What Is the Difference Between Cognitive Therapy vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Both cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy help people deal with difficult situations.
Both cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are psychotherapy techniques used to help people with stressful life situations or even mental illness.
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  • Written By: Sarah Kay Moll
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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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.

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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.

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golf07
Post 3

It is very hard to see someone you love struggle with cognitive behavior issues. When you see them have a hard time with things that used to be normal for them, it can break your heart.

My sister is taking medication and undergoing treatment for cognitive behavioral therapy for depression.

If this is something you have never struggled with, it is hard to understand what they are going through. Some people think it is just a matter of snapping out of it and getting on with life.

There are many complex issues that are much more involved than that. I think the cognitive therapy sessions are as helpful for her as anything.

It gives her the chance to express herself and realize she has help and people who understand what she is going through.

SarahSon
Post 2

@andee - You are right about trauma being something that can set off cognitive difficulties in someone's life.

My nephew came back from serving in the military for several years a very changed man. He is still undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD.

There are more people being treated for post traumatic stress disorder than many people realize. I think there are even a greater number of men and women who should be treated for it, but for one reason or another have not been.

Many of them have seen things and had to deal with situations that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Everyone handles them differently, but many people in the military have adversely been affected by this and struggle with cognitive behavior problems as a result.

andee
Post 1

Usually the reasons someone may have to have cognitive behavior therapy training are because of something traumatic that has happened in their life.

Our daughter-in-law's father is in his mid 50's and just went through some testing because his cognitive abilities have drastically declined the last few months.

They were testing him for dementia, but those tests came back OK. Cognitively he has regressed significantly, and they are still trying to figure out the reasons why.

In the meantime, he is undergoing further testing and some cognitive therapy to see if they can determine what is going on.

This is something that is quite unsettling and frustrating in someone who is still so young.

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