turn goals into smaller subgoals with the help of their cognitive-behavioral therapists. Overall, hope can help clients to be involved in their therapy sessions.


One way that clients can find hope is through learning the process of reframing in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Reframing involves clients examining their fears and possible outcomes of situations and determining what their responses would be. The therapists also help clients think logically about their interpretations of events to determine realistic outcomes. Through reframing, clients can find growth in difficult situations and hope through the encouragement that they receive when they successfully manage their thoughts and emotions. The use of both hope and reframing in cognitive-behavioral therapy help to facilitate change in clients’ lives.

Hope and Pathways

In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy itself can result in a heightened degree of hope for clients. As therapists teach clients different ways of thinking, clients often are filled with hope that change can come from the new thought patterns. Furthermore, as clients learn different ways to achieve their goals, they experienced increased motivation and hope of achieving those goals. The discovery of different pathways can help them to improve their formations of other goals that relate to their treatment. The pathways that are unique to cognitive-behavioral therapy, such as cognitive restructuring or self-monitoring, provide hope to clients and help with the treatments of various psychological disorders. Therefore, hope and cognitive-behavioral therapy both influence each other through the development of pathways during counseling.


Hope is a common factor in counseling that is future-oriented and gives clients motivation to seek counseling and continue to attend their sessions. Research has determined that hope can help to strengthen the relationships between counselors and clients and is important for helping clients to change their thought processes. Hope specifically plays an important part in cognitive-behavioral theory, which has a goal of modifying clients’ thoughts to make them rational and positive. When clients learn to change their thoughts through cognitive-behavioral therapy, they can also modify their emotions and behaviors, which results in change. Hope helps this process by encouraging clients to fully participate in their counseling sessions and strive to make change happen in their lives. It also helps clients to correctly reframe negative or irrational thoughts and formulate attainable subgoals that will allow them to succeed in treatment goals over time. Overall, hope is a crucial part of the counseling process, and it specifically plays an important role in cognitive-behavioral therapy.


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