Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 495–507 | Cite as

Reframing Cognitive Behaviour Theory from a Systems Perspective

  • Victor MacGill
Original Paper


The author has worked with Cognitive Behaviour Theory for many years. His interest in systems theory prompted him to explore CBT from a systems perspective. This led to six observations that are then explored. This paper therefore begins by looking at the linearity of CBT and how feedback loops might be better incorporated. Next, the nature of perception is explored with ideas from Maturana and others. The third aspect investigates core beliefs and how they impact at all steps of the decision-making process. Fourthly, an examination of thoughts and emotional revealed other ways we make sense of the world and challenges the idea that thinking precedes emotion. The next aspect looks at CBT’s assumption of the individual as a separate being rather than a systems view which sees a person highly interconnected and finally that CBT focuses on making sense of the present moment rather than predictions we make of likely future outcomes. This is then all brought together in a diagram reframing CBT, highlighting the centrality of awareness to all cognitive processes and a number of leverage points where change might emerge.


Cognitive behaviour theory Core beliefs Perception Boundaries Anticipation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor MacGill
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.ChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.University of the Sunshine CoastSippy DownsAustralia

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