Cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are both psychotherapy techniques used to help people deal with mental illness or stressful life situations. The main difference between the two is that while both target negative and unhealthy mental processes, cognitive behavioral therapy also helps people learn healthy and beneficial behaviors. Both types of therapy have been shown to be effective at helping people learn to deal with difficult situations and mental illnesses.
People with many types of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, can be helped by cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. These therapies can help people deal with and reduce the symptoms of mental illness or prevent a relapse. They can also be effective at helping people through difficult situations, such as relationship troubles or grief.
When considering cognitive therapy vs cognitive behavioral therapy, the difference is in their approaches. In cognitive therapy, a person focuses on the here and now, identifying and tackling current problems in her or his life. The person in therapy, with the help of a psychotherapist, identifies unhealthy thought processes and works to change them. For example, a person may think “people don’t like me,” and a therapist will help him or her examine that thought and change it to a more positive and realistic one.
It can be difficult to compare the two types of therapy because they are very similar in their theory and application. While cognitive behavioral therapy does all the same things as cognitive therapy, it also targets behaviors. A psychotherapist will help a person identify healthy behaviors and set goals to accomplish those behaviors. For example, a depressed person may set a goal to do one fun activity with friends each week.
When deciding between cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, a person must consider which approach works best for her or him. Many therapists use an eclectic approach, meaning they are skilled in several types of therapy and use the technique that works best for each particular client. Other types of therapy, such as interpersonal therapy, may also be helpful for the same conditions.
Both types of therapy are founded in the idea that a person can change his or her negative thoughts and behaviors to more healthy ones. At times, the difference between the two is minimal. Cognitive behavioral therapy is much more commonly practiced because the behavioral component has been shown to be very effective.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques
Cognitive behavioral therapy, often abbreviated as CBT, is primarily about identifying patterns of thought. CBT therapists utilize a wide variety of techniques to help individuals overcome negative thought patterns. Some of the most common techniques include:
- Identifying Negative Thinking – It is very important for CBT therapists to help patients identify negative thought patterns. Through CBT, patients can learn how certain feelings, situations, and thoughts contribute to their negative behavior.
- Employing New Skills – Patients learn skills for coping with emotional triggers and how to employ them in real life. For example, a patient with substance abuse issues may learn how to avoid situations that may cause a relapse.
- Setting Goals – Learning how to set and achieve reasonable, attainable goals is one of the most important elements of CBT. A CBT therapist can help a patient learn how to distinguish goals and differentiate between long and short-term goals.
- Self-Monitoring – Often involving journaling, self-monitoring is a technique that involves tracking symptoms, behaviors, and experiences over time. Patients share their observations with a therapist who can then help them develop a proper treatment plan.
- Problem Solving – In CBT, patients often learn how to identify a problem, generate possible solutions, evaluate each solution, and choose the best solution to implement.
The techniques listed above are not the only techniques CBT therapists utilize. They may also employ techniques such as cognitive restructuring, guided discovery, role-playing, exposure therapy, and stress reduction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Anxiety
Although many different types of therapy are used to treat anxiety disorders, CBT therapy is the most common type. CBT therapy may be used alone or employed in conjunction with another type of therapy for maximum effect. When a patient enters CBT therapy for anxiety, their primary goal is to reduce their anxiety levels, calm their mind, and conquer their fears.
Cognitive behavioral therapy may be used to treat panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and phobias. The cognitive therapy component of CBT teaches anxious patients to recognize the negative thought patterns that contribute to their anxiety. The behavioral component examines how the patient will react in anxiety-inducing situations. CBT often teaches that thoughts, not external factors, determine how a patient will feel.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression
CBT is one of the most widely used therapies for depression. It helps depressed patients make the connection between emotions, thoughts, and actions. Ultimately, patients suffering from depression will learn more about their negative thought patterns and utilize a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with them. CBT can help patients learn how to apply these coping mechanisms in the real world. CBT therapy can be especially helpful for patients suffering from mild to moderate depression.
A variety of cognitive methods can be employed to help patients challenge and rationalize destructive thoughts, gradually reducing their power. Behavioral methods are utilized to help patients improve their energy and motivation levels. Common CBT techniques used by patients with depression include thought restructuring, journaling, activity scheduling, mindfulness, and successive approximation.
Cognitive Therapy vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive therapy focuses primarily on helping patients identify negative thought processes. Cognitive behavior therapy helps patients identify negative thought processes and alter their behavior.