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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy vs. Psychotherapy

Woman learning about cognitive behavioral therapy vs psychotherapy

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. But what’s the difference: cognitive behavioral therapy vs. psychotherapy?

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.


What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy 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. When this happens, people can 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.

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 can treat various mental conditions:

  • Interpersonal Therapy: Interpersonal therapy focuses on a person’s relationships with others and aims to improve their interpersonal skills. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Dialectical behavior therapy treats 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 (EMDR): Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR reduces anxiety and emotional distress resulting from trauma.
  • Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT): 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 help 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.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

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. 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 treats 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. 
  • Exposure and Response Prevention: Exposure and response prevention helps patients confront their fears and learn to resist their compulsion to escape. ERP can also combat symptoms of OCD.
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Mindfulness-based stress reduction uses highly-researched mindfulness techniques with consistent practice to accomplish certain behavioral outcomes.

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 Core Principles

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

CBT Common Practices

  • 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.

Finding Therapy for Addiction in San Diego

As you think about cognitive-behavioral therapy vs. psychotherapy, are you ready to begin a psychological treatment plan? If so, remember that the practice of psychotherapy encompasses a wide variety of therapy methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of talk therapy. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day. They can give you the information and support you need to take the next step. Call Apex Recovery San Diego today at 619.458.3435 and get started on the path to recovery.

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