Cognitive psychology is based on the human as a thinking entity. That human beings use highly evolved brains for perception, language, reasoning, memory and learning is the basis for most theories as practiced by Cognitive Psychologists.
Cognitive Psychology starts with the biology of the brain, but until quite recently, it did not encompass the newest knowledge of evolutionary psychology, and environmental psychology, making it initially, at least limited in its interpretations of human thinking and behavior in the world.
Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were, in the beginning cognitive psychologists, in that they were concerned with the mind and its perception, language and memory.
In the 20th century, among the leading Cognitive Psychologists were Ulric Neisser, who coined the term, Cognitive Psychology, in a book by the same name. Also, giants in the field who are well known include Albert Bandura, Noam Chomsky Jean Piaget and even more recently, Steven Pinker.
In application, psychologists who utilize cognitive therapy do so through many approaches. The most common of these are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT, Rational Emotive Behavioral therapy, REBT, sometimes called RET, for Rational Emotive Therapy, and Cognitive Rational Therapy, CRT.
These approaches seek to help individuals use reasoning, and rationality to solve emotional and mental challenges.
All of these approaches are wonderful for as far as they go. There is always much ongoing debate about the basic fixtures, limitations and cognitive abilities of the brain and/or mind, as well as the continuing debate on how much of our psychology is biologically based, (nature) versus how much is environmentally based, (nurture).
Most scientists of the 21st century recognize that a complex interplay of the two is always in effect. And that nature influences nurture, as much as nurturing influences nature, so for the advanced cognitive therapist, there is no such compartmentalization between the two aspects of all organisms.
Cognitive psychology recognizes the biological basis of our minds in either case, and seeks to use our perception, language, reasoning, learning and memory to hone abilities which allow higher, and healthier functioning. For example, for someone experiencing a terrifying fear of flying, the rational facts of infrequent plane crashes, and the very real ability of thousands of people sitting on planes this very moment without terror, is considered.
Some shortcomings, in the humble opinion of this author, of some cognitive approaches, are that they barely touch upon what lies upon the other side of perception. That is, we all perceive, but until very, very recently, the many fields of psychology barely mentioned those senses of perception, and those stimuli to which we are thoroughly connected for life itself to exist. Perception was studied as something that happened in “mind consciousness,” not in the real interactions of nature and ourselves.
To the modern Ecopsychologist, only Ecopsychology sees all of the cosmos as related, not only to our cognition, but to the whole human body, and beyond it. Our mental health is connected directly to our perceptions of the rest of life, such as clean air, water, and food, as well as beauty, wisdom, and science.
So to the vast and wondrous treasures of Cognitive Psychology, another type of consciousness of consciousness should be added. Mind based stress reduction, or MBSR, as outlined by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his work, and Educating Counseling and Healing with Nature, ECHN, by Michael Cohen, should be a part of any modern cognitive approach.
These approaches reflect the tremendous ability of reasoning minds and brains, as presented by Cognitive psychology, but go further in that they see the mind not a separate entity, but a part of a larger system of being.
We are not brains, or even minds, but essential “beings” that live forever seeking our best balance achievable in a wider cosmos.