With so many different types of treatment for behavioral issues, choosing a therapist may feel like a difficult or even overwhelming task. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are behavioral treatment routes that many patients choose to take. Before selecting a therapist or treatment plan, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of each therapy as well as how they differ.

Defining the two therapeutic approaches and exploring their similarities and differences will help you understand the essence of each therapy and decide which will be the most helpful for your unique needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy. To define one, we must define the other. Keep reading to find out more about cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy so you can make an informed choice about your treatment.

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as talk therapy, consists of treatment methods that help people with a wide range of mental illnesses and emotional problems. Psychotherapy works to minimize or eliminate adverse behavioral symptoms allowing a person to heal psychologically and function better in all aspects of their life.

A variety of mental difficulties can be mended through psychotherapy including addiction, social phobias, childhood trauma, the death of a loved one, insomnia, depression, and anxiety disorder. Psychotherapy can be administered through a variety of programs, each of which will work differently, depending on the individual and their specific cognitive issues. In addition, psychotherapy is often used in conjunction with other types of therapies or medications.

Psychotherapy may be short-term, consisting of just a few treatment sessions and dealing with immediate emotional issues. Conversely, it may be long-term, tackling more complex issues over the course of several months or years. The patient and therapist will work together to determine the length of treatment and specific goals for psychotherapy.

Types of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy covers a wide range of cognitive treatment methods. As some patients respond better to certain types of treatment, psychotherapists will take a variety of factors into account in order to determine the best therapy program for each individual. The most effective type of psychotherapy will depend on a patient’s specific condition, unique circumstances, and personal preference. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, the following types of psychotherapy may be used to treat various mental conditions:

  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy
  • Mentalization-based therapy
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Supportive psychotherapy

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy focuses on a person’s relationships with others and aims to improve their interpersonal skills. During an interpersonal therapy session, a psychotherapist will help individuals assess their interactions with others and take note of negative patterns and behaviors such as social isolation or aggression. This will help the patient to strategize how to cultivate positive interactions with other people.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was first developed to treat chronically suicidal patients with borderline personality disorder. This type of psychotherapy has developed over time and is currently used to treat people with a number of mental illnesses. However, most individuals treated with DBT have been previously diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy most commonly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR has been shown to reduce anxiety and emotional distress resulting from trauma.

Mentalization-Based Therapy

Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is a form of psychotherapy that can result in long-term improvement among those with borderline personality disorder. MBT engages a skill called mentalizing in which people learn to separate their own automatic thoughts and feelings from those around them.  

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a clinical treatment method based on psychoanalytic principles. These theories are used to achieve self-actualization through a deepened insight into emotional conflicts causing cognitive difficulties.

Supportive Psychotherapy

The goal of supportive psychotherapy is to improve unfavorable mental symptoms and improve self-esteem and social skills. During a supportive psychotherapy session, a patient’s relationships will be examined as well as social patterns and emotional responses to various scenarios.

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a newer form of psychotherapeutic practice. Although CBT cannot solve deeper issues and emotional trauma for some patients, it is considered to be an effective remedy for a long list of mental health conditions. This type of psychotherapy is generally short-term with a set number of sessions.

CBT combines theory and techniques behind both cognitive and behavioral therapies. The approach was created by examining the relationship between a person’s negative thoughts, fears, behaviors, and physical responses to various experiences. Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be effective in treating several different cognitive disorders including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and severe mental illnesses.

Advances in cognitive behavioral therapy are based on extensive research and clinical practice. The approach has been backed by scientific evidence showing that it produces quantifiable changes in patients. Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy leads to a significant improvement of mental wellness and overall quality of life in most patients. In fact, in many clinical studies, CBT has shown to be equally or sometimes more effective as medication and other forms of psychotherapy.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, therapists work closely with their patients to figure out the best action plan for treatment for feelings such as depressive symptoms. This type of psychotherapy may consist of a few different approaches including exposure therapy, exposure and response prevention, and mindfulness-based stress reduction instead of relying on medications such as antidepressants.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that is traditionally used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and certain phobias. During exposure therapy treatment, therapists will help their patients identify anxiety triggers and teach them how to avoid obsessive or anxious behaviors. Patients will then be exposed to their triggers and learn to confront them in a safe, controlled environment.

Exposure and Response Prevention

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a type of exposure therapy in which a therapist helps patients confront their fears and learn to resist their compulsion to escape. ERP is often used to combat symptoms of OCD.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is also known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and is a CBT method that uses highly-researched mindfulness techniques with consistent practice to accomplish certain behavioral outcomes.

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Core Principles and Common Practices of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is based on a number of core principles and common practices. Each cognitive behavioral therapy treatment program will be unique and will not use all of these strategies and principles. The therapist and patient will work collaboratively to gain an understanding of the psychological problem and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

CBT is based on several core principles including:

  1. The belief that psychological problems are based, in part, on unuseful thinking.
  2. Those who suffer from psychological issues can develop tools to cope which will relieve their symptoms and allow them to live more effective lives.
  3. CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns.

Common CBT practices include:

  • Learning how to recognize distorted thinking and reevaluate it logically
  • Developing a better understanding of the behavior of others
  • Using problem-solving skills for coping in difficult scenarios
  • Developing a sense of confidence
  • Facing fears instead of avoiding them
  • Learning to calm the mind and relax the body

In cognitive behavioral therapy, patients essentially learn to be their own therapist. By participating in exercises, developing tools, and learning coping skills, individuals are able to change their thinking patterns and prevent problematic feelings and behaviors for the long-term without extensive therapy.

Choosing the Best Type of Therapy for Your Needs

The effectiveness of different types of psychotherapy will depend mostly on patients finding a therapist they are comfortable working with as well as their willingness to put in the time and effort to make significant behavioral changes. The relationship between patient and therapist is the most important factor in successful therapy, so it’s a good idea to contact more than one psychologist before committing to a treatment plan.

If you’re ready to begin a psychological treatment plan, remember that the practice of psychotherapy encompasses a wide variety of therapy methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of talk therapy.

The term psychotherapy refers to any type of therapy related to the mind (psyche) that works to achieve mental wellness. Some forms of psychotherapy will involve extensive therapy sessions over the course of several months or years with the goal of working out deeper, underlying psychological issues or traumas. Conversely, cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is short-term and used with intent to correct and prevent future behavioral problems.

Choosing the right type of therapy approach can be difficult. While some types of psychotherapy work well in conjunction with one another, some forms work best on their own. Ultimately, this will depend on an individual’s specific situation, current condition, and treatment preference. It’s important to remember that patients have a say in the route they take for psychological therapy.

At APEX Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehab in San Diego, we help you identify motivating factors for long-term change, develop necessary skills to maintain recovery and include your loved ones in your recovery.  Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to give you the support you need to make positive changes. Call APEX today.