Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) vs. Psychoanalysis

a therapy specialist taking notes while listening to a tattooed young person with emotional and behavioral problems

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Cognitive therapy also referred to as cognitive behavioral therapy, is a form of mental health treatment or psychotherapy, as is psychoanalysis. However, the processes differ greatly. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a short-term therapy aimed at helping patients identify patterns that cause negative thinking and behaviors that lead to problems. During this process, you may work with clients to identify the thought patterns that may be harmful, irrational, or fear-based and result in negative outcomes; the goal is to replace them with healthy and productive thought patterns.

Working as a CBT health therapist, you may help clients set goals and clear out negative thought patterns that prevent them from moving forward following a divorce or a recent job loss, for instance. This career can be rewarding if you derive satisfaction from helping people realize their goals quickly and efficiently.

In psychoanalysis, however, the therapist probes past behavior, the inner psyche or unconscious and subconscious impulses within the mind of patients, usually by delving into their childhood. The goal of psychoanalysis includes bringing unconscious behavioral patterns to the surface, gaining awareness and identifying how they influence behavior. Psychoanalysis typically takes years and the patient is in treatment two to three times per week.

Frequency of Patient Visits

CBT sessions are aimed at short-term solutions, so sessions are set up to address your client's immediate needs. Therapy is usually not long and drawn out though there are always exceptions to the rule. If a client is pursuing cognitive therapy, you may set up sessions over a 16-week period.

During sessions, you'll set goals for your patient and provide him with homework. As a cognitive therapist, you may ask your client to track and monitor moods, reactions, and feelings as well as different ways of thinking during the course of therapy. You might identify triggers that set your client off and help your him to readjust reflexes to achieve positive outcomes.

Some psychotherapists combine cognitive therapy with other forms of therapy to realize the maximum benefit. You can use cognitive therapy for specific purposes or create a practice with a focus on the specialty.

How Does Behavior Play a Role in Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

The behavior side of cognitive therapy focuses on overcoming problems by changing behaviors, so it's useful to combine behavior therapy with cognitive therapy. Phobias and anxiety disorders are often addressed through behavioral therapy.

As part of behavioral therapy, you might encourage your clients to list their fears, and then guide them to relax while thinking about their fears. You might also expose clients to their fears through desensitization to common stressors or situations that provoke anxiety. Reward clients for positive behaviors is another method. Reinforcing good behavior is a strategy parents often use to encourage children, but it can be used equally well to encourage positive behaviors in adults. Think about the last time you gave yourself some time off or a reward for a job well done!

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Article Sources

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  2. American Psychological Association. Psychoanalysis in psychology.

  3. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Helpful guide to different therapy options.

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  5. Systematic desensitization. Updated 2015.