Cognitive Therapy vs Psychotherapy

What is the Difference Between Cognitive Therapy vs. Psychotherapy?

There are a wide variety of treatments for behavioral and emotional problems. So, it can be an overwhelming task to choose the right treatment or therapy. Before picking a treatment plan and therapist, you should have a basic understanding of the differences and similarities between therapeutic approaches. This will give you a sense of which type of therapy would be best for you.

When  choosing how to treat behavioural or emotional issues, many patients choose psychotherapy or cognitive therapy. It is important to define each of them to make an informed decision. Let’s shed some light on psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Understanding Psychotherapy and How It Works

The government of Ontario recently changed the official definition of “psychotherapy”. It now refers to the treatment of a thought, mood, behavioural or emotional disorder through a therapeutic relationship. While psychotherapy can include many different types of talk or behavioural efforts, the goal of psychotherapy is always to eliminate or minimize problem issues and symptoms.

It’s possible to  treat a whole host of mental problems through psychotherapy. For example, it is often helpful for anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, social phobia, and addiction. Psychotherapy can also help you cope with losing a loved one or childhood trauma.

Psychotherapy  can be very helpful on its own but can also be used with medications  and other types of treatments. A good psychotherapist will tailor a treatment program to your specific needs.

While some organizations, like hospitals and employee assistance programs, might choose to offer single-session psychotherapy, more complex problems usually require multiple sessions. These can occur over weeks, months or years, depending on the specific type of therapy and the preferences of the therapist and client. Whatever the case, it is imperative to work closely with your therapist in order to build a quality relationship and determine the specific psychotherapy goals.

Types of Psychotherapy

‘Psychotherapy’ is a general term, like ‘ice cream’. Just as ice cream has many flavours, there are also different types of psychotherapies. Aside from cognitive behavioral therapy, the most common types of psychotherapy include:

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

It should be noted that, when it comes to how successful a psychotherapy treatment is, the quality of the relationship between the therapist and patient is actually more important than the specific type of therapeutic treatment used. So the most effective therapy will depend on unique circumstances, as well as personal preference and the specific condition.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – What is It and How Does It Work?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help patients manage their issues by changing the way they act and think. CBT is effective in treating a  great many emotional issues and behavioural problems. For instance, it is beneficial for eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and trauma. Numerous clinical studies  over several decades continue to show that CBT can improve the quality of life and mental well being in many patients. Furthermore, research indicates that cognitive therapy is more effective than medications in the long run.

Generally speaking, cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term treatment that is usually delivered in blocks of 10-16 sessions. However, because CBT changes how you think, benefits can begin to show within just a few sessions. The theory behind CBT says there is a connection between how we think, what we feel, and what we do. When it comes to something like depression, the CBT model would say: Depressing thoughts lead to depressed feelings and isolating or withdrawing behaviors. When you change the thoughts or behaviours to be less depressing than the depressed feelings will also improve.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A Cognitive-behavioral therapy  can include a number of different treatment methods, such as:

  • Identifying and challenging negative thinking
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Exposure and response prevention

Common Practices and Core Principles of CBT

CBT involves numerous practices and core principles. Each therapy program is unique and tailored for a particular purpose or situation. Rather than relying on antidepressants or other medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy is premised on the following principles:

People suffering from mental problems can  learn skills to ease their own symptoms. Many psychological difficulties  come from dysfunctional or negative thinking.The key to reversing negative thinking patterns is to  train your brain to think differently.

The most common practices of cognitive-behavioral therapy are as follows:

  • Figuring out how to reevaluate negative thinking
  • Learning to relax the body and calm the mind at the same time
  • Facing fears rather than avoiding them constantly
  • Developing a variety of coping skills
  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem

CBT teaches patients  to become more self-reliant and function as their own psychotherapist. Therapists  function like teachers and coaches, helping patients learn and practice skills that help them change their distorted patterns of thinking. By  completing CBT exercises, patients can develop diverse problem-solving skills and tools. This will help them to minimize and maybe even prevent future problematic behaviors and negative emotions.

Final Thoughts: Choosing a Therapy that Best Suits Your Individual Needs

Whether a treatment method will be effective or not depends greatly on the patient’s willingness to make changes. It’s also important to find a trustworthy therapist you’re comfortable working with. Remember that the secret of success lies in the relationship between therapist and patient. That’s why you should contact a few psychologists before choosing a treatment plan.

Keep in mind that psychotherapy practice encompasses a broad range of methods and different approaches.  Therapy takes time and hard work. This is especially true for complex mental illnesses or traumas with underlying, deep psychological problems.

With so many different types of therapy and methods available, you may have a tough time deciding on the right type of psychotherapy for your specific issues. For this reason, the most important first step is to find a therapist you feel comfortable working with. Knowing you can talk openly with your therapist about what is working for you and what is not forms the foundation of good psychological treatment.  With that in place, you and your therapist can help you get your life back on track.